Colorado DMV nixes TOFU vanity plate citing obscenity concern

The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles turned down a request from a vegan driver to display ILVTOFU on a set of personalized license plates because the phrase could be construed as obscene, Tom McGee reports in The Denver Post. “”We don’t allow FU because some people could read that as street language for sex,” Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch told the Post.

Forbidden plate (Graphic/
Forbidden plate (Graphic/

Turns out state plate arbiters forbid hundreds of letter combinations deemed too controversial or offensive, including ARS, SIN and PIG. The department occasionally convenes a committee to add to the verboten list “so that plates stay free of letters that abbreviate gang slang, drug terms or obscene phrases made popular in text messaging,” McGee reports.

That was news to Kelley Coffman-Lee, the 36-year-old Centennial woman who simply wanted to promote her love of soybean curd while tooling around town in her Suzuki. “My whole family is vegan so tofu is like a staple for us,” she told the Post. “I was just going to have a cool license plate and the DMV misinterpreted my message.”

Whether or not the DMV did the misinterpreting — after all, who doesn’t LV TOFU? — the civil servants say their mission is to keep the streets clean. “Standard common practices are: any combination of letters or numbers that carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency, are misleading, offensive to the general public, or represent gang, drug, sex, racial terms,” another Department of Revenue spokesman, Maren Rubino, told the Rocky Mountain News last summer when the list grew to include common text message shorthand, such as LOL, OMG and WTF.

The Department of Revenue oversees the DMV, which, it turns out, really does contract with the Department of Corrections to hire state prisoners to make the plates, the Rocky’s Kevin Flynn reported. More than a quarter-million vanity plate combinations are kept off the road by the policy, which has been in place since the early 1990s.

Think you can think like the DMV when it comes to WTF vanity plate combos? Take a stab at this nifty license plate game still lingering on the Rocky’s Web site.