By David Edwards

The state of Michigan has told a court that it was protecting children when it refused to issue a vanity license plate with the phrase “WAR SUX.”

In documents filed last month in a Grand Rapids federal court, attorneys for the secretary of state’s office said that a lawsuit brought by David DeVarti should be dismissed because children often amused themselves by reading license plates.

“[M]any young children of reading age ride in vehicles and are unwillingly exposed to license plates on other vehicles,” the motion to dismiss said. “They sometimes amuse themselves by reading or playing games with license plates. And because vehicles often travel in residential neighborhoods, youth may be exposed to license plates from their yards or driveways.”

The document went on to note that courts often allowed “the physical and emotional wellbeing of youth” to trump free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

DeVarti, however, said it was “ridiculous” that anyone could be offended by the plate.

“I feel like this is a statement of who I am,” he explained, “and, at the same time, I think that it’s a positive message that we should be conveying of, hey, war is a bad idea, and we should do everything we can to avoid it.”

“Maybe sometimes it’s unavoidable, but I think that we should strive through diplomatic channels for peace every opportunity we have,” DeVarti said.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the use of “suck” as the slang “suck eggs” in American literature dates back until at least 1906. The phrase “suck hind tit” was seen in the The Chester White Journal in 1921. Since at least 1928, the phrase has also been associated with oral sex.

In 2006, Slate’s Seth Stevenson argued that the “word is now completely divorced from any past reference it may have made to a certain sex act.”

“The point is that sucks has become untethered from its past and carries no tawdry implications for those who use it,” Stevenson wrote. “Sucks is the most concise, emphatic way we have to say something is no good. As a one-syllable intransitive verb, it offers superb economy.”


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