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Board monitors license plates' language

Some Floridians have a naughty streak, and they want the world, or at least everyone driving behind them, to see how clever they are.

They try to curse in code or express their hate for rival colleges or sports teams in just a few letters. They might try to boast about their anatomy or hurl insults.

But five people meet once a month in Tallahassee to stop those with their minds in the gutter from taking to the roads with a nasty nickname or a rude message on their personalized license plates.

The Personalized Plate Review Board often decides which messages pass muster and which get kicked to the curb.

H8 HYTES and BNUDE have made it through, while HOT COP and GOT GUN did not.

The board rejected more than 130 proposed license plates in 2005 for being "objectionable," but more than 100,000 personalized license plates were issued.

HELL and HWY 2 L were okay. But exclamations like HEL YA and HL YEAH were not.

Hollywood resident Hernan Caycedo, who owns the HELL tag for his Yamaha motorcycle, said he got the plate to ward off bad drivers.

"I guess the way people drive in Florida, I thought maybe people would stay away from me," Caycedo said.

Other intimidating plates such as SNIPER 1, BITE ME, RUN OVRU and D-KILLER appear on the reject list, among many too objectionable to print.

Requests usually are a lot tamer at the South County branch of the Tax Collector's Office in Delray Beach, said branch manager Norman McCrary.

"Most of the time, they're getting their initials or the year of their car if it's a classic," McCrary said. "The majority of the plates are clean."

Clerks at the branch know not to approve any nastiness or hatefulness, he said.

"To me, the majority of it is common sense," McCrary said.

For an extra $12, residents can get personalized plates, but they can't combine letters or numbers to form anything objectionable or obscene.

"The ones that are bad are bad," said Eileen Kavanagh, operations manager for Broward County Revenue Collection. "They try to get away with disguising it."

One person tried to slip in the word "fornicate" with 4 NIC 8.

"You get a lot of funny ones," Kavanagh said. "For the size county that we are, you don't get that many that are obscene."

Obscene is defined in the state policy as "offensive to morality or decency, indecent, lewd, abominable, disgusting, a slur, profanity or description of body parts."

But some body parts have been deemed harmless enough to have on license plates, such as KIX BUTT.

The owner of TUSH MD, an Orlando colorectal surgeon, threatened to sue the state after it tried to revoke his plate.

"They said it was obscene," said Dr. Harvey Shub. "It's Yiddish for toches, which means buttocks."

Shub, whose three vehicles sport TUSH MD, REAR ADM and PREP H 1, has had the TUSH MD and REAR ADM plates nearly 30 years. TUSH MD, in particular, has proved popular with his patients when he sees them on the road.

"It's a great form of advertising," Shub said. "They'll pull up alongside and wave."

A busload of kids mooned Shub when they saw him driving with the TUSH MD tag.

"I thought that was kind of funny," he said.

Statewide, drivers frequently try to sneak variations of the word "pimp" into their license plates. Whether it makes it through depends on whether it sounds like it has something to do with the illegal occupation, or if it's simply used as popular slang, such as one plate, PIM-N.

It helps to have someone familiar with slang or foreign languages on the board, such as Frank Penela, who often helps with pop culture references.

"I had to explain that to the board," said Penela, spokesman for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. "This has now become a common word used for what is in, cool, hip. It has become part of our lexicon."

Other parts of the American lexicon, however, are unacceptable.

No matter how creative someone is at trying to get the "F" word in, it's never going to make it, Penela said. Some try to slip in curse words in other languages. Unfortunately for them, Penela speaks Spanish, Italian and German.

"They try to get the big F on there," he said. "Needless to say, we're not going to allow that."

But Boynton Beach resident Jeryl Rodriguez said she often sees license plates with suggestive messages that she would prefer be banned.

"We live in a perverted society; nobody seems to have any morals," said Rodriguez, whose license plate sports her first name.


Here is a sample of license plates allowed and refused by the Personalized Plate Review Board.