Plates aren't licence to swear
Vancouver Sun, Page A01, 18-Sep-2007
Some licence plates are just too risque, rude or raunchy for B.C. residents to handle, as far as the Insurance Corp. of B.C. is concerned. Over the past few years, more than 800 personalized plates have been rejected by ICBC for reasons ranging from suggestive language to religious content.
For a $100 application fee — plus $40 extra each year — any driver in B.C. can order a personalized plate with a combination of up to seven characters.
And while most of the 3,000 applications ICBC receives each year sail through without a problem, it rejects hundreds under a section of the Motor Vehicle Act that forbids offensive plates.
In response to a Freedom of Information request from The Vancouver Sun, ICBC released a list of all plates rejected since 2004. Many plates were rejected for simply being "offensive" or "not in good taste." Examples include GUNS, GANSTA, DUM ASS and IH8MYX (I hate my ex). IHAV2P (I have to pee) and BT UGLY (butt ugly) also failed to make the cut.
Others were banned for "suggestive" content, like 38DD, SHWING, BITE ME and others too crude to publish. Drug and alcohol references are also a no-no — so LUSH and PUSHER were turned down. And B.C. residents have failed several times to get either NEWFIE or REDNECK approved.
You'd think a vanity plate that advertised its owner's love of speeding would attract unwanted police attention. Yet many have tried — and failed — to get a speed-inspired plate, such as 2 FAST, GUNIT, ZIPNBY (zipping by) and IXLR8 (I accelerate).
Others plates were rejected because they're too religious. HINDU, ONE GOD and YAY GOD were all rejected, as were PSALM 1 and PSALM 8. Interestingly, both DEVIL and SATAN were rejected as offensive while DEMON was nixed because it was too religious.
While some have tried to honour their creator on their licence plate, others want to celebrate their stock portfolio. Both NYSE and SP500 were turned down by ICBC because they are registered trademarks. B8KAR (bait car) was rejected for the same reason.
Catching offensive plates can sometimes require decoding on ICBC's part, as with the rejected plates OMGWTF and FUBAR (the first an Internet acronym, the second a military one.)
And the applicant who wanted a plate that read PEN followed by the number 15 (the 15 looks like IS) wasn't clever enough to evade ICBC's censors.
"It's challenging at times, for sure," said ICBC spokesman Doug Henderson. "But the people [who review plates] have been doing this for quite a few years. They develop a sense of the different ways of spelling things out with letters and numbers."
Henderson said ICBC's staff makes use of everything from Google to slang dictionaries to catch new swear words they aren't familiar with. Which is why, said Henderson, the plate DOULA was rejected this past spring. While in English the word describes a childbirth assistant, Henderson said ICBC discovered it also is a swear word in a foreign language — though he wouldn't say which one.
If an offensive plate slips through and results in complaints, the agency can pull it off the road, something it's done a handful of times in recent years. Car owners who have their plates rejected get their fees back. They also have the right to appeal the decision to ICBC's Fair Practices Department. Henderson said a few people appeal each year, though he didn't know if any had succeeded.