It's getting tougher to be wacky, weird or just plain nasty on a Florida license plate.
The plates used to be approved by clerks, who sometimes missed the deeper meanings in the subtle -- or not-so-subtle -- art of license plate self-expression. But now the state has a big, important board that does the job of blocking objectionable phrases.
The board found that a whole bunch of dicey stuff was slipping through. It recalled such doozies as "I H8 GOD," "RU NAKED" and a plethora of plates with sexual messages steamy enough to make a bouncer at a South Beach dance club blush.
But the board is not perfect. Last month, it heard complaints from a Miami woman offended by the "JEWBAN" license plate on a snazzy convertible. This one sounded like a no-brainer. Certainly, the idea of banning Jews fit the board's definition of objectionable.
But Gilbert Tabares Gomer, who had ordered the plate, kicked up a fuss. His fight taught a little lesson about Florida: The northern part of the state doesn't always understand the southern part. It turns out that the board, which is in Tallahassee, didn't know that Cuban Jews in South Florida call themselves Jewbans to honor their national and religious heritages.
Chagrined, the board reversed its decision this month, telling Tabares he could keep his JEWBAN plate and conceding that geography means something here.
"Tallahassee is 500 miles from Miami," said Robert Sanchez, spokesman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
-- Manuel Roig-Franzia