What happens when biologists try to get nerdy license plates? They get rejected for being potentially inappropriate:
A forest ecologist’s application for a personalized license plate in the state of Michigan has been denied on the grounds that “PINUS” looks and sounds too much like “PENIS.” Marvin Roberson, who works for the Sierra Club in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, says he applied for the specialized plate out of arborous love for the white pine (pinus strobus in Latin). However, officials denied his request on the grounds that the plate “might carry a connotation offensive to good taste and decency as judged by the Department of State.”
For the sake of appreciating the juvenile humor, I’m going to ignore the fact that the name of a body part is considered offensive in our society. But really, Pinus isn’t the worst genus you could come up with. Arses, Colon, Bugeranus, Enema, Fartulum, Labia, Orgia, Turdus… Hmmm, us biologists haven’t progressed very far past potty humor, have we?*
I’d love it if scientists could successfully sneak in real “dirty” terms if we’re nerdy enough that the DMV doesn’t recognize them. I think a lot of mammalogists would kill for a BACULUM** license plate!
*If you want to see other silly binomial nomenclature, this site has a great database.
**A baculum is the penis bone found in most mammals (but interestingly, not humans). Mammalogists have a strange and amusing fascination with it, partly for scientific reasons, but partly because it’s funny. Seriously, when I went to the Mammal meetings last year, the most popular merchandise at the auction was carved baculum stuff. Scientists, so weird.