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Steelhammer: Ladybugs, lakes, lighthouses and license plates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Since West Virginia hasn't changed the basic design of its standard license plate in 17 years, it may be time to start keeping up with the Joneses, or the Kasichs, or whatever our neighbors to the north are calling themselves these days.

Ohio recently redesigned its standard license plate, and a new edition will begin appearing on slow-moving southbound cars winding their way through the Mountain State sometime early next year.

I like the new plate's simple design -- sort of a wing cross-section in solid red swooping across the top of the license with "Ohio" spelled out in white letters inside it. Blue letters are used for the plate's identifying numbers and letters, retaining the state's all-American color scheme.

What I don't particularly care for is the number of state slogans and mottoes that will appear in light gray lettering in the background behind the numbers.

If our plates get a makeover, I'm OK with keeping the "Wild, Wonderful" slogan that has appeared on them since 1995. Ohioans, on the other hand, must have really been fed up with "America's Heartland," "Birthplace of Aviation," "Seat Belts Fastened?" or all the other ho-hum slogans that have graced their plates over the years.

When it comes to official license plate mottoes, Ohio marches to the beat of a different drummer -- or in its case, 46 different drummers. That's the number of mottoes, slogans, points of interest, factoids, historical figures and names of geographic landmarks that will appear in the crowded background of the new tags.

After asking drivers to make motto suggestions on the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles website, transportation officials apparently decided to keep all of them, and maybe added a few of their own.

Some of the new mottoes make "Seat Belts Fastened?" seem downright racy by comparison. "Polymer Capital of the World" doesn't exactly get my blood pumping. Neither does "Ladybug," a one-word tribute to the state insect of Ohio.

I liked that there were several nods to American Indians among the slogans, including "Newark Earthworks," "Serpent Mound," and "Adena." and to scenic places, nearly all of which seemed to involve the state's enviable possession of part of a Great Lake. Included were Lake Erie's resort town of "Put-in-Bay" and "Marblehead Lighthouse," Lake Erie's shoreline landmark, along with "Perry's Victory" on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, "Walleye," Lake Erie's prime sport fish, and just plain "Lake Erie."

I was puzzled by inclusion of "The Horseshoe" on the list of approved mottoes and place names, until I remembered that it was the name of Ohio State's open-ended football stadium. "Ohio Burgee" also had me stumped. At first, I thought it was a misprint of "Ohio Burger," or "Ohio Bungee," which would have been interesting. But the Ohio Burgee turns out to be the name of the state's swallowtail-shaped flag.

The Buckeye State's list of approved background words includes "The Buckeye State," as well as the state's official motto, "With God All Things Are Possible," and old standards like "The Heart of It All," "So Much To Discover," "DiscoverOhio.com," and "America's Heartland.

One motto, "Ohio Has It All," may be something of a reach, since the state lacks a peak higher than 1,550 feet, and the ability to decide upon a single state slogan.

Here's my state slogan suggestion for boiling 46 options down to one when the next Ohio license plate retooling rolls around:

"Birthplace of Mottoes."


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