Humorless Washingtonian thinks GOES211 plate is about penis-length, not Spinal Tap

A man named Johnny Dixon complained to the Washington Personalized License Plate Committee about the Spinal Tap-homage vanity plate GOES211 on Tony Cava's BMW. Dixon thought Cava was boasting about his penis length. The DOL let Cava keep the plate.

A man identifying himself as Johnny Dixon wasn’t thinking “Spinal Tap” when he spotted the plate.

Last October, Dixon emailed the Department of Licensing: “I find it in poor taste that the great state of Washington would issue a plate that allows a driver to insinuate in public that his penis grows to 11 inches in length. The rest of the citizens of Washington should not be subjected to this vulgarity.”

And so the case of GOES211 ended up before something called the DOL’s Personalized License Plate Committee. Bureaucracies like committees, and lists.

...Asked for comment about his complaint, Dixon emailed back, “What exactly is it that you want to know? I find it disturbing that you can access my emails to the DOL.”

Vanity plates: some take too much license [Seattle Times/Erik Lacitis] (Thanks, Marty!)


    1.  Used to have a customer named Dick Hardwick. Always had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when he’d come in.

      1. My old boss’ husband was named Dick Hunter.  Why the heck don’t these guys go by Rick or Richard?

  1. The key element of his comment is the plural form when referring to his emails.  Does he have a list of complaints and comments to the DOT?

      1. The Department of Length? Most of us with any real world experience prefer the Department of Thickness.

  2. This story is funny, but it seems like you folks are being a little hard on Dixon. (Yeah, I know.) I’d consider complaining too if I thought someone’s plate was advertising the size of their erect penis. In a perfect world it should be fine; we’d all be happy that he was happy. But in a patriarchy, on a public road, it would seem a little intimidatory. Now how Dixon came to think GOES211 meant what he thought it meant is a whole other thing. But I wouldn’t want to be called humorless for that mistake.

    1. Disagree. It is important to call people out the presumed right to “not be offended”. No such right exists.  Sure it is better if people act with sensitivity, but hiding behind a non-existent right is dangerous.

      In another trivial example, a while back a women’s national soccer team delayed a game at the ‘lympics by and hour-or-so because the wrong flag was shown by accident. They CHOSE to be offended by an honest mistake. Fortunately, because it was women’s soccer, no spectators were inconvenienced.

      1. I agree; there should be no right to not be offended. And I support extreme freedom of expression in the public forum. And if I thought of the world of vanity license plates as part of the public forum, I wouldn’t dream of complaining over a my-boner’s-huge plate. But I see the vanity-plate world as a lesser forum, where other considerations may matter. Also, I think there’s a difference between offense and intimidation. Of course, it’s all pretty academic in this case, since no one was actually saying what Dixon thought they were.

        1. I hope this is sarcasm.  

          Assuming the counter factual  would you actually be intimidated because some blow hard were to boast about the size of his schlong?  I would pull up next to him and start laughing.More importantly, inasmuch as vanity plates are expression, they are government mandated/endorsed expression, and we should be aggressively opposed to any kind of restriction or censorship  

          1. No, I wouldn’t feel intimidated, but I think a rape victim might, and I think that’s something I can reasonably be concerned about despite not being a rape victim myself. I do see your point about the plates being government-issued. I would prefer to get rid of vanity plates completely rather than allow plates that were, for example, racist slurs. In fact, I think it might be nice to get rid of vanity plates anyway.

          2. Exactly. Anything you get past the censors at the DOL or DOV, good on you and I know some who got real messages across during the Bush Administration. That said, if I saw a racist or otherwise hate crimey kind of plate I would feel impelled to cal it out.

        2. Conversely there is no right for us to feel pity for the poor fellow with a tiny boner driving the big truck.

      2. Sorry, I gotta call BS here.

        [Disclaimer:  I get the joke and am an ardent Spinal Tap fan and would personally allow a GOES211 plate.]

        However, when you say “no such right to not be offended exists” you are wrong, in the context of how vanity license plates are allotted.

        DMV’s have been doing this for decades, rejecting or rescinding already issued plates, based on community standards.

        You may say (and I would agree) that it’s stupid and childish and shows a lack of worldliness and humor when they reject these plates. 

        But legally, they are on very firm ground when they reject these plates.

    2. No, that was very upstanding of him. A firm, oaken stalwart, that one. A blue-blooded prince. When things get hairy, John fights for the little guy. You can’t forget your base – really, it’s the greatest measure of a man. Dixon’s stout, unbending salute to the middle-right makes me quiver. 

    3. Ooh, come on, I’ve never even seen spinal tap and I’m what you’d call a pretty feminist feminist and even *I* get the reference!

    4. I’m not sure penis length is correlated with sexual violence, nor boasting about or indirectly referring to it. Not to the extent that you can call it intimidation in and of itself, when not directed at anyone in person. Not classy, but not ipso facto threatening.

      The mistake, for which Mr Dixon can be called worse things than humourless, is in thinking it was somehow his business to interpret a 7-character string (wrongly as it turns out) on somebody else’s car, take offence at his own interpretation, and demand that an authority figure intervene to make someone else’s expression suit his tastes and preferences.

      I can’t really bring myself to go easy on such a wanker, because his world view is antithetical to freedom of expression. I don’t even care if he has a sense of humour.

      1. If it was a bumper sticker I’d agree. The difference with a license plate is crucial to why I’m defending Dixon. By allowing some vanity plates and not others, the state has already decided that social interests are relevant in what expression is allowed on those plates. Which is problematic. But I don’t think Dixon saying, “Dear DOL, I think this plate is on the wrong side of the line that you say you’ve drawn” implies that he doesn’t believe in free expression in the public forum.

        1. A reasonable distinction. Though I think it’s not a distinction he himself was drawing, and his misplaced interference and indignation does him no credit.

  3. I remember a few years back the DOL got up in a brouhaha about Licensce plates containing “WTF” and “GTFO”.  IIRC, they simply banned all custom plates with “obscene acronyms” and issued new plates to those who’d already gotten them.

      1. It was and still is in biker/prison/etc. lingo.  “For The Win” is an Internet-era neologism dating back no more than (guessing) seven or eight years.

        1. FTW meaning For The Win was first listed on Urban Dictionary on September 2, 2005, but is also attributed to Hollywood Squares (1966 – 1981).

      1. Back when we lived in Canada in the 70s my mum couldn’t get PET (her initials) because it matched Pierre Elliot Trudeau. What a bunch of meanies.

    1. There’s scads of plates that have been banned over the years.  Surely a blog must cover this.

      The one that sticks in my mind was the person who acquired OUIOUI for his Mercedes and then had it revoked. 

      The owner had in mind the French phrase of gusto: “Oui oui!”  The offended party apparently associated the license plate with male private parts and/or the process of urination. 

      C’est la vie.


    Help me out – what am I missing?

    1.  Actually, didn’t the DOL confirm his right to have the plate? All they did was look into a complain, as is their job, and decide it was baseless. I think that’s pretty good.

      Now, the hating on Juggalos… but that’s not really THEIR fault, if they have a policy against gang names. It’s the fault of whoever was stupid enough to call them a gang.

      1. The FBI decided that Juggalos are a gang.  The FBI seems more interested in mission creep than honest assessment of either threats or subcultures.

    1. hahaha, exactly.
      also, all vanity plates are lame, and usually “worn” by people suffering from arrested development.

  5. “GOES211” – I’d have seen that as an outcry against Subway.

    “ELKNUT” on the other hand, took me a moment to be offended.  At first I thought it was the title of a book about a Norwegian wanderer in 1700s Spain.

  6. This reminds me of when I wore a shirt promoting the band Hole back in high school. Pretty simple design, just a silver heart with “Hole” spelled out inside it. Wore it for months.

    One morning, the gym teacher sends me home to change because of the “vulgarity” on my shirt. “Love hole” he told me it meant. I hadn’t heard the term before and haven’t heard anyone use it since. Yet, I’m the pervert.

    1. Oh but jeez you shoulda had the same design except with a donkey replacing the heart.  Oh but pleez that coulda happened!

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