this story shows how even the dumbest cases can end up as world news...
Mon Sep 24, 4:54 PM ET
MERLIN, Oregon - The state of Oregon has ordered a family to turn in the vanity license plates on its cars because their Dutch last name, which is written on the plates, is similar to an offensive word.
The plates, UDINK1 UDINK2 and UDINK3 are on the vehicles of Mike and Shelly Udink and their son Kalei. Two of the plates are five and seven years old. One was issued last year.
Last summer, Kawika Udink's application for UDINK4 was rejected and the state ordered that the other three plates be returned.
"DINK has several derogatory meanings," Yvonne Bell, who sits on the Department of Motorvehicles panel that approves vanity plates, told the Daily Courier newspaper.
DMV spokesman David House and Bell said the word can be treated as a verb, which gives it a sexual reference, and also can be a racial slur targeted at the Vietnamese.
House said the "U" in the front could be construed as "You."
The DMV denies requests for any combination of letters and numbers that may be viewed as objectionable, in any language, by use of phonetic, numeric or reverse spelling, or when viewed as a mirror image, or that would alarm or offend a reasonable person.
Intimate body parts or sexual or bodily functions are taboo, as are offensive references to race, color, gender, ethnic heritage, or national origin or to alcohol or drugs or paraphernalia.
The panel's ruling surprised Mike Udink, whose name is Dutch. He says it is a common last name in The Netherlands.
"Since when can a panel dictate whether your name's offensive or not?" asked Udink, a lineman for Pacific Power.
House said the state has the right to censor license plates, because the state owns them.