MSTRB8S. QQQQ2. RU46T9. BVRETR.
No, these aren't U.S. government nuclear launch codes. They're actual entries on the list of nearly 7,000 vanity license plates banned by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. (Go ahead, read them again. See? They are sneaky gross.)
There's been a lot of talk about government censoring free speech in Wisconsin these days. A state Assembly candidate was denied the opportunity identify herself as "NOT the 'whiteman's bitch'" on the state ballot. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board was recently thwarted in its ongoing attempt to regulate the timing and content of political speech. And some court just sent me a letter telling me I can't send Taylor Lautner any more hand-drawn pictures of us riding a unicorn together. (I blame Obama for that one.)
The idea of censoring license-plate messages is less controversial, even though it deprives the state of much-needed revenue.
For the most part, the list of banned license plates is what you would think. It includes myriad sexual and ethnic slurs familiar to most citizens - especially frequent listeners to Dr. Laura Schlessinger's radio show.
But what's most amusing about the list is that there's clearly some taxpayer-funded employee of the Department of Transportation whose job it is to catch all the ribaldries people try to sneak through. This employee, whoever he or she is, must be an expert in biology, etymology, terminology and scatology, someone who can see vague references to obscure bodily functions in a jumble of letters.
For instance, I guarantee that if my dad were working the counter at the DMV, he'd let "MUFDIVR" slide. (According to the list, there are 15 versions of this term that have been intercepted and banned. And they say American Exceptionalism is dead.)
Those seeking to slip one through must be on the cutting edge of the culture, picking strings of letters they suspect will become vulgar in the future. I guarantee someone right now is trying to get "2NDCHKRA" before the DOT realizes that "second chakra" is Al Gore's alleged nickname for his "release" (and a lock to be the name of my fantasy football team this year).
While there are words we all agree shouldn't be on a government-issued document, there are hundreds more that fall into a gray area of public acceptance. Plates like "MOONR," "NAKID," "RUASTUD," and "NDSENT" - none of which would even cause a nun to blanch - are all on the banned list.
It doesn't stop there. Proud of your alternative lifestyle? You're out of luck: "LSBIAN," "GAYGUY" and "GAYPWR" are all banned. Religious plates are also out; my Jewish neighbor is upset that "MR JEW" was forbidden. He is very observant in his Judaism, so his friends call him "TURBOJEW," which would be an awesome license plate on so many levels, but one the state of Wisconsin probably would not allow.
Want to show that you're down with Christianity? You're out of luck. "MYGOD" is out, as is "CHRIST." Jesus is going to be pretty irate when he rises from the dead and heads to the DMV to get a vanity plate. To prove his identity, he'll have to perform a miracle - like getting the DMV wait times to under an hour.
As P.J. O'Rourke once said, for some people, free speech is a curse. So if people want to put "GEEK" or "NOSEX" on their plates, why not let them? In fact, "NOSEX" is simply a synonym for "MARRIED," so why not ban that, too?
It just seems incongruous that Wisconsin state government would want such a tight grip on its citizens' right to express themselves. There's no law banning what people can put on a bumper sticker, so why do we care what goes on their license plate? If they are willing to pay extra to be an imbecile in public, let's let them - most people get to be morons for free.
In fact, the state is turning down extra revenue every time it doesn't let some guy with a mullet put "HELLYEA" on his El Camino's vanity plate.
The solution is right in front of our noses. Why don't we just charge extra to let people use license plates on the banned list? If someone is willing to improve my roads in exchange for making me experience the searing horror of seeing "SNKYPOO" on a license plate, I'm all for it.
It should be noted that the Wisconsin state statutes themselves include words like "nipples," "fellatio" and the like. The entire "Crimes Against Sexual Morality" section of the statutes reads like a rejected Penthouse Forum letter. Maybe we should get the DMV to pull all the state laws from library shelves.
Do it "4THEKIDS."
Christian Schneider lives in Madison, works for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and blogs at .