LOKNG 2 STND OUT FRM DA CRWD | NevadaAppeal.com


Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Allison and Jack McLaughlin stand next to their cars, which have vanity plates, at their home Friday. The cost for personalized plates is $36, in addition to the normal registration and fees. Many Nevada drivers use vanity plates as yet another expression of individuality.

Seven letters. Seven letters forming a moniker that is quickly becoming the latest statement of individuality among Nevada drivers.

More often now, it’s not the color or model of your car, but what your license plate says that helps cars stand out.

“It’s fairly common knowledge that we have a love affair with our cars, and we see it as a way to make ourselves unique,” said Tom Jacobs, Department of Motor Vehicles public information officer.

Currently, there are almost 90,000 personalized plates screwed on vehicles in Nevada, comprising more than 4 percent of the state’s total registrations, and that number is on the rise. Currently, one in 22 license plates was designed by their owner and not the Department of Motor Vehicles.

As a comparison, only 2.5 percent of the license plates in California are personalized.

The plates range from the easily identified, like 1DERFUL or NO1BIRD, to the brainteasers like NFNTRCH or BACIAME.

The latter has been on the tags of Allison McLaughlin’s cars for the last 22 years. She’s had plates with that phrase in California, New York, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada. In fact, the phrase has graced the plate of every car she has owned.

“My uncle had it on his car, and when I was in high school I decided I liked it and had it done on mine,” Allison said.

When she moved to Nevada, she was forced to change the spelling because her uncle lives here and still has the original. The phrase means “kiss me” in Italian and is currently registered to her 2005 Dodge Durango.

Just one space over in the garage, her husband Jack’s 2005 Corvette sports a SMKY JCK license plate, derived from a childhood nickname.

“My real name is Jack but so is my dad’s, so I went by Smokey,” Jack said. “I was born in Yosemite National Park and the doctor gave me the nickname Smokey.”

The couple’s third vehicle, a 2001 Toyota Tundra, features an AGGIES license plate, for Allison’s Alma Mater, University of California, Davis.

“Now we just have to find a way to get the Trojans on one of them,” Allison said, referring to her husband’s alma mater, University of Southern California.

For Jack, having individualized plates is something he grew up with. His parents always seemed to go for the unique plates.

“My mom started it with my first car, a 1975 Chevy Vega. She got a license plate that was SMOKE85, my nickname and the year I was to graduate,” Jack said. “My dad has 1I JACK and had NVSUPT at one point. That’s when it started for me.”

Yet Allison’s cryptic plate does draw looks and questioning stares.

“I will see people squinting and staring at it, and I roll down the window to tell them ‘it means ‘kiss me’ in Italian,’ that does happen,” Allison said.

While the McLaughlins like the individuality of their plates, others do it for a more practical reason.

Like Miriam Blanchette, owner of the Blanchette School of Irish Dance, whose Ford Expedition is adorned with a REELJIG license plate.

“I did it to help promote the business. The reel is one of the first dances we learn in the classes and so is the Jig. It also happens to match our Web site,” Miriam said. “I decided to do it three years ago when I registered my car, and it seemed like it would be helpful.”

Jacobs said the variety and relatively low cost are both factors that contribute to more people getting creative with their plates.

“We have so many different type of plates that it really lets people select what they want, and they aren’t that expensive,” Jacobs said.

He should know: all three of his cars have personalized plates.

“I certainly seem to like slapping personalized plates on my cars,” Jacobs said jokingly.

The cost for personalized plates is $36, in addition to the normal registration and fees followed by a $20 renewal fee should the driver decided to keep the plates.

The DMV allows seven letters on the standard plates, which may be reduced as little as four for several of the 40 optional plates, including Lake Tahoe and the Las Vegas Centennial plates.

“The Las Vegas Centennial plate is by far the most popular of the optional plates,” Jacobs said. “People really seem to like that background.”

However, not all combinations can be used. The DMV currently prohibits more than 3,600 combinations because they are obscene, offensive or in bad taste, ALIENSX for example.

The DMV follows similar standards in place nationwide.

In Ohio for example, a woman seeking to have “NWTF” – the initials of her Christmas Tree Farm business – was denied by the DMV, because it could also be an offensive acronym.

But the restrictions haven’t hindered the creativity of most Nevadans.

For the McLaughlins, they have already checked out REAGAN, their daughter’s name, for her first car.

“We just need to find a way to reserve it until she is old enough to drive,” Jack said.

Reagan celebrated her ninth birthday this year.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.

On the Net

Check the availability of a personalized plate, as well as examples of the 40 possible backgrounds, at: