Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) snowplows are identified simply by their truck number, but the agency is hoping to inject a bit of levity into winter by asking the public to come up with catchy names for eight of them.

The agency on Thursday launched a "Name a Snowplow" contest seeking witty monikers for the large orange vehicles dispatched to clear snow and ice from the roads.

"It's an effort to have a little fun," said spokesman Jake Loesch. Snowplowing can be a sore subject for Minnesotans, but the contest is meant to be "something lighthearted that we can do."

Many took to social media in the minutes after MnDOT announced the contest. "Legally Plowed," one person wrote in a tweet. In reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, another suggested "Superspreader." A third threw out "Joe Plower, Justin More­snow and Kent Brrrbek" in a nod to popular former Minnesota Twins players Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Kent Hrbek.

To be considered, however, those ideas must be sent to MnDOT through the agency's official submission form. In the first 45 minutes after the contest went live Thursday, the agency received 277 entries, Loesch said.

Ideas must be submitted by Jan. 22, and the public will vote in February. The top eight vote-getters will make their way onto a plow, one in each of MnDOT's eight districts, before the winter season ends.

The idea for the contest gained traction after Roadshow posted an article online last week explaining how Scotland names its entire snowplow fleet and posts a map showing their location. The country calls the vehicles "gritters," the article said, which led to witty handles such as "Gritney Spears," "Gritty Gritty Bang Bang" and "Snowkemon Go." The article went viral.

MnDOT considered doing something similar last year, Loesch said. But after seeing the piece on Scotland, he said it was time to crowdsource and see what ideas were out there.

There are few rules, but "it is a family-friendly contest," Loesch said. "We want puns and bad dad jokes, just keep it clean."

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768