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Oh, the Vanity!


Vanity license plates in radiology.

I’ve mentioned in one or two earlier columns that I was psychologically programmed at an early age (by well-meaning relatives) to have absolute certainty that I would one day be a physician.

One of the fringe benefits, I was taught, was that you could get an “MD” license plate for your car. This purportedly enabled you to exceed the speed limit without fear of citation, or park illegally.

By the time I actually had a car, let alone my MD degree, it seemed fairly unlikely to me that such things were true, if indeed they ever had been. Rather, from everything I heard, such a plate on your car was essentially a sign telling the world “Rob me, I have deep pockets (or possibly controlled substances)!” Or “Sue me for something frivolous, I’m well insured and will likely settle!”

There was also another factor: By then, I had learned about these far niftier things you could put on your car called vanity plates (the official term, at least nowadays, is “personalized plates”). For an extra fee, you could specify what you wanted your plate to say, as long as it was unique in your state and didn’t break the rules, like including obscenities or exceeding the character limit.

One of the rules was that you couldn’t have an MD vanity plate. You could broadcast your professional status to the world, or express your identity/cleverness, but not both. By the time I was in a position to choose, I had seen a bunch of both types of plate, and while the MD plates barely caught my notice, the vanities always did. Sometimes just for a moment’s amusement, sometimes offering greater depth, and sometimes resulting in genuine head-scratching: What the heck is that plate supposed to mean?

I’ve seen a few radiology related plates, heard of a few more, and imagined a whole bunch. Some are very literal, such that non-rads (even non-health care types) viewing them would have no difficulty figuring them out. SCANS is a specific one that leaps to mind, but as long as you don’t use too many letters there is really no dearth of choices: XRAYDOC, MRIDUDE, SONOGRL, ANGIOMAN, etc.

It seems almost a waste of the plate, however, if you make it too easy for the viewer to figure out. Indeed, some non-radiological plates I’ve seen defy deciphering; the inside joke is so inside that nobody else has a prayer of getting it. I have not encountered any with regards to our profession, but it seems probable that there are some out there: SUBOPTML, for instance. ARTIFACT, perhaps, if some archaeologist hasn’t grabbed it already. MO RVUS, for a proud workhorse.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"50432","attributes":{"alt":"vanity plates","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_1133096242463","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6154","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 138px; width: 170px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©iQoncept/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

My favorites have always been the ones that can just be figured out by those determined to do so. They straddle a “Goldilocks” sweet spot between painfully obvious and impenetrably obscure. The best one of these I ever heard of was ICN2U (“I see into you”). I suppose ICTHRUU would be a backup option if someone else in your state had snatched up the first one, and you really liked the idea.

My selection, when I finally decided to plunk down some coin for the privilege: IONEYES. What’s yours (or would be, if you got one)?

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