Acquired Error At The Printer

Fictional print shops are the most unreliable businesses ever. Any poster, sign, brochure, leaflet, bumper sticker, T-shirt, fridge magnet, or other item which contains text they produce for their clients is going to have a mistake on it of some sort. You never know what the mistake will be, but it'll be embarrassing, or at least awkward.

Before digital printing became the norm, there was a great possibility of this being Truth in Television. Traditional printing techniques required text to be laid out by hand on a metal plate. Imagine laying out the contents of an entire novel, which may contain hundreds of thousands of characters, and you can understand how mistakes can slip through. There is no excuse for these mistakes in signs, posters, or the other items listed in the previous paragraph, as these contain significantly less text and mistakes would be easily spotted.

The Linotype machine, invented in the late nineteenth century, sped up the process of turning manuscripts into hot metal type, but provided no way to correct a typographical error short of removing an entire slug line after it was completed. Thus, when Linotype operators realized they had made a typographical error, they would quickly fill out the rest of the line with gibberish text, so a proofreader could easily spot the defect. This was known as a pi line, and was typically produced by simply running a finger down the rows of the Linotype keyboard, which arranged the letters of the alphabet by decreasing frequency of use in English. However, pi lines often made it into print anyway, and thus mysterious references to "Etaoin Shrdlu" appeared in all sorts of publications until computers made hot type obsolete.

The digital printing techniques used today are much like printing a document off on your computer. Modern printers are sent a digital file and, assuming the artist or author followed the specifications required by the printing service, all that's left for the operator to do is set up the printer and press print. Nearly all print errors today are made on the part of the author or artist, so it is advised to carefully scrutinize any materials before they are sent for printing as printers will not refund mistakes made on the part of the customer. Mistakes can still occur with classified newspaper ads though, since these are usually dictated over the phone or scribbled on a form and faxed to be manually typed.


  • Coast Capital Savings, a Canadian credit union which offers free chequing accounts, has print ads which read "Free chequing. The 'R' is not a typo."note 
  • A Snickers candy bar commercial had a football field worker putting the finishing touches on the end zone graphic for the Kansas City Chiefs. He leaves out the "I".
    • "That looks great! But who are the Chefs?" "Great googly-moogly..."

  • A common gag in Ach!lle Talon is the general ineptitude of the printer, Omar van Catastrofendonk.
  • When Opus in Bloom County was working for the personal ads, an older male customer came in to complain that instead of "banking", his ad said he was into "spanking".
  • In Doonesbury, when Joan and Rick were about to be married, they had their wedding invitations printed by a professional invitation printer. Unfortunately, the printer committed two errors: a) Rick's name was printed as "Bick". b) The date of the wedding was printed wrong! Since the invitations were already sent, they had to send to everybody a correction note. And then the printer committed a third error: On the correction note the word "bridegroom" was printed as "bridegoon".
  • Fictional newspapers are inept too - when Donald Duck got his fifteen minutes of fame by (unwittingly) polesitting the smallest pole in the world, they misprinted his name as "Roland Dunk".

  • In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Kelly Cooper is launching a kids book called Jump on the Potty. A printing error changes every instance of the word 'jump' to 'dump'. This leads to Dick Van Dyke doing a celebrity reading at the launch where he tells the children to "dump like a dog".

  • The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy runs for class president and a radio station called BIG JOKE sponsors the printing of T-shirts reading KRISTY IS A WINNER, with the station's name printed on the back of each shirt to acknowledge them as a sponsor. The T-shirt company leaves out the word WINNER and prints T-shirts with KAREN IS A... on the front and ...BIG JOKE on the back.
  • In Good Omens, there is the "Buggre Alle This" Bible of 1651, where the typesetter replaced Ezekiel 48:5 with a rant complaining about his job. It also has three extra verses at the end of Genesis 3 about the loss of the flaming sword by the angel Aziraphale, added by Aziraphale himself, a character in the story.
    "Buggre Alle this for a Larke. I amme sick to mye Hart of typesettinge. Master Biltonn is no Gentlemann, and Master Scagges noe more than a tighte fisted Southwarke Knobbesticke. I telle you, onne a daye laike this Ennyone with half an oz. of Sense shoulde bee oute in the Sunneshain, ane nott Stucke here alle the livelong daie inn this mowldey olde By-Our-Lady Workeshoppe. @*Ç¢@;!*" - (Ezekiel 48:5)
  • In The Truth, the dwarf printer makes a mistake when printing the first edition of the Ankh-Morpork Items and it comes out as Ankh-Morpork tImes. However, deWorde thinks that "times" sounds better and orders the printer to use the new name.
    • There's also "56 People Hurt In Brawl." It was meant to be "5-6" since he wasn't sure how many, but the dash was omitted.
    • And the variations on "The Truth Shall Make Ye Free" such as "shall make ye fret" and "shall make ye fere." The second one is completely plot-relevant, as it's seen by Mr. Pin during a Villainous Breakdown.
  • In The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, a half-ton of deluxe Bibles are dropped off at a recycling center. One of the workers compares a copy verse-by-verse to another Bible. He has to read all the way to the end, as an extra verse has been appended to the last chapter of Revelations ("And they lived happily ever after.").
  • In Barefoot Boy with Cheek by Max Shulman, the articles from the Minnesota Daily are filled with references to "Etaoin Shrdlu." One article includes an apology that Petey Loadsafun was "erroneously called Etaoin Shrdlu in yesterday's shrdlu."
  • "Improbable Bestiary: The Gremlin and the Glitch" by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre:
    So when that pair of holy terrors
    Who delight in causing errors
    And who make machines malfunction
    Try to come and bother you,
    Then the only thing to do

    (Note: due to a sudden unaccountable malfunction of all twenty-seven of our Linotype terminals, we regret that PYRZQXGL EFSITZ IRTNOG.)

Live-Action TV
  • Golden Palace: Blanche orders pens for the hotel that read, "This pen is compliments from us to you." The printers leave out the space between "pen" and "is".
  • How to Be Indie: The Thanksgiving Episode had the printers leave a decimal point out of the price on a poster, advertising a lunch that costs hundreds of dollars.
  • On Corner Gas, the Dog River Howler is often lampshaded as being completely unreliable, printing anything from small spelling errors (spelling 'barley' as 'barely') to out-and-out lies (announcing the town of Moosejaw getting an NBA franchise).
    • When Brent and Lacey order travel mugs with the names of their businesses on them, the text gets cut off, making the mugs say "Corner G and The Rub", which Brent decides is A Good Name For A Hip Hop Band.
  • In an episode of Dads Army, a printer mixes up photos of Corporal Jones (intended for a recruiting poster) and an enemy agent (intended for a Wanted Poster).
  • In Red Dwarf, Rimmer's parents were "Seventh Day Advent Hoppists", who hop every Sunday, due to a misprinted Bible wherein 1 Corinthians 13:13 reads "Faith, hop, and charity, and the greatest of these is hop."
  • On Parks and Recreation, Leslie's campaign team give the printer the URL of the graphic to print on her campaign signs, but they print the address itself instead.
  • Subverted in WKRP in Cincinnati. Herb has set up an ad campaign for Soul Suds Shampoo using Venus for a Celebrity Endorsement. To save on the photographer fees Herb took the pictures himself. Then the stand up display comes in and it's not Venus—it's Herb in a "Kiss the Cook" apron. It's Herb's fault, but he blames the printer.
    Herb: [into the phone] You call yourselves printers? There were 50 photos of a black guy in a tuxedo holding a bottle of shampoo, and one photo of a white guy barbecuing, and you used the white guy! ... I don't care which photo I marked. I made the mistake and you people were supposed to catch it, that's what I pay you for. Don't you remember? I screw up everything! You should know that if it comes from me, it's wrong!
  • In an episode of The Nanny, Maxwell and C.C.'s company Sheffield-Babcock Productions is putting on a musical. They put an ad in the newspaper, which announces it was produced "by Maxwell Sheffield and C.C. Boobcock." However, it ended up being subverted when C.C. remembers she gave the ad copy to Niles to give to the messenger.
  • Back In The Game: The T-shirt shop messed up the would-be Angels Little League team's order so that they're the Angles.
  • Seems to happen to Kermit the Frog in a Sesame Street skit. He goes in to pick up a Kermit the Frog t-shirt ... and finds it reading 'Kermit the Gorf'. The printer insists that everything is fine ... especially when Kermit the Gorf shows up. The gag repeats twice as Kermit the Forg and Kermit the Grof both show up to collect their custom T-shirts.
  • A death notice that Larry put in the paper on Curb Your Enthusiasm as "beloved aunt" came out as... something else.
  • On Frasier, Niles in one of the seasons runs into this when he tries to take an ad out in the newspaper as a "Jung specialist, specializing in individuals, couples, and groups, tell me where it hurts." One mistype changing the 'j' to an 'h' in Jung, and the change in meaning causes Niles to Need A Freaking Drink. Funnily enough, the phones still ring off the hook.
  • In the April Fools Day episode of The Worst Year of My Life, Again, Simon has a badge made reading 'KING OF PRANKS'. However, due to several letters being squashed together, everyone keeps reading it as 'KING OF PRAWNS'.
  • In one episode of Mr D, the title character coaches a basketball team. The team name is spelled wrong on their jerseys, and Mr. D tells the team that the printer made a mistake and will provide a refund. The assistant coach points out that the invoice states they have already accepted the jerseys and that no refunds will be given.

  • I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue: Any round of "Historical Headlines" will feature someone (probably Barry) citing a misprinted headline from The Guardian (which has a reputation for this kind of thing). For example, Barry claimed that The Guardian's headline for the Great Fire of London would have been "London's Burping!".

Video Games
  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!: The O2 Kits got their nickname "Oz Kits" because they showed up with a different font than what was ordered, where the 2 looked more like a Z. The Dahl employee who ordered them thought this was a grave enough error to throw the whole lot out and order new ones, but since the kits were still perfectly functional, his superiors disagreed and hung up on him. Eventually the name stuck.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: When Homer decides to throw a bash at his house, he has invitations printed up.
    Lisa: reading invitation "Come to Homer's BBBQ. The extra B is for BYOBB."
    Bart: What's that extra B for?
    Homer: That's a typo.
  • In Mission Hill, Posey, a newly established massage therapist, wonders why all her clients are perverted men expecting a massage parlour experience. It turns out that her classified ad, in which she'd promised "soothing relief", read "soothing release".
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, episode Swarm of the Century, the ponies tasked with creating a banner to welcome Princess Celestia couldn't fit it all in.
    Twilight Sparkle: You can't hang a banner that says "Welcome Princess Celest". Take it down and try again.
  • The Batman: One episode has Alfred inform Bruce that according to the invitations that were sent out, he's hosting "A Farty."

Real Life
  • The famous "Sinner's Bible" in which the "not" was left out of "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
    • There have been several others, including "The Printer's Bible" of circa 1702, in which Psalm 119:161 reads "... printers have persecuted me without a cause..."