Tennessee Veggie Lover’s Vanity License Plate Banned for ‘Vulgarity’

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Courtesy PETA

A Tennessee woman just wanted to share her love of vegetarian eating. The state thought she was expressing her love for a more explicit activity.

It’s a battle of semantics – implied spacing, really. Whitney Calk innocently (or perhaps not) requested a vanity license plate from the state of Tennessee, one that read “ILVTOFU.” But her personalized plate reflecting her fondness for bean curds was rejected on the grounds of “vulgarity.” There’s nothing vulgar about tofu, right?

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The battle rages within the spacing of the words. Calk may have meant “I-LV-TOFU,” but the Tennessee Department of Revenue, Taxpayer and Vehicle Services added one extra space to turn the sentence into a snarky double entendre. “I-LV-TO-F-U,” they read. And that’s not a very family-friendly message to take to the roadways.

But of course the license plate is hardly original – nor is Tennessee’s verdict to deny it. The state is simply following the precedent set in other states from Colorado to Virginia. PETA has issued a statement asking Tennessee to reconsider their decision, hoping that Calk will be allowed to profess her love of “beans over beef” on her bumper. Will a bit of national attention will force Tennessee to let Calk speed away with this one?

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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