Vanity license plates can convey messages that are funny, boastful, strange, and occasionally sad.
The personalized plates that were approved by the Registry of Motor Vehicles during the coronavirus pandemic provide a snapshot into the psyches of a sampling of Massachusetts motorists.
The plates they chose spoke of fears and hopelessness (LONELY, CHAOS, WHYTRY), dreams and desires (BEAUTY, MUSCLE, HRDBDY, RKSTR, DRMBIG, RICHES), and whimsy (MRSFUN, MRWKND, STYWLD, TOGA, BIGBUT, MWHAHA).
Some plates were quintessentially Boston (POTHLE, WICKD, DOTRAT, TOWNIE, SUPKID) while others poked fun at our infamous accent (RUNNAH, SUPPAH, SURFAH, WINTAH, WATEVA). Plenty of plates paid homage to sports teams (DAPATS, PAAATS, PATSOX), localities (DCHSTR, MEDWAY, LNCSTR, MNOMET, NSHORE, NYC, REVEAH), and summer vacation spots (NTUCKT, THCAPE, BHABA).
Plates that referenced occupations (PLUMBR, PROFSR, QUEEEN, RABBI, REFREE, TEECHR, COWBOY, GEISHA, REALTR, PIRATE, RNSTUD, TAXGUY) and food (PASTA, TOFFEE, TOAST, TOMATO, CAKES, LOBZTA, OYSTER, CRAB, EATBBQ) were popular choices.
Most folks don’t associate Massachusetts drivers with using the words “please” and “thank you,” but those polite phrases made it onto some vanity plates (PLEASE, PLZSTP, THANKZ, THANX, THXMOM, DADTHX) while others were unapologetic (NOTSRY, NTSRRY, TRYAGN, NCETRY, UWISH) or self-deprecating (IMLAZY, IML8, ICANT, SPBRAT, VERYSLO, WHINY, WHIPPD).
There were references to beauty (BOTOX, HAIRDO, SALON), cartoon characters (SMURFS, POPEYE, PIGLET), TV shows (TWNPKS), and music (ZZTOP, POGUES, ELVIS, DISCO).
Some clever combinations of letters appeared to be attempts to avoid blame (WHOME, WSNTME, COMEON) while others communicated insults (BIMBO, NIMROD, CRZLDY), sounds (WHOMP, WHOOP, BBEEEP, BDABNG, BOOP, SHWING), various states of mind (INSANE, NDNIAL, NRVUSS, SAD, LONELY, TAPPED), and intelligence (ISMART, THINK, BRAIN, BNERDY).
Some vehicle owners chose to display modern slang (CHEDDA, NOICE, OHSNAP, PHOSHO, YEEEET, WTF) while others opted for more classic phrases (NVRNUF, SAYWHN, STOPME, URLATE, WHATHA) or words of farewell (MMMBYE, BUHBYE, TODALU).
A handful were downright gross (STINKY, SMELLY, TOXIN, GASSY, ITCHY, WASTE, BEDBUG, BOOGER, ROTTED, PLAGUE) and a few contained sarcastic commentary about the vehicle’s ownership status (STOLEN, REPOED, SOLDIT).
Some plates extolled the virtues of electric cars (WHYGAS, NOFUEL, TESLA) and some championed causes (BEATMS, DOGOOD).
Others were difficult to categorize (CANCEL, WINDEX, PEEPER, DWARFY, TONSIL, SHHH).
In Massachusetts, vanity plates must have at least two letters and contain no more than six characters. To request a personalized plate, all you have to do is submit an application and pay a $50 vanity plate fee and a $20 registration swap fee. But not every request gets approved.
All requests for vanity plates are reviewed by the Special Plates Department, which can reject requests that are considered “vulgar,” “in poor taste,” “degrading,” or “a profanity.”
Requests can also be denied if the combination of letters and numbers conveys an expression of “fighting words” that are “designed to inflame passions and possibly lead to a violent confrontation.”
So what kind of wild plates did Massachusetts residents try to get, only to be denied? Alas, we’ll never know. The Globe asked the Registry of Motor Vehicles for that data but had no luck getting it.
“The RMV does not keep a list of denied vanity plate requests,” said Judi Riley, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.