A ranking system for vanity plate inscrutability

February 3, 2024

I propose these levels of understandability for (California1) vanity license plates, from most inscrutable to most understandable:

(Most inscrutable)

  1. Physical comedy, where you have to manipulate the plate to get it: X32TTU8 (read it in a mirror), 3SI73 (flip over to read ELISE), BLONDE mounted upside-down.
  2. Inside jokes. Only 4 people will get it: N4BLOOP. What the hell does it even mean?
    • 2.a. Uncommon language plates. I think this one is a subcategory of Inside Jokes because most people have no idea what they mean.
  3. Topical memes for the Chronically Online: COVFEFE, SKIBIDI.
  4. Nerd references: NCC1701, GANDALF, FFFF00 on a yellow car.
  5. Car People Things That Only Car People Get: 997C2S, RMR6MT.
  6. Car People Things That Non Car People Get: GO2FAST, REVVIT.
  7. Major sports teams: 40NINRS, KCHIEFS.
  8. Description of car ownership: WIFEYV8 or BOBSLEX.
  9. Names and nicknames: SLAPPY,JIMBOB.
  10. Nouns: 3LATTES, SHIHTZU.
  11. Common phrases: BRUHH, OHWOW, LOLOMG.

(Most understandable)

Did I miss anything?

PS: I think EV jokes like GIGWATT, LOLOIL, HIGHI2R belong to Car People Things that Only Car People Get. It was suggested that Tesla plates should get their own tier, but I think they belong on an axis of insufferability that is orthogonal to this ranking system.

PPS: There are two other orthogonal axes that exist for vanity plates. The first is getting it which is how well the plate combines with the car in a satisfying way, and the other is insufferability which is how insufferable the car owner looks because of the plate. A plate that says IMRICH on an old beater is funny and not insufferable, but the same plate on a million-dollar car is not funny and very insufferable.

  1. This ranking is based on my experience with California license plates. For what it’s worth, California license plates are typically limited to seven alphanumeric characters, and maybe a space or half-space if it fits.