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Traffic on Interstate 25, Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in Denver, CO. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Some of them were just tips, or maybe warnings, for fellow drivers to follow. Such as, BACKTFU. 

Other Colorado drivers had hoped to let the rest of us know how fast or slow they would be traveling. The extremes: SNAILAF, FASTMFR and HAULNSS.

But not much gets past the high-tech flagging program at the Colorado DMV. Those aspiring personalized license plate requests and about 140 others, some way too colorful to appear in this article, were rejected this year for being “lewd, crude or rude.” 

The state Department of Revenue released a list Monday of requested personalized plates that were rejected in 2022, many of them automatically kicked out by a processing system that can detect offensive words even without all the letters. 

Some were flat-out racist. Others too filthy to grace Colorado’s roads. Lots were pretty funny. 

SIZZ might seem like a girl’s nickname but it’s also slang for black-tar heroin freebased off aluminum foil, because it sizzles when it’s cooked. The computer knows LAYPIPE often isn’t a reference to sewer or drain work. WIXER isn’t polite in German. BEOTCH is apparently just too close to the real word. FKSAKE, unfortunately, is a no-go. 

Also, don’t try vulgar political statements, including FJBDN. And the filtering system even detects QAnon terms: WWG1WGA stands for “Where we go one, we go all,” a rallying cry for conspiracy theorists to stick together. 

BBBO, which we think means Bitch Better Back Off, is apparently too aggressive and also has a bad word. Some requests that seem not offensive at all, such as BUBBI, yiddish for grandma, and EGAD, one of the mildest expressions of frustration, were also spurned.

Letter and number combinations are reviewed periodically by a DMV committee, which can add or remove them from the offensive list. The list, which has 42,000 terms, has been a work in progress for years and relies on recommendations from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators as well as other states’ motor vehicle departments. 

The requests are entered into the DMV’s system, which spits out automatic rejections when offensive terms are flagged. Colorado drivers can appeal a rejection with the Colorado Department of Revenue’s hearings division. There were 35,346 applications for personalized plates last year.

“We love the creativity and personal pride Coloradoans take in picking their personalized plate,” Electra Bustle, senior director of the state DMV, said in an emailed news release. “While most personalized plates are approved, there are a small percentage that do not meet DMV standards and are rejected.”

Colorado now has 212 license plate styles from which to choose, and vehicle owners can pay an extra $60 for a personalized plate.

DMV workers reviewing the applications don’t get in trouble for Googling unknown, and perhaps vulgar, terms as long as it’s in the name of state business.

Jennifer Brown writes about mental health, the child welfare system, the disability community and homelessness for The Colorado Sun. As a former Montana 4-H kid, she also loves writing about agriculture and ranching. Brown previously...