Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Tom Walton


How to make the best of the new, bland Ohio license plate


Don Ostapowicz of Akron thinks this Ohio license plate design would put all others over a barrel.


Reaction to my July 1 column on Ohio’s new and embarrassingly bland “Ohio Pride” license plates was diverse and surprising — not unlike the Buckeye State, come to think of it.

Several readers agreed with my assessment, while a couple said they consider the new plate an improvement over the “Beautiful Ohio” plate it replaces. Eye of the beholder, I guess.

My favorite response came from a reader in Akron, Don Ostapowicz, who said he considers the Ohio Pride design a slight improvement over the Beautiful Ohio plate — but still a disappointment. He says that the inverted red triangle at the top of the new plate is supposed to signify the side view of an airplane wing — “if you can believe that one.”

“This state, year after year, just proves that it doesn’t have its act together when it comes to license plates,” Mr. Ostapowicz says. “How difficult can it be?”

Then, to prove his point, he sent me three proposed designs he came up with.

One has a cardinal, the state bird, in the center, superimposed over a gray outline of the state of Ohio, with numbers on either side. The word “OHIO” appears at the top, with “Buckeye State” at the bottom.

A second design replaces the cardinal with the distinctive Ohio state flag. Either one would be excellent and a great improvement over the Ohio Pride plate we apparently are stuck with.

However, Mr. Ostapowicz’s creativity truly shines in his third proposed design. Gone are the cardinal and the flag, replaced by an orange barrel and the words “The Construction State” at the bottom. Check it out. It captures the heart of it all, don’t you think?

Alas, inasmuch as Mr. Ostapowicz’s idea isn’t likely to go anywhere, and given this column’s ongoing effort to make your life easier, let me offer a way to make Ohio license plates fun again. When you’re traveling by car, do you take note of how many other states’ license plates you spot? Here’s a variation on that game, and it’s playable here in Ohio. In fact, it’s especially playable here in Ohio.

Most Ohio plates have a combination of three letters followed by four numbers. See if you can come up with two words that contain all three letters — one word that starts with the first letter and one word that does not. All three letters must appear in correct order, although they do not need to appear adjacent to each other.

Example: CIT. You can make “city” and “explicit.” But “receipt” also counts. For FCT you could choose “fact” and “artifact.”

Sometimes it’s easy to come up with one word but not the other. Take FSC. I get “fiscal,” but I’m stumped for a word that doesn’t start with F. Occasionally, the three letters form their own word, as in DOE. Of course, you still have to come up with a word that doesn’t start with D, such as “adore.”

Ohio has several three-letter combinations on license plates that are almost impossible. Take FXV. Please. Or FWX. What do you do with those? How about EYV? The Q, J, X, and Z plates bring their own degree of difficulty.

It’s all right to put “un” or “in” in front of a word if the result is a legitimate word. From ATN you could form both “action” and “inaction.” But don’t push it. “Unliteral” for LTA is, well, unimpressive, although “unilateral” is good.

Proper names also are OK, but only as a last resort. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to go with “Prevacid” for PVC because you didn’t spot “privacy.”

There are no prizes, although bragging rights over your traveling companion count for a lot.

By the way, you could ask your smart phone to find one of those Internet sites that help Scrabble players cheat. But not only would you have to bear the shame of your deceit, you’d also be endangering yourself and others if you’re the driver. Don’t do that.

Same with hyphenated words — they’re a cop-out that leaves you guilt-ridden.

One final challenge: Rearrange the four numbers on the plate to form the closest basketball score you can. If the digits are 4669, the closest basketball score possible is 69 to 64. The closer you get to a one-point margin, the better.

It’s also fun to make the biggest blowout score you can. The blowout in this example would be 96 to 46. Lose by 50 in basketball and you need to find another sport.

All of this is intended to make those dreadful “Ohio Pride” license plates useful for something. So there you go — a new way to pass time at those long red lights and construction delays. It sure beats counting orange barrels.

You’re welcome.

Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday. His commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard each Monday at 5:44 p.m. on WGTE-FM 91.

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