Licensed to Thrill

1951

Diana Vreeland, the late fashion maven, once said, “I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity.”

So, apparently, do 251,000 Michigan drivers, whose vehicles sport “vanity” plates. Michigan motorists have been flaunting a ‘bumper’ crop of vanity for nearly 40 years; Great Lakes plates got personal in 1973.

Ken Silfven, Michigan Secretary of State spokesman, says Oakland County leads the personalized pack with 37,741 vanity plates. Wayne County vehicles sport 36,548, Macomb has 21,431, and Wash-tenaw, 9,494. In the Upper Peninsula’s Keweenaw County, automotive egos total 63.

There are other ways to exercise a little personal expression on the road. University plates tout academic achievement and varsity spirit. Spartans are historically the truest to their school, Silfven says.

The collegiate license-plate ranking shakes out as follows:
> Michigan State University, 46,876;
> University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 33,188;
> Central Michigan, 7,141;
> Western, 6,672;
> Ferris, 3,910.
> Wayne State, a largely commuter university, boasts just 2,579 self-branded road “Warriors.”

The metal messages (ranging from cute to creative) serve as brainteasers, with cryptic codes sometimes proving as distracting to drivers as a cell-phone text and as challenging as The New York Times Sunday crossword.

And like a crossword dictionary, various websites offer translations of plate speak.

Some examples:
1DR (wonder), DVS (devious), FREQ (freak), N2 (into), RT (arty), 10S (tennis), 4ORD (Ford), and YN (wine).

For those who face the daily rush-hour jam, a smart EGOTRIP might be one that warns the overly aggressive tailgaters in your rearview mirror: W8.

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