Why does anyone drive in New York? Operating an automobile in this city is terrifying, outrageously expensive, and statistically quite likely to result in a trip to the impound lot. (The Brooklyn Navy Yard is lovely this time of year, by the way, excellent for strolling through with gritted teeth and $185 cash in hand to get your goddamn car back). Plus, you can’t text or sleep or get drunk or engage in ecstatic sexual congress or any of the myriad other activities people do on the subway, usually while sitting next to me.
But worst of all, we’ve discovered, you’re not allowed to use your license plate to telegraph to other drivers what an EZLAY you are. The same goes for HOOKER, VOMIT, CL1T and several dozen other very tasteful vanity plates that the state of New York has decided are permanently off-limits.
That’s according to a comprehensive and quite creative list of banned vanity plates put together by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s an internal document and wasn’t released until February of this year, and only then in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request. The list was then posted on Government Attic, a fantastic website/treasure trove of federal government documents, all of them released in response to FOIAs. (Government transparency is fun and exciting, we swear.)
It looks like some poor soul with an eye for naughty words was forced to sit down and create a master list of all the phrases capable of offending other drivers. And it’s used right on the front lines: The agency says it’s meant to be “a guideline to the DMV employee who screens personalized license plate applications for offensive or objectionable words or phrases or messages.”
And what a list it is: All conceivable spellings of the word “Cock” are banned, along with references to breasts (BOOBS and also B00BS), sexual acts (CO1TUS), menstruation (KOTEX), and, of course, Nazi stuff (WAFFENSS, NOJUDEN). There’s even a little Yiddish: PISHER, P1SHER and ESSDREK (“It’s shit”) are all verboten.
In essence, New York has created a hostile environment for the Nazis, sexual deviants, and incredibly stupid, begging-to-be-pulled-over drug enthusiasts on its roads (JUNKIE, DRUGSALE). In the event of the Second Coming, even Jesus can’t get the appropriate plates for his sweet post-Resurrection ride: JESUS and UJESUS (?) are both off-limits.
It’s disappointing, but it’s the law, we guess. Look over the list now, and lessen the sting of rejection when the DMV says no to that PUBES plate you’ve had your eye on.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 30, 2013