AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Highway commissioners dropped plans to print ''The Friendship State'' on Texas license plates and said they were at a loss for words following complaints that the slogan wasn't tough enough.

Commission Chairman Robert Dedman said Tuesday that he hoped a consensus could be reached on a positive slogan that would temper outsiders' views of Texans.

''We should do everything to say 'Y'all come' to visitors to the state and 'Y'all come in bringing hi-tech and other jobs,''' he said.

Responding to an outpouring of criticism about the earlier decision to use ''The Friendship State,'' Dedman said perhaps ''Never give up'' should be the new slogan.

As it is, Texas plates next spring will remain sloganless, although more colorful with the red, white and blue state flag.

On July 19, the three-member commission approved, with little fanfare, putting ''The Friendship State'' on the state's 27 million license plates, hoping the cheery message would attract tourists.

Friendship is the official state motto and the word 'Texas' derives from the Spanish pronunciation of an Indian word meaning ''friends.''

But once word of the decision reached the public, thousands of Texans, prouder of their independence than their friendliness, jammed telephone lines to the highway department and radio call-in shows.

Most said the slogan was too generic and bland.

State Treasurer Ann Richards, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, called it ''wimpy.'' Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Rains said it ''looked a little quiche and chablis.''

The most popular alternative was the ''Lone Star State,'' although some suggested more topical slogans, such as ''Texas, the Insolvent State,'' or ''The Bank Failure State.''

Dedman said there is a feeling outside the state, particularly in the North and East, that Texas has gotten what it deserved in the state's financial and energy collapse. During the 1970s Arab oil embargo, some Texans rode around with bumper stickers directed at ''Yankees,'' saying ''Let them freeze in the dark.''

''We should be collectively as a group of people as conscious as we can be of being good marketers to the rest of the nation and try to do whatever we can to overcome some of that perceived negative outlook toward Texas,'' Dedman said.