Colorado puts brakes on license plate abbreviations |

Colorado puts brakes on license plate abbreviations

Kevin Flynn
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
Charles Chamberlin/Rocky Mountain News

LOL!! The growth of text messaging abbreviations is adding to the list of prohibited letter combinations on Colorado license plates.

WTF, a cyberspace-saving abbreviation for, to put it more mildly, “What the heck is going on here,” has been added to a lengthy list of 261 three-letter combinations that the state considers verboten on the standard-issue six-character plate.

OMG! What’s next?

It used to be that motor vehicle officials had to worry only about the sexually offensive, racially bigoted, scatologically suggestive or biologically functioning references. Now they need a 14-year-old iPhone 3G-carrying technogeek member of the committee to pass on some of the tri-letter possibilities.

Each prohibited letter combination leads to 1,000 potential plates taken out of circulation. That means more than a quarter million plates you’ll never see on the road.

The list has been kept for at least 18 years by the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the Motor Vehicle Division and its license plates. The committee that meets irregularly to go over the list also includes representatives from county clerks and the Department of Corrections – yes, state inmates still stamp out the plates, and who better to consult with regarding the latest three-letter slang terminology for drug use and crime?

“Just standard common knowledge practices,” said Maren Rubino of the Department of Revenue. “Standard common practices are: any combination of letters or numbers that carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency, are misleading, offensive to the general public, or represent gang, drug, sex, racial terms.”

The list is updated periodically, especially when the state goes to a new numbering system.

Charter members of the list are obvious ones you’ve never seen on a green-and- white tag: KKK, ASS and any derivative of the king of banished words, the one that begins with F.

Others have been added to the list even though they might have been issued in the past, such as GAG.

GAY and FAG are on the prohibited list but FGT isn’t. Nor can you drive like HEL or have a DUI, although you could be stopped for D.U.I. You can’t be a COP or with the CIA, FBI or CSP, but your plate can say DPD.

You’ll find no HOE, HOR or HQR cruising the streets.

Doesn’t it stink that you can’t have a plate that says PEW? No POO or PEE either. You can’t be DUM although you can drive like you are. And is it unfair that the crazy woman driver ahead of you can’t get a plate with PMS on it, or the road-rager guy can’t have SOB?

And you won’t get a UFO plate no matter how bizarre your ride looks.

Even if you’re Just Married, you can’t get WED. And HUY may seem innocuous unless you speak Russian. But take it from us, you wouldn’t drive around Moscow with it.

Your plate can’t be a JEW or a JAP or a HUN or a WOP. GOD can’t be your co-pilot. Nor can DOG or an ark of living creatures including CAT, SOW, PUP, APE, PIG, HOG, HEN, RAT and BUG, although you might wish the state could ban the ones smeared across your windshield.

Perhaps the oddest prohibition is the seemingly harmless MOO. Is the state afraid you might get a chuckle at the red light if you stopped behind a car that mooed?

No, says Rubino. It stems from a lawsuit in another state where a driver who weighed more than 400 pounds had been issued a MOO plate, making said driver the object of humiliation. Colorado wanted to avoid similar legal liability. So, for the same reason, you can’t get a plate with FAT, HAG, BIG or TUB. or 303-954-5247

Three-letter combos

There is a rhyme and a reason that each of 261 specific three-letter combos are banned on Colorado license plates. But dang if state workers can recall why some of them made the X-list. XOJ, XOK and XIL won’t show up on your bumpers, but Maren Rubino of the Colorado Department of Revenue says the reason has been lost to the ages.

Some of them will have you scratching your head until they’re explained:

* DUB: slang for a doobie, a marijuana cigarette.

* JEB: short for Jezebel.

* AMO: short for ammunition.

* NUG: slang for a nugget of crack cocaine.

* ZIG: reference to Zig Zag rolling papers for a DUB. While ZIG is prohibited, ZAG is not.

Why would DOG and CAT make the list? ASB, EAK, HAM, QVA, MEA or LAV?

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