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License plates offer mobile vista for new slogans

The Bellingham Herald ran a story the other day about a contest under way to design a new specialty license plate for Western Washington University.

In Washington, universities and certain other organizations can offer specialty plates, for which motorists pay extra. Part of the extra money goes to the organization; in Western's case, to student scholarships. Last year, sale of the WWU plates raised nearly $21,000.

Most of the 28 designs in the contest feature a helmeted Viking, Western's logo, the "Skyviewing" sculpture on campus, or figures engaged in outdoor sports.

My favorite shows a bearded, Viking-helmeted bicyclist riding with a glass of tea in one hand (professional bicyclist on a closed course, do not try it yourself) and a squirrel perched atop the "n" in "Washington."

Even if voters favor the helmeted biker, I'm not sure that Western trustees want that image representing the university on the nation's highways, and the state Department of Licensing might decide the design is too similar to the existing "share the road" plate that also shows a bicyclist (minus the beard, horned helmet, tea and squirrel).

Thinking about license plates, I now journey back to summer car trips with my folks when my brother and I sometimes played license plate games from the back seat, usually counting how many of the 50 state plates we saw as they whizzed by on the highway.

I don't recall much about the images on the plates, but I do recall several of the state slogans. Some were obvious, such as "Aloha State" for Hawaii, and "Grand Canyon State" for Arizona. Others were less obvious but still memorable, including "Land of Enchantment" for New Mexico and "Famous Potatoes" for Idaho.

As a "word man" who can't draw a lick, I'm partial to slogans. With that in mind, I humbly suggest the following for some new specialty plates:

? Western Washington University: "Home to eight national champions* ... (*Seven in women's rowing, one in men's basketball)"

OK, that's too long. How about this one:

- WWU: "My college daughter can out-row your college daughter"

- University of Washington: "PAC-12 basketball champs. ... Not that anyone seems to care"

In Washington state, and elsewhere, other groups and causes can have specialty plates, not just colleges and universities. Thus ...

- Bellingham: "Hands off our traffic lights"

- Washington state: "Eternal budget talks"

- Seattle: "Where police outhit the Mariners"

- Seattle Archdiocese: "Don't mistake our joy for gaiety" ?

- Coffee shops: "I'm not swerving; I spilled my latte"

- Brewpubs: "I'm not swerving; OK, I guess I am"

- Port of Bellingham: "Reasons? We don't need to give no stinkin' reasons!"

OK, that's too long, too. How about this:

- Port of Bellingham: "Busy filling jobs - and refilling jobs"

Contact Dean Kahn at or 360-715-2291.


- Monday, April 16, is the deadline to vote for your favorite WWU license plate design. You can see the entries, and vote, online at

- Feel free to suggest license slogans online with this story, but if you want to share your slogans for a possible follow-up story, email them to