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..."
- When Opus in Bloom County is working for the personal ads, an older male customer comes in to complain that instead of "banking", his ad says he is 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".
- One FoxTrot strip had Peter and Jason find their father Roger's college diploma in the attic and wonder why he didn't hang it on the wall like usual. The fact that his name is printed as "Orger" presumably has something to do with it.
- 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".
- This trope sets off the whole sequence of events in Brazil, in which a dead bug falling into a daisywheel printer causes a warrant to be put out for a Buttle instead of a Tuttle, and the poor fellow ends up getting arrested and dying under interrogation.
- 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. @*Ãƒâ€¡Ã‚Â¢@;!*" - (Ezekiel 48:5)
- He also has a bible listing among the commandments "Thou shalt commit adultery". Aziraphale makes a specific hobby of collecting these kinds of bibles.
- In Mr. Hook's Big Black Box, the name of the university the main characters used to attend (and are returning to for the reunion) has its name misspelled as "Lanchester Universitay" on the pamphlets for the reunion, in reference to the same misspelling being present on the welcome packs when they first joined.
- 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
Is to QWERTYUIOP ETAOIN SHRDLU SHRDLU SHRDLU
(Note: due to a sudden unaccountable malfunction of all twenty-seven of our Linotype terminals, we regret that PYRZQXGL EFSITZ IRTNOG.)
- 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.
- 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 Dad's 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 Season 4 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.
- On Will & Grace, Jack lands a role on a gritty new cop show "The Badge," but the cast party features posters reading "The Vadge" — probably, as Jack admits, because he ordered them over the phone and said "B as in 'bagina.'"
- The Grand Tour's opening uses this as a Couch Gag; a sign welcoming the presenters will always have the last one's name misspelled. For example, "Richard Hammond, James May, and Germy Clarkson" or "Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and Jams Made."
- In The Wonder Years episode "It's a Mad, Mad, Madeline World", Winnie gives Kevin a bracelet with his name, "KEVIN ARNOLD", engraved on it, which he accidentally leaves at his classmate Madeline's house while working on a French project. Rather than retrieving it before a date with Winnie, Kevin goes to the jeweller to have a new bracelet engraved - and doesn't discover until he brings it home that, thanks to his sloppy handwriting, the bracelet reads "KEVIN AMOLD" (which his older brother Wayne finds hysterical).
- Showed up at least 2 times in M*A*S*H
- In one episode Father Mulcahy receives a shipment of new bibles full of typos. This was a direct reference to the "Sinner's Bible" listed in the Real Life section below.
- Another episode featured a Jeweler's variation of the trope. When Klinger accidentally throws Margaret's engagement ring in the trash, Hawkeye and BJ help him replace it when they find it was a dime-a-dozen cheap ring sold by local merchants to begin with. The ruse is up when the custom inscription on the ring comes back reading "Over Hill. Over Dale. Our love will evernote fail."
- 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!".
- The News Quiz: The cuttings at the starts of rounds and the end of the program are often victims of this.
- In the third act of Neil Simon's play Plaza Suite, Roy Hubley is annoyed to find that the napkins for which he has paid handsomely for his daughter Mimsey's marriage to Borden Eisler identify the event as the "Eisler-Hubly" wedding.
- 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.
- The Simpsons: When Homer decides to throw a bash at his house, he has invitations printed up.
- In Mission Hill, Posey starts up a massage therapy business but keeps getting creeps expecting a Happy Ending Massage, and even a pimp who accuses her of cutting in on his territory. She has no clue why it's happening until Andy looks at one of the flyers she had printed up and he points out that it says "soothing release" instead of "soothing relief".
- In My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
- In 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.
- In "Slice of Life", the bulk of the episode's tension (beyond the Bugbear's attack) is the result of a printing mistake on Cranky and Matilda's wedding invitations, setting the ceremony one day too early and forcing everypony to rush their preparations. The error was caused by Derpy subcontracting the printing of the invitations to the inexperienced Featherweight for a cheaper product.
- In episode "Swarm of the Century", the ponies tasked with creating a banner to welcome Princess Celestia "couldn't fit it all in."
- The Batman: One episode has Alfred inform Bruce that according to the invitations that were sent out, he's hosting "A Farty."
- Bojack Horseman: Mr. Peanutbutter repeatedly uses a printer for signs and t-shirts that manages to print both the desired text and the instructions he gave, i.e. 'Happy Birthday Diane and use a pretty font.'
- Sing: The prize money was supposed to be $1000 but Ms. Crawly's Glass Eye slips out of her socket and hits a couple zeroes.
- 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..."
- Swedes likes to attribute these mistakes to the fictional "Tryckfelsnisse" (printing error elf) entity.
- The first paperback edition of Good Omens (which as mentioned above, ironically refers to Biblical misprints) describes Sable Black's real name (Famine) as "one word, seven letters. Sounds like examine." According to Terry Pratchett:
It's like this. In the original MS, it was six letters, because we can both count. And it was six letters in the Gollancz hardcover. And six letters in the Workman US hardcover. And became seven in the Corgi edition. No-one knows why.
- Happens surprisingly often at cake shops when they are asked to hand-pipe a message on a cake, as frequently documented by the Cake Wrecks blog. For example.
- Anti-Gay Texas Republicans accidentally pass a policy that says most Texans have gay sex, because of a typo.
- Two English football teams have fallen foul of this:
- One of the teams that were promoted to the Premier League, according to their new shirts, were "Chrystal Palace".
- The tickets for the Championship Play-off Final in 2015 referred to one of the teams as "Middlesborough".note
- In April 2009, Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman of baseball's Washington Nationals spent the first three innings of a loss to the Florida Marlins wearing jerseys that read "NATINALS" thanks to a goof at Majestic Athletic, the company that made their uniforms.
- Two (possibly apocryphal) stories about unfortunate printing errors for funeral floral tributes:
- One well-wisher was asked what message she would like to include with her tribute. She answered, "I guess, 'I'll miss you.'" On the day of the funeral, she was horrified to discover her tribute was accompanied by the message "I guess I'll miss you."
- At another funeral, the director noticed that the tribute from the deceased's sister had no message on it, so he ran to the printers to have a ribbon made up with "Beloved brother" written on it. The deceased's sister was fortunately more amused than upset to discover that the ribbon instead said "Beloved bother", and only wished her brother could be there to share the joke.
- At some point in its history, the Marlborough Arms pub in Chester, England◊ was having its sign re-painted, and the painter either had too much to drink or, according to local folklore, heard the ghost of a former landlord in the ale cellar and so rushed to finish the job, but whatever the reason, the finished sign read "MARLBOROROUGH ARMS". The then-current landlord decided to embrace the mistake, and the pub's name has officially been the Marlbororough Arms ever since.
- An Australian newspaper advertising the Whitsundays (a popular holiday destination) had to do a frantic recall when the "W" was replaced by an "S".
- In Dutch "Verras uw kind met een ijsje" is quite innocuous, "surprise your child with some ice cream". It gets morbid when you make the typo "Veras uw kind met een ijsje", inviting people to incinerate their children using ice cream.