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Motorist seeking U-turn in plate tiff

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 7 2003 9:29 a.m. MDT

To Dennis Udink, his last name reflects a proud family tradition and speaks of his Dutch heritage.

To the state Division of Motor Vehicles, Udink's last name is vulgar and doesn't belong on a personalized license plate.

"When we run 'dink' through the programs we use, the term comes back as being vulgar and obscene," the DMV wrote to Udink about his license plate request.

Naturally, Udink was upset.

"I was kind of incredulous about it," the Price man said. "I couldn't believe they could say it could possibly be offensive. It's my . . . name."

Udink appealed the decision and has a hearing on the matter scheduled later this month.

Not entirely satisfied with that process, Udink wrote a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, who happens to sit on the legislative committee that has oversight of the rule-making process, which includes how the state DMV rationalizes rejection of personalized license plates.

"It is really an unfortunate situation because it is a pretty well-known family in this area. and no one thinks anything of it," Dmitrich said. "It's only offensive to people who make it offensive."

The matter will be heard in the Administrative Rules Review Committee in its Wednesday morning meeting, during which Dmitrich will pitch a rule change that gives the state agency more discretion when a red flag pops up on an application.

"I have a good friend whose last name is Hori. If you want to make that offensive, then it could be very offensive," Dmitrich said. "I agree that we should not allow certain things that are offensive, but this is his name."

The stink over Udink's name began in August after he bought a car and attempted to complete his request for a vanity plate on the Internet.

Udink said the computer system automatically rejected his application. So, he went to his local DMV officials, who accepted "Udink" without blinking an eye.

A week later, however, he received a letter from the state saying the "dink" in "Udink" had ran afoul of the state's system that crosschecks against vulgarities and other inappropriate references on license plates.

Jodi Monaco, the state agency's spokeswoman, said the DMV checks requested personalized plate information against 10 Web sites. If the word or numbers generate a "hit" on any of the sites, the request is rejected.

Out of the 6,000 requests the division receives each year, Monaco said only about 300 end up in the rejection pile.

She said many applicants are surprised or even startled to realize their request is offensive in some manner, and the division does work with applicants to come up with an alternate spelling, if possible, to satisfy the "inappropriate" meter.

For Udink, changing the spelling or phonetics of his last name to erase "dink" sort of defeats the purpose of wanting his name on the license plate in the first place.

"I believe their decision does more harm than good by declaring the name Udink vulgar and obscene, which demeans every person bearing the last name of Udink . . . as opposed to possibly offending the small handful of people who may take it out of context," Udink's letter says.

A check of the Webster's New World Dictionary and the Web site www.dictionary.com actually gives the first meaning for "dink" as a sports term — a drop shot, as in volleyball. Or, as an adjective, it is used to describe a hit in baseball that is made as a result of striking the ball poorly, such as a dink double.

Another meaning of the word is slang for a fool or jerk, and "DINK" is a noun that stands for a Double Income No Kids couple who are married. Dink also can be an adjective that describes a machine too small to bother with, or something that is trim or neat. Finally, it is listed as a disparaging term for a North Vietnamese soldier or guerilla in the Vietnam war.

For Udink, none of those definitions really matter or are relevant because Udink, not dink, is his name.

Dmitrich thinks his colleagues on the rule committee will be sympathetic to Udink's cause. "If that is a person's given name and it is on a birth certificate, it ought to be allowed on a state license plate."

House Majority Leader Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, a committee member, said he, too, fails to see what all the fuss is about.

"Udink," he said, "doesn't offend me."


E-MAIL: amyjoi@desnews.com

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