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Signs of Disrepair

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Explains the gas prices.

So if you've got a hankerin',
I'll tell you where to go,
Just look for the busted neon sign
That flashes... Eat at Joe's
The Folksmen, A Mighty Wind, "Old Joe's Place"

A seemingly regular sign that, with letters broken or removed, portrays a different meaning. This can be caused by coincidence (neon tubes burning out, letters falling off), or it can be intentional vandalism.

Often used to create or highlight an unintended innuendo, such as "Public Library" becoming "Pubic Library". Also used in many After the End and Future Imperfect scenarios. The seedier kinds of Neon City will be full of this sort of thing. Compare the comedic version Censored for Comedy and Partially-Concealed-Label Gag. Compare Pull the Plug on the Title, when the Title Sequence has a character plug on/off the title, whose font is made of lights.


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  • The 1998 "Too Cool To Do Drugs" campaign. Pencils were distributed to schools with the slogan "Too Cool To Do Drugs" on its side, but unfortunately, the slogan's placement was positioned in such a way that with each sharpening, the pencil got shorter and shorter until the words said "Cool to Do Drugs," "Do Drugs" or "Drugs". The funniest part is that the problem was soon simply printing the slogan the other way around, so that when sharpened, the word "Drugs" would be first to be shaved off instead.
  • The commercial for the 2017 Golden Globe Awards featuring Jimmy Fallon featured Fallon decorating his house with Christmas lights that read "2017 GOLDEN GLOBES". After he flips the switch like Clark Griswold to turn on the lights, half of the letters burn out causing the lights to read "2017 _OLD__ GLOB_S". The commercial carries on calling the show the "2017 Old Globs".
  • In the infamous Levi's "Boombastic" ad from the mid-Nineties, an old city building labeled "SCHMITT HOTEL" in neon letters is on fire with a woman stuck on top. In order to rescue her, the protagonist rides a police motorcycle up a telescopic ladder and simply jumps off it onto the roof, leaving it to fly right into the neon sign and taking out the "M" in the course. What's left?
  • The teaser trailer for Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan's first James Bond movie, starts with the following text: "IT'S A NEW WORLD" "WITH NEW ENEMIES" "AND NEW THREATS" "BUT YOU CAN STILL DEPEND" "ON ONE MAN". James Bond walks behind the words "ON ONE MAN", shoots out the A, the E and all three Ns, then shoots half of the M so it looks like a 7. The remaining Os merge with the half-M to form a 007.
  • In a commercial for GREENIES dog treats, a marooned man and his dog are on the beach of a deserted island where the man has used tree branches to spell out a rescue message "Help". Unfortunately, just when a plane is flying overhead, the dog runs off with the branch from the bottom of the "P", so the pilots of the plane think it says "Hello." They wave "hello" back and fly off.

    Alternate Reality Games 
  • Omega Mart: The logo has the first letters of each word in yellow compared to the bright red and blue of the rest of the letters, making it appear to read "MEGA ART" instead. Given Meow Wolf's focus on highly immersive art pieces and exhibitions, the statement fits.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The entire premise of Aoi House is that the letter "Y" fell off the sign. Its Distaff Counterpart, Uri House, goes by the same vein.
  • In Fairy Tail Lucy's parents used to work in a guild named "Love & Lucky". One day, the K on the sign at the guild went missing, spelling "Love & Lucy". They found it amusing and decided to name their daughter after that.
  • Hit from Splatoon: Squid Kids Comedy Show has a tendency to cause this when uses ink in an attempt to cover signs for various reasons. He always ends up running out of ink, and the remaining visible letters spell out something silly, such as a sign announcing a sale being left with the letters to spell goof.
  • Zombie Land Saga Revenge: In "Pure-Hearted Electric Saga", Ai sits down to a boxed lunch Sakura made her, and opens it to find the rice is decorated with nori katakana that spell out the word "kaba" ("hippo"). She's insulted, until she finds more nori stuck to the lid of the box and finds the full message spells "ganbare" ("Go for it!")

    Comic Books 
  • An Archie Comics story (and a Christmas Episode at that) sees Archie and Reggie tasked with setting up Christmas Lights at Riverdale High for their principal, Mr. Weatherbee, which supposedly reads "MR. WEATHERBEE WISHES YOU A SAFE, HAPPY CHRISTMAS". Due to Archie and Reggie's incompetence (as usual) half the lights are burnt out, turning the message into MR. WEATHERBEE _IS_ _A_ _SA_ _P_". note 
  • In Asterix in Britain, the protagonists try to get their stolen barrel of magic potion back from a cart thief. Not only does said thief reside in a street with exactly identical houses, his address being number LVII, but Asterix, Obelix and Teefax accidentally break into number LVIII where the last I has fallen off at some point in the past.
  • Bodies (2014): In the postapocalyptic 2050, Longharvest Lane is now referred to as Ongarvane. We see a sign for the street with only these letters remaining.
  • This trope is the reason why the Hooded One was seeking Phoney in Bone; Earlier, it was mentioned that Phoney had a giant balloon version of himself made for his campaign for mayor of Boneville, but it went out of control. It turns out that it had floated across the desert into the Valley, and a banner attached that the used to read "PHONCIBLE P. BONE WILL GET YOUR VOTE" was missing the last part, now saying, "PHONCIBLE P. BONE WILL GET YOU"
  • Criminal (2006): The Undertown bar lost the last letter in its sign sometime in the fifties, and has yet to be fixed in the present day. Everybody calls it the Undertow.
  • Last letter on Stabe motel's sign in Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash.
  • "EATS" diner's constantly misspelled sign was a Running Gag in The Heckler.
  • In Justice League of America #195, the Signalman escapes from St. Ignatius Loyola Hospital by climbing down the illuminated sign on the outside of the building. As he goes, he breaks specific lights so the sign now reads 'SIGNAL'.
  • In Knights of the Dinner Table, 'The Games Pit' was originally called 'The Games Pitstop'. At some point the word 'stop' fell off and Weird Pete couldn't be bothered replacing it. Some of the 'retro' strips (which are set in the past) show the store with its original name.
  • Little Audrey: Audrey vandalizes an amusement park's sign on a coloring page, making it say ABUSEMENT PARK.
  • In an issue of Prez, a corrupt senator sponsors a bill that enables massive deregulation of an industry he takes money from, only to find the ill-effects of the deregulation coming home to roost in his own neighborhood. The finishing touch is an illuminated sign reading "Welcome to Hello Farms" — with the last six letters broken.
  • In a Richie Rich story, where Richie and his girlfriend, Gloria are being chased by some delinquent juvenile kidnappers in an amusement park, Richie and Gloria together use a type of pop-gun from one of the sideshows to shoot out most of the letters in the park's huge advertising display, RICHIE-LAND PARK, thus summoning the police.
  • In a Wallace & Gromit comic following the "Die Hard" on an X plot, Gromit takes a brochure from the Hotel Splendido and cuts out some of the letters to make a message saying "H EL P I O" that he sends by Instant Messenger Pigeon.

    Fan Works 
  • Fallout: Equestria: The city of Arbu is implied to have been named after a decrepit Starbucks sign.

    Films — Animation 
  • Done offscreen with a submarine PA system in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
    • In the German dub, someone took the 1 from Room 100's door, effectively leading to the same conclusion.
    • In the Greek dub, someone replaced the "λ" with a "τ" in a sign for the ladder ("σκάλα"), leading to "shit" ("σκατά").
  • Arthur Christmas: A "Center for Self Help" sign in Toronto becomes "elf Help".
  • In "Barbie as the Island Princess", the heroine washed ashore on an island after a shipwreck, along with a chest assumed to be hers. The broken tag read "Ro" for "Rosella". Either she found it herself, of the animals told her so, as animals can explicitly read in this movie.
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs had the sign on top of the factory originally say SWALLOW FALLS. Disrepair caused the S in FALLS to fall off. In a blink and you'll miss it moment Flint accidentally knocks the F off rendering it SWALLOW ALL.
  • In Frozen Fever, a banner initially reads "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANNA!", but the little Snowlems accidentally take it apart. Olaf puts it back up, but since he can't read, his attempts to rearrange it end up saying things like "DRY BANANA HIPPY HAT!".
  • At the start of the Cyclops battle in Hercules, when the Cyclops swats a Brought Down to Normal Hercules into a giant billboard of himself advertising Air-Herc sandals causing Hercules' portrait to lose a few teeth.
  • The Logo Joke for some Illumination Entertainment movies has the Minions from Despicable Me play with the letters in the logo (a giant lit-up "ILLUMINATION" sign) to read "MIN ION" or otherwise draw attention to those letters. For example, in Sing, a Minion's off-key singing is so bad that it blacks out the "MIN" and "ION" in the logo, and in Minions: The Rise of Gru, a Minion on a disco ball knocks out some of the letters leaving ILLUMINATION. When he gets back up he sees what happened, and attempts to acknowledge it to the audience, only for the disco ball to swing back in at crush him between them, creating "MINION"
    Min-min-min-OOF! Minion...
  • In Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, the main characters come across a restaurant with a neon sign spelling out 'seafoo.' After the characters muse on whether seafoo is like tofu (only saltier), the letter 'd' flickers on.
  • Lord Business, the Big Bad of The LEGO Movie plans to destroy the world with "the Kragle", a mysterious artifact that sprays a powerful adhesive (actually a tube of Krazy Glue with paint splatters over the missing letters.).
  • In the intro to The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, a shot of the remains of the "BRICKSBURG" sign in the ruins of Apocalypseburg shows the first two letters falling off, so that it reads "ICKSBURG".
  • In Madagascar, Alex makes a giant HELP to alert ships, but the top of the P collapses, turning it into an L.
  • In The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet for some reason has a wooden sign above his front door that is apparently broken, reading "Trespassers Will" (presumably short for "Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted", or even "Trespassers Will Be Shot"). According to Piglet, Trespassers Will (short for "Trespassers William") is his grandfather.
  • Monsters University have this happening during the first fraternity night party, when Randall (then still a friendly, introverted teenager) goes around offering cupcakes to his frat mates, the cupcakes spelling out "BE MY PAL". Rather unfortunately, it was this very moment where Mike gets dragged into an impromptu chase with Sully and Archie the Scare Pig, knocking over Randall's trayy of cupcakes in the process, four of them landing on Randall's face and spelling out "L-A-M-E".
  • Monsters vs. Aliens has a variant on this - Susan, running on the rooftops from the first Gallaxhar robot, goes past a rooftop billboard that presumably advertises accident insurance (the word 'Accident' is very prominent). After slipping off a sloping roof and landing on the street, that billboard is flung past her head and jabbed into a building, with the first few letters 'Accid' still visible. Given the strangely cross-eyed salesman gracing the billboard, this may have been deliberate.
  • The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature: Some lights at the "Liberty Land" sign go off, making it read "Lie Land". The Mayor decides to keep it that way to save electricity money.
  • The Shrek films:
  • Toy Story: The tailgate of the Pizza Planet truck reads "YO", with most of the letters scratched out. According to the truck's operating manual, the truck is actually manufactured by Gyoza Motors, and, not, as commonly believed, Toyota (with the letters scratched off for copyright reasons).
  • In Urkel Saves Santa: The Movie!, Steve Urkel puts up a string of Christmas lights on his house that say "FELIZ NAVIDAD MERRY CHRISTMAS". Most of the lights short out, resulting in the remaining ones saying "FARTS".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Dutch movie Abeltje, after a heated argument with the manager of a Department store named "Knots" (club), where her son used to work, Abeltje's mother storms out of his office and slams the door so loud it knocks the "N" off the sign, reducing the name to "Kots" (barf).
  • In Ace Ventura Pet Detective, the sign announcing that a city is the "Hometown of Ray Finkle" has been vandalized, with among other things his surname changed to "Stinkle".
  • At the end of A Christmas Story the Parker family is forced to go out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. A sign outside the restaurant says "Bowling" but with the "W" burned out, which fits the full name of the restaurant: Bo Ling Chinese Chop Suey Palace".
  • A meta-variant for the espionage romance film Allied set in World War 2 — the dynamic title card introducing the name of the film shows the word "Allied" phasing into view from the shadows, but the "A", first "l", and "d" come into the light slower than the rest of the word, leaving "lie". The film itself revolves around a French Resistance fighter being accused of actually being a Nazi German agent.
  • By the end of The Avengers, the STARK marquee on the Stark Tower has been reduced to just the A....for "Avengers". Even better: the STARK was in a stylized, logo-esque font, so most of the audience didn't notice until the very last shot that the "A" left over had an elongated left leg all along...exactly like the "A" in the comics' and movies' "Avengers" logo.
  • Happens twice in Back to the Future Part II. First, in 2015, in Hilldale, the development where the future Marty lives, its sign has gotten vandalized from "Hilldale: The Address of Success" to "The Address of Suckers". Later, in 1985-A, the "Welcome to Hill Valley" sign says "Hell Valley" instead.
  • In Batman Returns, Selina Kyle has a neon sign in her apartment that says "Hello There!". After becoming Catwoman, she smashes the O and the T, giving the sign a very different meaning.
  • In Captain Marvel, the reason Carol thinks her name is Vers (pronounced "veers") is because her name tag, which initially read "Carol Danvers", broke.
  • The Crow: City of Angels included a shot of a neon sign reading "Jesus Saves" with only "Save Us" lit up (well, technically that would be "Us Save" unless you're reading from bottom to top).
  • In Damsels in Distress, the first time that we see the "SUICIDE PREVENTION CENTER," one word has fallen off the sign. You can probably guess which one.
  • A variation occurs in The Dark Knight: The Joker adds an S in front of the "Laughter is the Best Medicine" sign on his semi-trailer.
  • Death Line: The strip club James Manfred visits at the start of the movie has a burnt out letter and reads 'NON S OP STRIPTEASE'.
  • Death Spa opens with this trope. The neon sign on Michael's health club reads 'STARBODY HEALTH SPA'. Lightning strikes and several of the letters burn out, leaving the sign reading 'D EA TH SPA'.
  • Dumbo (2019): In this film, Jumbo Junior gets his titular nickname from a damaged sign that originally read "Dear Baby Jumbo".
  • Final Destination 3: The HIGH DIVE's ride sign is partially broken, so it reads "HIGH DIE"
  • In The Guilt Trip Andy & Joyce are forced to make a stop after bad weather makes the roads bad to see. They come upon "Capital City TOPLESS Restaurant" but the "LE" is burned out and the sign reads "TOP__SS" which Joyce mistakes for "tacos".
  • La Haine, which is set in Paris. The pals see a poster saying LE MONDE EST À VOUS (The world is yours). One of them uses a spray can to overwrite the V with an N, leading to LE MONDE EST À NOUS (The world is ours).
  • Hercules Returns. The protagonist goes to examine a derelict cinema with the view of restoring it. The billboard reads THE PICTURE PALACE, A WARM NICE CINEMA. He rattles the locked door a bit causing several letters to fall of the sign which now reads A WARM E NEMA.
  • HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami: When the earth shakes in the TV studio, the letters for Dan Geraldo's name start to fall, leaving only "DAN GER".
  • Inspector Gadget 2 features a "Welcome to Riverton" billboard with Mayor Wilson's smiling face on it. At the very beginning, Gadget pulls out one of the front teeth while he's looking around, leaving her with a now gap-toothed smile! Better yet, she's still gap-toothed in subsequent scenes.
  • Joker: When he leaves Haha's after being fired, Arthur passes under a sign that reads "DON'T FORGET TO SMILE". He uses a marker to scribble out the middle words so it now reads "DON'T SMILE".
  • Towards the end of Jurassic Park, the mud-splattered jeep reads "Jurassic Park".
  • In The Little Things, Joe Deacon is seen taking a statement from a restaurant owner about vandalism, illustrating how far Deacon has fallen since he was a homicide investigator who got too personally involved in his case. The restaurant in question now has a sign reading "Black An_us" (instead of "Black Angus")
  • In The Mask, once Stanley Ipkiss puts on the enchanted mask and gets its power, one of the first things he does is get revenge on Ripley Auto-Finishing, the auto repair shop that ripped him off earlier in the movie - aside from literally shoving carburetors up the asses of the mechanics, he vandalizes their sign to read "RIP OFF".
  • Max Payne has the building Raglan And Brock with half the letters on its sign unlit, leading to the name "Ragnarock".
  • Moonraker: The ambulance chase scene culminates into James Bond throwing a mook on a wheeled gurney into the streets, which then wheels all the way down a slope before crashing into a billboard depicting a tourism ad for British Airlines. The mook's head goes into the mouth of an air hostess on the billboard. (Seen here.)
  • The last letter of Motel Hello's sign is constantly flickering on and off, providing the Title Drop for Motel Hell.
  • Otto — Der Film has something that might be an arcade labeled, "FLIPPERBUDE". It only serves to give the protagonist a hint as most letters fade out, leaving behind "_LI__E_B__E" ("love" in German).
  • Pee-wee's Big Adventure: After Pee-Wee wins the respect of a biker gang, they let him ride a motorcycle. He careens and crashes into a sign reading "Apache Bar" in such a way that it says "Ache Bar".
  • In Planet of the Apes (2001), Leo discovers the ape holy site "Ca Li Ma" is, in fact, derived from a sign that said "CAUTION: LIVE ANIMALS" aboard his long-crashed ship.
  • In Psych-Out, Jenny receives a postcard from her brother that begins "JESS SAES." She attributes that to his terrible spelling until she learns that he used to live near a "JESUS SAVES" sign, where the U and the V had gone dark.
  • Tony Hancock's film The Punch and Judy Man, set in a seedy English seaside resort, has a scene where Hancock's title character is shaving just before performing at an important reception at the town hall. His faulty electric shaver shorts out some of the town's illuminations, causing them to spell out insults.
  • After Butch decides to rescue Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, a neon sign advertising "Killian's Red Beer" can be seen on the wall of the pawn shop. When several sections of the sign blink out, and the 'Z' on Zed's keychain is added, the sign reads "Kill Zed."
  • In Reign of Fire, there is a highway exit sign leading to London, where the male dragon resides. Someone has written "NO EXIT" over top of "London" and an extra '6' above the "66".
  • To get people to their party, the main characters of Revenge of the Nerds 2 modify the sign of its location: Hotel Coral Essex.
  • In The Rocketeer, a fiery Neville Sinclair crashes into the tail end of the famous "Hollywoodland" sign, turning it into the rather more famous "Hollywood" sign.
  • Done deliberately by the protagonist and antagonist in Shoot 'Em Up. During a rooftop gunfight, Smith shoots out a neon "Faulk Truck & Tool" sign to read, "FUK U," while saying, "Fuck you, you fucking fuckers!" The camera pans to show the word "TOOL" next to it, whereupon Hertz shoots out the L to have it read, "FUK U TOO". This gag repeats itself later on during the infiltration in Hammerson's arms factory. There's a sign saying "1026 Days since last accident", until Smith goes in, guns-ablazing, kills a whole bunch of mooks and briefly shoots the sign with a machine-gun, removing 1,2 and 6 from the sign.
  • Streets Of Blood: Occurs during a shootout scene when a mook gets shot in the testicles while standing next to an ice-cream truck. The letters on the truck says SNOW BALLS, with the first S obscured by a dirt patch. The mook's dead body leaves a bloody red patch that covers the W.
  • In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the L in the sign that reads "Flight Centre" fails to make it read "Fight Centre".
  • Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird has a large sign at the entrance to a shoddy, crooked carnival advertising it as the "Sleaze Bros. Funfair". Just as the camera pans past, the "F" slowly falls off.
  • Sin City's real name is BASIN CITY.
  • Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit: The name of the classroom, Music Class, frequently has the first two letter of the second word scratched off.
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture has Voyager 6, which is how the antagonist got its name.
  • During the boat chase in Tom-Yum-Goong, an impromptu Ramp Jump results in Kham and several of his pursuers' boats getting launched through the air, into a bilboard depicting a musical band playing. Kham's boat went through the band guitarist's crotch, complete with a close-up on the guitarist's face on the signboard. Seen here.
  • Ultraman X The Movie: Here Comes! Our Ultraman!: The Big Damn Movie series finale of Ultraman X has an intense scene in the ending where the Big Bad kaiju, Zaigorg, absorbs the energies of Ultraman and Ultraman Tiga, subsequently using their energies to resurrect the Demaarga army across the world. The Team XIO captain announces that it's going to be hell on Earth; a few seconds later, cue one of the Demaarga in Chicago knocking over a neon sign that says HELLO and causing the O to fizzle out.
  • In Up the Front, the sign at Monique's gets splattered with mud leaving only the first two letters visible. Lurk sees the sign and ends up wandering thinking that "MO" meant "Medical Officer".
  • The Warrior's Way has Lode, a small Western town with a sign outside that says "WELCOME TO LODE: POPULATION 5000". When the villainous Colonel arrives with his army at the end with the intention of killing everyone in it, one of the Colonel's mooks shoots the sign with a shotgun identifying the population as "0".
  • The Abbott and Costello movie Who Done It? also features a shootout on a rooftop. A light bulb-illuminated sign reading "VOTE FOR TOWNSEND PHELPS" gets shot up to read "SEND HELP", then again at the finish of the movie to read "END".
  • In The Wrong Missy, Tim and a team of coworkers do a motivational shadow dance as part of a corporate retreat talent show. At one point they're supposed to spell out "Best Short Term Loans" with their bodies; they decide to break it down into two phrases and the dancer who was supposed to be the "o" in "short" doesn't quite get properly into position, leading to "Best Shart".
  • In Wyatt Earp, Wyatt puts the "NO FIREARMS IN TOWN" sign back up when he arrives in Dodge. The sign isn't missing any letters, but the bullet holes in it kind of undermine the message.
  • In Zapped! (1982) the door to Principal Burnhart's office was regularly vandalised into Burnfart - so regularly that it was mispronounced like that by a teacher once. On the public address system.
  • In Zoolander, a local drinking establishment called "The Mine Shaft" is visited; in reflection of it's less than savory, affluent circumstances, it loses the "f" as we watch.
  • The last scene of Punisher: War Zone has a neon sign proclaiming "JESUS SAVES" noticeably in the background. Frank Castle is telling his informant Detective Soap that he's contemplating retirement. He walks off as Soap gives a speech about why people need The Punisher. As he's speaking, a mugger shows up. When Castle returns, the "Jesus" part blinks out, leaving "SAVES" prominently positioned over his head.

  • In the fourth Sorcery! book, while searching for food in the fortress' larder you can choose to eat from a jar labelled "ANT MEATBALLS"... only to find out shortly after eating, that the sticker on the sign was partially torn and it actually contains "MUTANT MEATBALLS". Cue inescapable Body Horror transformation.

  • In the Soviet children's book The Adventures Of Captain Vrungel (and its animated adaptation), the titular captain names his yacht "Pobeda" (Russian for "Victory") — but due to an accident at its launch, the first two letters in the name fall off its stern, making it read "Beda" ("Trouble"). One English translation made the original name to be "Courage", which turned into "Rage" after the first three letters fell off.
  • The cover of the 2017 US edition of American Gods, based on the TV logo below, has the title as a mostly burnt-out neon sign reading "AMERICAN GODS".
  • In Borrasca, the local urban legend in Drisking about the occasional disappearances that happen around town is that the "skinned men" are responsible and that they live up in the hills. The name "skinned men" actually comes from the partially faded sign DRISKING UNDERGROUND MINE, which turns out to be where the victims are actually taken.
  • George and Harold of Captain Underpants vandalize a sign at least once a book, usually through a combination of rearranging and removing letters. For example, the first book sees them turning a sign outside a florist's shop from "PICK YOUR OWN ROSES" to "PICK OUR NOSES"
    • Also done in their comic books. For instance, a sign appears to say "BURY DEAD STUFF HERE", until a lightning bolt knocks over the tree covering the top part of the sign, and the full thing reads "THIS HILL IS HAUNTED! WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T BURY DEAD STUFF HERE".
    • Also in "The Adventures of Ook and Gluk; Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future", young Ook and Gluk get chased by caveman King Goppernopper's guards in the future. The guards shoot lasers at the two children. They manage to dodge them and the lasers hit billboards completely changing what it says. For example, in one billboard that says, "Don't eat at home! Tom's Diner is the best! Dog gone good food. Our food is awfully good" one side gets blasted off by the lasers, changing it to, "Don't eat at... Tom's Diner... Dog Food... Our food is awful." This repeats two more times.
  • Inverted in The Dark Tower by Stephen King (the seventh book of the series of the same name); Dandelo (an emotion-eating vampire) must allow a street sign warning of his presence in anagram form to exist—but he can deface the sign to read "Odd's Lane", which means nothing, rather than "Odd Lane".
  • In one of the Dear America books, the main character's cousin comes from a town in Texas called Heart's Bend, except that the B is missing from the sign at the railway station, so it says Heart's end.
  • Used as a plot point in at least two Deltora books:
  • Discussed at length by the characters of "Die dampfenden Hälse der Pferde im Turm zu Babel", a language-play children book by Franz Fühmann. Might double as an "everything is kaput in socialism" Take That! slipped past the censors.
  • In the Dirty Bertie story "Wedding", Bertie eats letters off the wedding cake, so instead of "CONGRATS ON YOUR WONDERFUL DAY", it reads "RATS ON YOUR WO FUL DAY".
  • Discworld:
    • Guards! Guards!: The City Watch's Canis Latinicus motto "Fabricati Diem, Pvncti Agvnt Celeriter" ("Make the Day, for the Moments Pass Swiftly") was engraved over the Watch House on Treacle Mine Road, but decades of neglect saw it erode to "Fabricati Diem, Pvnc". Sergeant Colon insists it means "Protect and Serve", though a reader could be forgiven for seeing a Shout-Out to Dirty Harry's "Make my day, punk" instead.
    • Going Postal: The letters on the facade of the building spelling out the credo of the Royal Mail read "NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW NOR GLO M OF NI T CAN STAY THESE MES ENGERS ABO T THEIR DUTY". The missing letters turn out to have found their way onto a shop sign reading HUGOS.
  • There is one Gamebook-style puzzle book where the reader is stuck on top of the Hotel Polk (with a flashing neon sign proclaiming the building's name in big letters) and has to find some way to get their partner's attention. The solution is to take five of the marbles from your emergency pack that you received earlier in the story and throw them at the letters O, T, O, L, and K on the sign, so that it reads "H-E-L-P".
  • The Famous Five: In Five Go To Demon's Rocks, the Five are staying in a lighthouse. When they find a sign stating that the lighthouse is no longer in use, Tinker objects to this, and tries to alter the sign, until Julian confiscates his pencil.
  • The sign for the recreation room in Holes actually reads WRECK ROOM.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy has a reference to a gigantic sign reading "SHARE AND ENJOY" (the advertising slogan of the ever-profitable Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Complaints Department). Being too heavy, the sign falls into the underground office block underneath, which is a little unfortunate for the occupants. In the local language the exposed top halves of the letters now appear to read "GO STICK YOUR HEAD IN A PIG" and is only lit up for special occasions.
  • In the kids' book I Dont Like Snakes, the "don't" is crossed out.
  • One book in the Just William series features the Outlaws attempting to raise money by offering to sell their hair to the local hairdresser, who suffers from classical male alopecia and who likes to pass the time between customers standing in the doorway of his shop beneath the shop sign bearing his name and profession - "Theobald Hairdresser". He finds their offer hilarious and tells the tale to everyone passing his shop. The next morning sees him standing in the doorway as usual, the sun gleaming off his pate, happily ascribing the laughter of the passers-by to their memory of the tale and unaware that it is really because the Outlaws had visited again during the night and painted out the O of his sign.
  • In the James Bond novel Moonraker, Bond sees a neon sign from a viewpoint that partially obscures it: SUMMER SHELL IS HERE.
  • Katt Loves Dogg: When The Hissletons reach the Eastern Wilderness Reserve, they see the sign is so old that a number of letters have fallen off, causing it to read "Eat Wild Erve".
  • Marty Pants:
    • In "Do Not Touch!", Marty makes a poster for the school mural art contest, intended to expose Mr. McPhee as an alien. On the top is a picture of Mr. McPhee in a flying saucer, and below is a picture of people holding hands across the globe. The top half of the poster gets ripped off before anyone sees it.
    • In "Keep Your Paws Off!", when he thinks he's a werewolf, Marty makes a poster intended to warn people away from the full moon festival. At the top it says "Don't Go To The Full Moon Festival! This Saturday at 8:00", with a werewolf (probably Marty) saying "It'll be a wild night!", and below that the words "There's no telling what could happen!". However, before he can photocopy and distribute it, Jerome bites off the "Don't" part, which Marty only noticed AFTER distributing said posters.
  • In The Midnight Gang, many of the hospital's signs are broken in comical ways:
    • The "Entrance & Exit" sign now reads "N IT".
    • The "Accident & Emergency" sign now says "CIDE R".
    • The "Reception" sign now simply says "P O".
    • The sign for "Surgery" says, "SU ER".
    • The "Radiology" sign reads "RAD LOG".
    • The "Administration" sign now reads "MIN T".
    • The sign for the theatre reads "HEAT".
    • The sign for the children's ward now reads "WAR", which is kind of apropos since it's run by a militant matron.
    • The "Rehabilitation" sign has become "HAB IT ON".
    • The "Physiotherapy" sign now says "H OTHE AP" ("hot heap").
    • The sign that once read "X-Ray" now just reads "RAY", as though it's a direction to a man named Ray.
    • And finally, the sign that presumably once said, "LIFTS" now says, "IF S".
  • Moon Over Manifest has a sign that used to read, "Manifest: a town with a great past and a rich future", but now simply reads, "Manifest: a town with a past."
  • The Night Mayor is set in a virtual reality realm based on Film Noir movies, where it's always two thirty in the morning and every neon sign has a letter that doesn't work.
  • In Pugs of the Frozen North, Sika lives with her mother and grandfather in the "POST OFFICE".
  • In the horror story Right Inn, by J. B. Stamper, a traveller with a weak heart has to stop for the night, and the only place nearby is a hotel with a sign saying RIGHT INN, and as soon as he checks in, weird and creepy things start happening... the twist at the end is that it's a theme hotel, but the F has fallen off the front of the sign.
  • Spider-Man: Sinister Six Trilogy: In one of the novels, Spider-Man notes that one of his recent battles has defaced the Daily Bugle sign, with the last two letters missing, so that it now reads DAILY BUG. Spidey can't wait to see JJJ's reaction...
  • In Switch, a restuarant's neon sign is meant to read "Volcano Laverne's", but got broken and instead reads "NO LA". This is a funny coincidence, because there is actually a character named Nola, who has always wanted to see "her name in lights".
  • In This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, there's a sign outside Miss Scrimmage's school that reads, "Miss Scrimmage's Finishing School for Young Ladies". Miss Scrimmage accidentally shoots it, changing the word "Finishing" to "Fishing".
  • Tongue Fu, a series of short stories in the Whole Earth Epiloguenote  which start as a parody/update of Kung Fu (1972), stars a young monk who, due to the circumstances of his conceptionnote , has an Overly-Long Tonguenote . At one point, he uses his tongue to deface the sign over the door of an "AMUSEMENT CENTER", licking away the letters "AMU" and "T" from the first word.
  • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Cat's Cradle: Warhead, a street sign for ALLEN ROAD is perpetually vandalized to make it read ALIEN ROAD. (And indeed the owner of the house on Allen Road is an alien, although it's never really explained who kept vandalizing the street sign or how they knew.)
  • There is one in Winnie the Pooh with the sign over Piglet's door, reading "Trespassers W", which he claims is short for the name of his grandfather, Trespassers William, or Trespassers Will for short. It's likely that the sign actually read "Trespassers will be shot" or simply "will be prosecuted".
  • Remember Dippy: Collette and Mem's mailbox used to say "THE DIPPY'S." Since the recent rainstorm, it says, "T E DIPP." Mean kid Dirk buys a letter O from the hardware store and changes it to "DOPE." He and Johnny get in a war of leaving insulting messages on each other's mailboxes.
  • 1-800-Where-R-U: Played for laughs in book 1. Shortly after Jess gets struck by lightning (and about causes her friend Ruth to have a panic attack), she tries to calm Ruth by making snarky remarks all the way home. One such remark, which actually does help calm Ruth, involves her pointing out a Kroger sign that's been damaged by the hailstorm, disabling the first half:
    "Hey, Ruth, look," I said. "Ger is open, but Kro is closed."
    Even Ruth had to laugh at that.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A promotional image for the TV adaptation of American Gods (2017) features the title as a hotel sign with some of the letters unlit; the illuminated letters form the phrase AM I A GOD.
  • The Benny Hill Show loved this trope. One example is a group of priests entering an building with a sign that says "Tea Bar", but once they enter the other letters light up revealing the true name to be "Striptease Cabaret".
  • Parodied in Between the Lions were a flickering sign outside of Sam Spud's office literally says "Flicker Flicker" (or "Flash Flash", depending on the episode.)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A Rewatch Bonus version occurs in "The Harvest". Angel appears to be standing next to a sign saying 'WATCH YOU' — but when he walks away we see the sign actually reads 'WATCH YOUR STEP.' This is a fortuitous bit of foreshadowing for Angel's Face–Heel Turn into Angelus. Note that he wasn't even scripted as a vampire at this point.
  • In Corner Gas, Dog River has a grocery store that once had a sign saying "FOOD MARKET", but some of the letters have fallen off, making it the "FOO MART", which has become an in-universe name for it. They even have a jingle.
    "Who's smart? Thou art! When you shop at the Foo Mart!"
  • The Doctor Who episode "Eve of the Daleks" takes place in the premises of a business called "Elf Storage". When questions are asked about the unusual name, the owner Sarah explains that it used to be called "Self Storage" until the 1st 'S' fell off the sign, and she doesn't really care enough about the business (which she inherited from a deceased family member) to have the sign repaired.
  • Ed owns Stucky Bowl, and vandals regularly steal the T. In the episode that dealt with it, they weld the T down, so the vandals change the sign to "Stucky Bowel".
  • Happens to a sign during the season 3 premiere of Ellen when an earthquake hits Los Angeles. A live on-the-scene news reporter refers to the ruined store as "uy The Book", which, is later followed by an elderly customer inquiring about the new Jackie Collins and giving Ellen the advice of "you know, you should really get a new name, 'uy The Boo' doesn't tell you what (the store) is".
  • In an episode of The Equalizer Robert McCall does this as part of his Mind Screw tactics. He tells a corrupt politician that he's got 24 hours to resign or else. Later the politician is feeling smug because he's just arranged for a witness against him to be silenced. He steps out of his office and sees a giant electronic billboard is flashing the word RESIGN at him.
  • In Fawlty Towers, it's done Once an Episode — the sign saying Fawlty Towers is rearranged to say Flowery Twats, Flay Otters, Fatty Owls, Farty Towels, Watery Fowls and Warty Towels.8
  • One episode of Gilligan's Island had the castaways trying to signal an SOS message to a manned space capsule due to pass overhead at a particular time, using burning logs. Typically, Gilligan trips over one of the logs, causing it to roll and hit other logs, so that the message becomes SOL, the nickname of one of the astronauts, causing the astronauts to mistake it for a tribute rather than a call for help.
  • In Green Wing Alan Statham had trouble with people vandalising his badge, it should read "Alan Statham Consultant Radiologist" but on the word Consultant someone blacked out the letters O N S L T A.
  • One episode of iCarly involves a lightboard sign (which originally said "PLEASE GO ONLINE TO ICARLY.COM") malfunctioning, leaving just the letters "P E E ON CARL". Officer Carl is not pleased. What makes this funnier is that a few seasons later, Spencer almost got arrested, and the very same, very pissed off officer was the one who bought him in. When Carly tries to thank the officer for not hauling Spencer in, the officer, unwavering, says to her: "Don't think I forgot about "Pee On Carl."
  • Kids Incorporated takes place in a club called The Palace, but the first A on the neon sign is missing, so it's just The Place.
  • In the pilot episode of Mighty Med after Kaz and Oliver are discovered to be normal humans. They're taken to a dimly lit cafeteria where the two notice the sign above the door reads "Now You Die". The head director of the hospital comes in and comments on the faulty sign before hitting the wall to which it now read "Know Your Diet".
    Kaz: Ooooh, that's much less scary.
  • Monster Garage features this in the opening to display the show's title. After a computer animation of a sport-utility vehicle entering the garage and getting hooked up to cables, we pan over to the garage's sign. Until it gets struck by lightning, the sign reads "Simon Stern's Garage."
  • Mr. Robot: In the first two seasons, the hacker group fsociety is based out of a disused Coney Island amusement arcade owned by one of the group's founding members, which was originally named "FUN SOCIETY", but the "UN" has long since fallen off the facade. When FBI agent Dom DiPierro finds it, her reaction is "You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!".
  • In one of Peter Kay's TV comedies, a road race starts from Scunthorpe. The town's name is spelled out on a nearby roof, but the first five letters fall off when all the cars tear away. As the mayor complains about it, the "S" falls on his head.
  • In one episode of Pushing Daisies, the owner of the candy shop across the street sabotages the sign of Ned's pie shop, called "The Pie Hole", to read "The Pie Ho". Olive and Chuck adopt the nickname when they get revenge: "Don't mess with the Pie Hos!"
  • The Red Green Show:
    • In the New Years special, Red sets up a lit sign that says "TOAST YOURSELF AT NEW YEARS EVE", but when he leaves it, most of the lights burn out, leaving "YOU FAT ARSE".
    • One episode had Red bring a boat he bought to Dwight Cardiff, asking him to remove the name "THELMA'S TINKERBELL" that the previous owner had put on it. Dwight, being the Lazy Bum he is, tries to remove the letters with his fishing rod without even getting up. As a result, he wasn't able to remove all of them, resulting in the boat bearing the name "THE STINKER".
    • An "Adventures" segment had Walter don an apron that said "I MASH MORE ONIONS", which Narrator!Red says makes no sense. Then Walter falls over the campfire they are using for cooking, burning holes in the apron so that it now reads "IM A MORON", which Narrator!Red considers to be far more accurate.
    • Another "Adventures" segment sees Bill and Mike constructing a children's playground, marked by a "KIDDIE AREA" sign. The two are not very good at building or using power tools. An escalating series of failures humiliates and injures them until they must flee for their lives. The filmstrip resembles WWII footage as they crawl under nailgun fire and escape an out-of-control circular saw. As their deadly playground collapses, the sign falls apart to become "DIE AREA".
  • Sesame Street:
    • In Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, when Oscar sings "I Hate Christmas", Mr. Hooper hangs up a banner in his store that says "NOEL". Oscar then takes the E and the L from the banner, resulting in it saying "NO".
    • In a Cookie Monster sketch, Cookie makes a sign that says "DON'T" to remind him not to eat the Letter of the Day cookie. Cookie ends up eating half of the sign, which now reads "DO", prompting him to eat the cookie after all.
    • There's an episode where the letter T goes missing, which results in a "trash" sign now reading "rash" and Telly's name being written as "Elly" (which isn't a name, but is close to the girl's name Ellie).
  • There's an episode of Scrubs in which the sign for SACRED HEART HOSPITAL is amended to SACRED FART.
  • The building housing JJ's and Emily's therapist in Skins is headed with a sign saying "PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT", which pretty much says everything that needs to be said about how useless they are.
  • The pilot episode of Teen Angel featured a P.A. announcement requesting that the first two letters from a "Class of '98" sign be returned. The recently deceased Marty then proudly shows Steve the two letters, knowing full well he could never be caught due to his being dead.
  • In one episode of That '70s Show, Eric, Hyde and Fez vandalize an out-of-business muffler shop, covering the "ler" on every occurrence of "muffler" they see. The next morning Red (who just happened to buy it) was puzzled to see the ads on the walls of the shop changed to "Winterize your muff", "People complaining about loud muff?" etc. The ultimate awkward moment is when Kitty finds out. She doesn't know the sexual meaning behind "muff", thinking they're talking about ear muffs. This leads to some hilarious moments where Kitty talks about the things she did to the teens' muffs as a child.
  • The Electric Company (2009):
    • In "Dirty Laundry", Manny uses a letter steeling gadget to letters from every sign in the neighborhood. For example, he changes "Lemonade Fountain" to "Lemonade Ountain".
    • In "He Ain't Heavy, He's Just Frozen", Annie scrambles the word "Completed" and removes the "L" to make the only word the Electric Company can find is "Competed", that way Keith can remain immobile for a very long time. Not a very nice thing to do. Is it?
  • One episode of Brian Clemens' Thriller was set in a motel. At the end of the episode the broken neon sign reads "WOOD HEATH MOTEL.
  • Top Gear (UK):
    • In the India Special episode, the trio's attempt to promote "BRITISH I.T. FOR YOUR COMPANY" to Indian companies went pear-shaped when the sign ripped in two between the second 'I' and the 'S' in "BRITISH". On the opposite site, "EAT ENGLISH MUFFINS" also had the "INS" at the end torn off.
    • In an earlier episode they had to put sponsorship decals on their entry in a touring car race, but due to BBC regulations the companies had to be fake. They chose adverts for "PENISTON OILS" and "LARSEN'S BISCUITS", carefully positioning them for maximum juvenile humour when the car doors were open.
    • The Val Thorens episode saw "sponsorships" from French companies such as "Sophartel Industrie" and "Amerdea du Fromage".
  • The title of the short-lived children's TV series Welcome to Orty-Fou came from the fact that the characters lived at number Fourty-Four on their street, but the first and last letters had fallen off the sign over the door.
  • Police Squad!: In "Rendezvous at Big Gulch (Terror in the Neighborhood)", Detectives Drebin and Nordberg go undercover, posing as small business owners to break up a Protection Racket. The word "LOCKSMITH" is written in big letters across their store's front window. When the mobsters throw a rock through the window to send a message, it takes out the letter "L". The next morning, there's a farmer waiting for the store to open—and he has an ox with him. Drebin has to explain that they're locksmiths, not misspelled "oxsmiths".
  • There was a Running Gag on Wheel of Fortune in the 1980s where Pat Sajak would scramble the bonus puzzle around during the credits to say something funny, ie. "FRANK SINATRA" became "RANK RATS".
  • In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, one episode had a 'Daniel Patrick Moynihan Pubic School. The L fell off the sign.'

  • "The Guy Who Changes The Light bulbs" by Carla Ulbrich:
    "How about some French cuisine?" you might ask your spouse
    When up ahead you clearly see a sign that says "LE HOUSE"
    And whatever may befall me may I never sink so low
    As to have to give it up for food and become a WAFFLE HO
  • The cover of Push Barman To Open Old Wounds by Belle and Sebastian depicts a sign at a pub that's been altered to read that way (it originally said "Push Bar To Open").
  • The cover of Sebadoh's Harmacy is a picture of a pharmacy sign where the "p" fell off.
  • During the intermission portion of concerts promoting the album Brave Enough, Lindsey Stirling would show a pre-recorded skit about the many things that can go wrong before a live performance, such as malfunctioning lighted signs. Her band declares " BRAVE ENOUGH" to be an improvement over the original title.
  • The Texas Department of Transportation distributed a bumper sticker with the slogan, "Don't Wreck Your Life", as part of a campaign promoting safe driving. Old 97's drummer Philip Peeples put the sticker on the band's touring van, but ripped out the word "don't", inspiring their album title Wreck Your Life.
  • The Ookla the Mok album "Less Than Art", named based on a K-Mart sign with the upright of the "K" and the "M" dark.

  • Les 2 Minutes du Peuple: The titular snack bar in the "Snack-Bar chez Raymond" song has a neon sign that say "Restaurant" but it has missing letters so it now says "Restaurant" (meaning "leftover" in French, as in "tonight we're eating leftovers").
    Le soir l'annonce à s'allume mais il manque des lettres dedans, faque au lieu de restaurant c'est marqué restant.
    (In the evening the sign lights up but it's missing letters, so instead of restaurant it's written [leftovers])
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) has a characteristically surreal take on this during some meandering exposition about the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. Said corporation erected huge illuminated letters bearing the slogan "Share and Enjoy", the official motto of their complaints department on one of the three entire planets needed to hold said complaints department. However, due to an unfortunate miscalculation the letters proved too heavy for the terrain and sank into the ground. By one of that long string of pretty meaningless coincidences that are a side-effect of creating the Infinite Improbability Drive, or so it was said in the continuity of the novels, the upper halves sticking out of the ground form a coherent sentence in the local language: "Go Stick Your Head In A Pig". This would go on to become the unofficial motto of the corporation's complaints department.
  • One of Dennis Norden's feghoots on My Word! involved him having a job at a cinema. One night a storm blew one of the letters off the marquee and smashed it; resulting in them advertising a film called MY FAIR LAD. Not having a spare Y, he stole one from another nearby cinema, leaving them advertising a film called MOB DICK. (And given him the realisation that "Where there's a whale, there's a Y".)
  • In The Men from the Ministry Britain is in one episode struggling with an energy crisis, and Sir Gregory comes up with an idea to cut fuel consumption by ordering the West End's neon signs to be shown only half the time. Unfortunately General Assistance Department fails to relay his orders properly, instead ordering the advertisement to show half the words.
    Newsreader: There are complaints about the advertisement on Piccadilly Circus, which normally reads "Get Valfer's Stuffed Dollys", now reads "Get Stuffed."

  • In a show by the Dutch comedian Bert Visscher, the scenery contains a neon sign saying "Chéz Lulu" (it's a brothel). After the owner sufficiently pisses Bert off, he grabs a gun and shoots the sign so that it says "hé Lul," which can be translated as "Hey, asshole!"
  • The Hot L Baltimore: Both In-Universe, in the play's official posters, and during the series' title sequence, this is used as a way to show how run-down the building the characters inhabit is. The 'Hotel Baltimore' neon sign has the 'e' no longer functioning.
  • Jersey Boys has a sign that displays FOUR SEASONS, which when the broken lights are fixed, becomes the name of the protagonists' music group.

    Theme Parks 
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! ride at California Adventure features what could almost be considered an inversion. The sign, which has been vandalized by Rocket, "originally" read "First time on display: the Guardians of the Galaxy", referring to the Collector's latest acquisition. Several letters and the colon from the top line have been relocated below to spell the "MISSION:" part of the name, with "BREAKOUT" spraypainted afterwards. The original message is still perfectly readable due to the letters leaving behind what's probably meant to be adhesive residue.
  • In a Running Gag with every year of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando, the "R" and "V" letters on the sign for the Mel's Drive-In restaurant are turned off. "Mel's Die-In" is of course the result.
  • Honey, I Shrunk The Audience opens with Wayne Szalinski crashing his hover-pod into an illuminated sign reading "INVENTOR OF THE YEAR AWARD". Afterwards, the remaining letters spell out "NERD".
  • In the Muppet Courtyard area of Walt Disney World, Rizzo the Rat's Pizzerizzo restaurant has a sign reading "The City's Top Rated Pizza" The illuminated portions read "It's Rat Pizza".
  • On The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the directory in the lobby used to have several fallen-off letters that collected at the bottom of the case and spelled out "EVIL TOWER U R DOOMED".

    Video Games 
  • Blood 2 has a neon sign that says "Hotel HELLO". The last "o" flickers, producing the message "Hotel HELL".
  • In Bomberman 64: The Second Attack!, there is a popcorn stand in the amusement park level with the word "POPCORN" in large uppercase letters. One bomb takes out the second "P", the "C", and the second "O", spelling "PORN" from the still legible letters. Another bomb turns the stand into an ear of corn.
  • A variation occurs with the title screen in Bravely Default. After one of the big plot-twisting reveals, parts of the game's subtitle ("Flying Fairy" / "Where the Fairy Flies") on the title screen turn red and disappear. The remaining letters spell out "Lying Airy" and "Airy Lies", respectively. Bravely Second inverts this with its subtitle of End Layer. It'll add an S and a P, appropriately, spelling out "Send Player".
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops II, when you play in zombies mode the sign above the diner will read NORTH HIGHWAY DINER
  • City of Heroes:
    • The PAWN shop. Appropriately, it's run by retired Freakshow, a villain group who name themselves in l33t.
    • The "destroyed future" map has PARAGON CITY HALL.
  • In Deathsmiles IIX, the Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Circus of Fear Bonus Level has a sign that reads "Hello-Land". The "o" doesn't seem to be working, leaving us with the true meaning of the stage.
  • A major location in Deus Ex was the Hilton Hotel. Half the sign over the door was out.
  • The "Hotel Hell" level in Duke Nukem 3D.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3 has the town of Arefu, whose name originates from a sign saying "careful".
    • Fallout: New Vegas has the town of Novac. The name comes from the motel that serves as the town's main building, where "NO VAC" are the only remaining letters on the "NO VACANCY" sign outside.
      • The Lucky 38's marquee advertises a "Revol{T}ing Cocktail Lounge."
      • The area around Vegas's Fremont Street is referred to as "Freeside" due to, again, disrepair of the Fremont Street sign.
      • ED-E has a license plate reading "2ED-E59" bolted onto him, the 2 and 59 on which have faded.
    • The eponymous town of Fallout 4's Far Harbor DLC is based on the real-world Bar Harbor, and was formerly called that in-universe, but part of the "B" on the sign got erased, causing it to be mistaken for an "F".
  • Grand Theft Auto 2 features churches with neon signs that say JESUS SAVES. The letters flicker to reveal that they're save points (U SAVE).
  • Grand Theft Auto IV:
    • There is an abandoned 24/7 convenience store in Broker; unlike most 24/7's, the name is spelled out as "Twenty Four Seven", and several letters are missing with one of the remaining letters turned upside down. The resulting sign spells out "twat furs".
    • There is an abandoned Burger Shot in Dukes; the remaining letters on one side of the restaurant spell out "Bug S" and another side spells out "r Sht". The resulting phrase sounds like "bugs are shit".
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has a mission that ends with a shot of a billboard, showing a girl drinking a white-colored soda, with the words "A taste of things to come..." Your out-of-control car cuts a hole in it, changing it to "A taste of come..."
  • One of the stages in the Australian-made indie fighting game Inflatality is a rowdy seaside wedding on a pier, which gets trashed as both the fight and the wedding itself go on. The pier's signage changes between either "Mudbank Lagoon" or "Bob Garnet Wharf", with both eventually reduced to "dank goon" and "BoGan af", respectively.
  • In Injustice 2, knocking your opponent enough times into the marquee of the movie theater in the Gotham stage will change it to read "FINISH HIM" (the original fictional movie titles being "The Final Wish 2" and "Hidden Crimes").
  • In the "Never Gonna Give You Up" stage of Just Dance 4, a neon sign reading "SOUNDS" is damaged and starts blinking "SOS".
  • In Katana ZERO, the sign in the lobby of Murdower Hotel (the first proper level) has the "OW" burned out, leaving behind only "MURD__ER Hotel". You'll be doing a lot of murdering on your way to your first target.
  • The title screen of L.A. Noire Downplays the trope in the sense that the title of the game spelled out by neon lights are all lit up, but Stay on the title screen long enough and some the letters start to flicker. The only ones that don't are the "L", "I", and "E", pointing at a key theme of the game being the lies that are told that must be sorted through to get to the truth.
  • A variation from Luigi's Mansion: the file select screen has a message reading, "Welcome to your mansion." Wait a while before selecting a file and the message will fade out and come back with the 'y' missing: "Welcome to our mansion."
  • The Marsupilami video game for the Sega Genesis begins with the titular animal grabbing the G of the Sega logo with his tail. He then swings on the G until it falls, resulting in the logo saying "SE A".
  • Identically to the page image, a HELL brand gas station is the site of the final confrontation in My House.
  • Nazi Zombies has a neon light at a diner that says "OPEN 24 HOURS", but the only fully lit letters spell out "OPEN 4 U".
  • In one of Mae's dreams in Night in the Woods, there is an illuminated sign reading "DURKILLESBURG". And you have a baseball bat. It's popular among players to reduce the sign to "___KILLE___R_", which the game later reveals is a nickname Mae earned after beating a kid with a baseball bat.
  • In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, when Travis and Sylvia have sex the NO MORE HEROES Motel sign falls apart, leaving MORE ERO.
  • Pac-Man's Japanese name is actually "Puckman" (after "pakupaku", the Japanese onomatopoeia for munching food). The main reason why his name was changed into what it is now in the US (and worldwide, by association) is that Namco was actually afraid that the cabinets would be vandalized in a way so that the "P" is changed into an "F."
  • The Hotel Coral Essex features in the first level of Pain. Players can fling their avatars into the sign's letters, performing the vandalism themselves, and spelling HOT__ _ORAL __SEX
  • A version of this trope occurs in Primordia (2012). It eventually turns out that the odd spelling of the ship's name UNNIIC (pronounced "unique" by the protagonists) is not a result of someone's illiteracy: it was born when the ship's nameplate was damaged, leaving only the top halves of the letters still readable. Originally, the plate read "HORUS".
  • The {S}Hell gas station in Silent Hill.
  • Snatcher:
    • There's a sign in Central Plaza saying GREAT MEALS. (In the original Japanese, this sign read PACHINKOtranslation.)
    • Later, Gillian sees a neon sign for Hospital OLEEN. It's supposed to read 'QUEENS'.
  • In Sonny 2, the pawn shop in the Dystopia also has the "a" darkened to spell "pwn". The game lampshades this when the sign is clicked on: "The 'A' is missing, but the sign still gets the point across".
  • Used as a sight gag in Tengai Makyou IV, with a sign reading "King of Lake Tahoe" being reduced to "King Aho" after one of the villains is defeated.
  • Two instances in Tony Hawk's Underground 2: the first one is on a church sign in Boston, albeit done intentionally: "What is missing from CH__CH? U R". The second one, in Berlin, is actually an objective: there is a marquee reading "DOWNZEKD!" (which doesn't mean anything, just roll with it), and the player has to perform a grind over this marquee so the correct letters will fall offnote  and read "_OWN_E_D!"
  • In the prologue of We Happy Few, Arthur reveals that he tried to throw a Welcome Back-party for his colleague Prudence who had "gone on holiday". When Arthur — now off his Joy — enters her office, an old, broken streamer hanging in the office reads "WELCOME BACK".
  • When you head to "Hagan United Pickle Factory" in West of Loathing to apprehend the ghostly Gherkin Boys bandit crew, you find the building's sign has degenerated to "Hagan United Pickle Factory". Damaged or badly painted signs are a running gag in the game, such as the office of the Sherf in Boring Springs. The "Silver Plat er" inverts the trope: the protagonist assumes that it's a restaurant with a damaged sign, but it's a silver plating business with bad kerning.
  • The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain has this on the title screen. Two variants show up:
    • "_he lost ____ __ Brain"
    • "The ____ mind Dr __ain"

    Web Animation 
  • A Homestar Runner cartoon published on April Fools' Day 2014 (after a hiatus of nearly four years) featured a worn-out version of the website's "Welcome" page, with the "come on in" and "watch intro" buttons falling apart and now reading "com_ on in" and "w_tch intro".
  • A meta-example courtesy of Manipulative Editing is in this YouTube Poop by Combuskenisawesome, which edits the Machinima series Teenage Pokémon. Parts of Wartortle's computer screen are whited out in this fashion to make the rather loaded comment that he's posting into something considerably less effective, with the audio of his Sounding It Out chopped to match.
    FUCK YOU !!!!
    FUCK !!!

    Wartortle: ...that doesn't sound right.
  • Camp Camp:
    • The sign outside of Camp Campbell is missing the "bell", which either fell off or was destroyed some time ago. Not only does this foreshadow how run-down, minimum budget the place is, but also makes a decent Title Drop.
    • In the episode "Into Town", Nikki stops outside a clothing store for women called, "Lil' Country Style", with the sign missing the o, r, and y.
  • Played for tragedy in Emesis Blue. Cyclops, a relapsing alcoholic, separates from the group and enters a room with a sign that reads BAR. Seconds later, the rest of the sign lights up, revealing it actually reads LABORATORY. Specifically, a Cryogenics Laboratory, which leads Cyclops to quickly freeze to death, due to the alcohol in his body exacerbating the effects of hypothermia.

  • Inverted with the title card for Anti Hero For Hire. It's the blacked-out letters on the sign that spell out something significant: NoIR.
  • Freefall: Florence Ambrose, soaked, chilled, and bleeding, searches for a doctor, and sees a broken sign reading "mad Veterinarian". Fortunately, it turns out "mad" is the last syllable of the vet's name, Winston Thurmad, and he's a very nice person.
  • Girl Genius: Above the entrance door to Castle Heterodyne is a sign reading "Thank you for shopping". Except that, when Wulfenbach troops attack it with a battering ram, it dislodges the "shopping" part which was an add-on, revealing the original sign to be "Thank you for cowering".
  • In Grrl Power, a super-powered collision with a "TREAT YOUR GIRL RIGHT" jewelry advertisement leaves the billboard's message a bit more risqué than the advertiser intended.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court knows how to label its doors: this one says "Used Instruments", though it's actually "Cursed Instruments", and the story of the haunted mandolin).
  • In The Order of the Stick, Tarquin shows Elan a hillside with dots of fire spelling out his name (which are actually prisoners that tried to escape and ended being burned alive as a result). The three bottom lights of the 'E' go out and Tarquin complains that everyone will think he's got a crazy obsession with custard.
  • Shot and Chaser: The Oldsmobile emblem on the back of Olly's dented cruser has had the last part of the word ripped off, leaving it reading "Old".
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • In the Kesandru storyline, where the house is choked with an unusual number of ghosts, cryptic ghostly graffiti on the wall says "NOTHING DEAD HERE", and it isn't until a character moves the furniture next to it that they realize it was in fact the partially obscured "NOTHING DEAD HERE LEAVES".
    • Another example in the same storyline involves a sign reading 'Brie Meighsaton', (the name of one of the ghosts trapped in the house) being damaged, and Torg puts the M back upside-down. "Brie Weighsaton". Riff says "Not cool!", Torg asks what a ghost is going to do about it, and she scares him into hiding under his bed. Behold the power of cheese.

    Web Videos 
  • A Critical Role one-shot utilized the "removed letters = dirty joke" version. The Crass Sailor, a pub, had the "C" and "R" in "Crass" removed for a double-layer joke (the dirty version, as well as "assailer" for the inevitable bar fight).
    • Triple-layer, really: The C and R were removed because it wasn't the normal Critical Role.
    • In a different episode, Matthew Mercer was wearing the T-shirt featured in the Unraveled episode mentioned below, complete with vest.
  • During Boris' trip to Berlin, he observes a large advertising balloon floating near a car dealership with most of the ad text wrapped around the balloon facing away from him so that the only word he can clearly make out is "DIE" (German for the,). Boris thusly describes the sight as "a big balloon that suggests that you drop dead."
  • In his review "Better Now vs. Lucid Dreams," Todd in the Shadows remarks that Juice Wrld's name sounds and looks like a mall kiosk with the "O" in the "Juice World" sign broken.
  • In the Unraveled episode "How to make a perfect E3 press conference (or drinking game)", BDG lampoons the cliche "business gamer outfit" found on all E3 presenters (a blazer, diesel jeans, and gamer t-shirt) by starting off his demonstration with a shirt full of various "gamer" phrases, with "I L♥VE EATING" and "CLASSIC" in the center. When he puts his covering blazer on, it ends up reading "I L♥VE EATING ASS".

    Western Animation 
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Silence", when Gumball and Darwin's tongues swell up after getting holistic treatment, they go to a Back-Alley Doctor to have the fluid drained. The sign above the entrance reads "Unlicensed Doctor" and the "Un" is burnt out.
  • The Angry Beavers: In "Tough Love", Bing shows up just as Dagget and Norbert are about to leave for a wrestling match and laments he had a messy break-up with his girlfriend Wanda. Norb gets distracted comisserating with Bing over his own troubled relationship with Treeflower, and an annoyed Dagget decides the only thing to do is track down Wanda and get her and Bing to make up. Unfortunately, a damaged sign that originally read "DON'T WANDER HERE" leads Dagget to the lair of a cranky alligator, whom he becomes convinced is Wanda.
  • One episode of Arthur was about D.W. accidentally misplacing her backpack at the swimming pool and later ending up with an identical backpack reading TOMMY TIBBLE. She then starts to think that someone named "Omble" actually stole her backpack.
  • In Beavis and Butt-Head, the duo tear off the letters of a Figure Drawing Class sign to read "U DRAW ASS." When they heard a beautiful woman say that she was going to pose nude for the drawing class, they believe that they have "the Power Supreme" and enroll just to look at her naked.
  • The Betty Boop cartoon Minnie the Moocher has Betty run away from home, leaving a note for her parents that reads, "Dear Ma & Pa, I'm leaving Home because you're not so Sweet to me. I won't ever be Home again. -Betty." After an incident in a cave involving a ghost walrus, Betty runs back home and hides under her bed covers; her note (which remains unread) rips around the top, bottom and sides, so it now vertically reads, "Home Sweet Home".
  • In one episode of Bobby's World, Uncle Ted has a boat named The Sea Sprite.
  • Bob's Burgers: In "The Millie-Churian Candidate", Louise abruptly joins the campaign for student president in a desperate attempt to stop Millie Frock from getting voted in. Millie proceeds to mock Louise by tearing the middle two letters out of her name on a "VOTE FOR LOUISE" poster so it reads "VOTE FOR LOSE".
  • BoJack Horseman: After BoJack stole the "D" from the Hollywood sign, Hollywood is casually referred to as "Hollywoo" in all instances for the rest of the series... until the series finale when Mr. Peanutbutter inadvertently replaces it with a B... resulting it in being referred to as "Hollywoob".
  • In the Camp Lazlo episode "Beans and Weiners", Chef McMuesli is making his tofu hot dogs for the campers, where the mess hall sign reading "Monday Tofurters" turns to "Monday Torture".
  • Casper's Scare School in the pilot movie: "SECRET DREAMS OF THE ORANGE ROOSTER".
  • In Danny Phantom episode "Doctor's Disorders", Danny had to infiltrate an old rundown hospital called NORTH MERCY hospital. At one point, the R, T, and H fell off, spelling NO MERCY hospital.
  • DC Super Hero Girls: In "#SheMightBeGiant", the mall store where a defeated Wonder Woman dangles is named "BIG TIME CLOSET", but Giganta knocks down the C and T, which results in "BIG TIME LOSE".
  • In one episode of Eek! The Cat, when Eek's family visits a national park, they encounter a group of angry, hungry-looking bears. Upon seeing a nearby sign that says "Feed the Bears", they figure it's okay to share their picnic lunch with them. Unfortunately, Eek discovers that a corner piece of the sign had been broken off, with it reading "Don't".
  • In The Fairly OddParents! episode "Hassle in the Castle", Timmy goes inside Cosmo and Wanda's fishbowl castle to look for the Godkid Hall of Fame, where they picture their best godkids. He comes across a door with the sign "HALL OF FAM" above it, and assumes that's the place; after he goes inside, the rest of the letters flicker on to reveal it's actually the Hall of Infamy, where they picture their worst god kids.
  • In the Family Guy episode "If I'm Dyin', I'm Lyin'", a Cutaway Gag features Peter writing a letter to ABC to bring Coach back on the air, but thanks to accidentally tipping over a white-out bottle, it reads "If you don't put Coach back on the air, I'll be really upset. The skillful acting of Craig T. Nelson will be missed a lot.", which Peter ends up sending without realizing anything. Some time later, Craig T. Nelson appears at Peter's door with a gun and a request to "Make it quick."
  • In A Flintstone Family Christmas, Fred lights a neon rock sign on his house, with the words "MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE FLINTSTONES HOUSE TO YOURS!". Afterward, the electric eel the sign is hooked up to sneezes and causes the sign to explode, the remaining letters of which now appear to read "FATSO'S HOUSE".
  • Futurama
  • In The Ghost and Molly McGee episode "The Grand Gesture", one of Molly's plans to confess her feelings to her Love Interest Ollie Chen is blow up a series of balloons to form the message "OLLIE WILL YOU BE MY BOYFRIEND". However, Scratch ends up getting in a fight with a woodpecker that leads to some of the balloons being popped, and it ends up instead reading "OLLIE YOU FIEND".
  • In Goof Troop, the Wild West ancestors episode "Gunfight at the Okie-Doke Corral" has all of the townspeople hanging out at the "local salon", getting their hair and nails done. When Goofy's ancestor wipes some dirt off the window sign, they realize it's actually a saloon, and then everyone cheers because they don't have to treat it like a salon anymore.
  • Gravity Falls
    • The second S for the "Mystery Shack" is seen falling off in the intro. It gets knocked off in the show proper in "Headhunters", leaving the sign reading "Mystery Hack" (fitting as all the oddities showcased inside are fake) for the rest of the series until Soos puts it back up after being given ownership of the Mystery Shack in the finale.
    • Parodied in "The Legend of the Gobblewonker" when Soos comes upon the Scuttlebutt Island sign and covers up the "Scuttle" part, so that it reads "Butt Island".
    • In "The Love God", Stan's crappy homemade hot air balloon starts falling apart near the end of the episode, and the sign reading "I HEART KIDS" ends up reading "I _EA_T KIDS".
      Teenager 1: (points to the balloon) "I eat kids"?! But we're kids!
      Teenager 2: It's heaven's punishment for our terrible taste in everything!
      (both of them run away in blind panic)
  • In one episode of Green Eggs and Ham, as Guy is walking into Justin's Diner on a rainy night, the -in and -n_r are blacked out so that it reads "Just Die".
  • In Hoops And Yoyo's Haunted Halloween, Hoops, Yoyo, and Piddles are all trapped in North Escapades Mall after it closes for the night. Lightning strikes a sign displaying the mall's name, leaving enough letters lit up to spell "No Escape".
  • The Magic School Bus: When Ralphie finds out where Liz went, due to the torn paper, he initially assumes she went to "Herp Ha". Turns out it was actually "Herp Haven".
  • Mickey Mouse Works:
    • One of the opening Couch Gags has Donald obscuring the title with a stone block and chiseling the letters "STARRING DONALD DUCK". The letters then collapse upon him so that they now read "DARN OLD DUCK".
    • In the short "Lil' Bad Wolf", the Big Bad Wolf lures the Three Little Pigs into a trap by pretending to turn over a new leaf and sets up a storefront with the sign "BIG BAD QUICKMART". When they go inside, the Wolf reveals his ruse and slams the door so that most of the letters fall, leaving the acronym "BBQ".
  • Looney Tunes Cartoons: "Inn For Trouble" has Porky and Sylvester go to the "CATSKILL MOTEL" with the S shortening out so it reads "CAT_KILL MOTEL"; cue Loud Gulp from Sylvester.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: In "Weapons of Mass Distraction", a violent hailstorm destroys a sign for the "Do Over Motel", until the only letters left are "DoOM".
  • Popeye
    • In "The Spinach Roadster", Popeye was taking Olive Oyl for a ride. To discourage Popeye, Bluto rearranges a sign reading 'ROUTE D' to 'DETOUR', sending him up a rocky mountain road.
    • In the TV short "Me Quest for Poopdeck Pappy", Popeye travels to a desert island to find his Pappy and encounters a sign he wrote saying "VISITORS AIN'T WELCOME". Popeye declares "'Ain't' ain't good Englishk" and knocks off part of the sign, which now reads "VISITORS WELCOME".
  • In an episode of Recess, Spinelli accidentally calls Ms. Grotke "Mama", causing her peers to call her "Mama's Girl". As she tries to run away from the constant teasing, she finds a neon sign reading "MANNY MATT'S GRILL", which flickers so that it now reads "MA MA'S GRLL".
  • In the Robot Chicken sketch, "The Wonder Pets! visit the Laughter House", Linny, Tuck, and Ming-Ming attempt to save a baby cow by taking her to the Laughter House, which they believe is a comedy club. They are horrified when that turns out not to be the case and the baby cow is slaughtered. Then the farmer puts an "S" in front of "Laughter", which clears things up for the pets.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • In The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries episode "Happy Birthday Scooby-Doo", as a phantom tries to knock Scooby and Shaggy off a billboard that reads, "Turn The Dial To ZPop", a bunch of letters fall off, making it vertically spell "RELP".
    • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: In "The Creeping Creatures", Scoob is spooked when a sign for "The Drowsy Gator: Pool, Food and Sundries!" suddenly reads "The dog dies!". In the later episode "Theater of Doom", the Phantom Mummy of Friar Serra (the real one) hints that this wasn't just a coincidence, as he told the gang to "Heed the warning of the alligators".
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The Cartridge Family", Homer purchases a handgun to protect his family. Marge, however, fears for her safety and the safety of her children from a trigger-happy husband. She takes herself and the kids to the "SLEEP-EAZY MOTEL" complete with neon sign. The moment Marge arrives, part of the neon fails, leaving "SLEEP-EAZY MOTEL" as the surviving moniker.
    • In the season six episode "Bart's Comet", the "Only Bridge Out of Town" is blown up by a missile, leaving the sign reading "BRIDGE OUT".
    • SHOT KICKERS (from the season five episode "Marge on the Lam")
    • The season four episode "Selma's Choice" had "The Buzzing Sign Diner" (all letters function, but it is still part of, and a parody of, the buzzing sign trope) and the sign Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney pass as they ride out of Duff Gardens on bumper cars reads, "You Are Now Leaving Duff Gardfns" (though it's not known whether this was supposed to be a broken sign or a mistake from the animation staff).
    • "Bart and Lisa vs. The Third Grade" featured a flag, which was originally supposed to read "To Fraternal Love". Bart tampered with it, and as a result it now reads "Learn to Fart!"
    • In "The Springfield Files," an already frightened Homer sees a large billboard that says "DIE." He screams. Then the wind shifts, moving a tree branch and revealing that the word is "DIET." Homer screams louder and flees.
    • In "Apocalypse Cow," Homer, disguised as a cow, is transported to the slaughter house mistaking it as "laughter house" due to his disguise obscuring his vision.
    • In "War of the Simpsons", Bart rearranges the finger sandwich platter Marge laid out for the party, which is arranged to read "Enjoy our party snacks", so that it now reads "Boy, our party sucks."
    • In "Monty Burns' Fleeing Circus", when a sunbeam destroys most of Springfield, among the destruction is the town sign on the hill now saying S-I-N-G-E-D".
    • A heartwarming variation: in "And Maggie Makes Three," the extra expense caused by the birth of Maggie throws Homer's carefully-planned budget into disarray, forcing him to quit his dream job at the bowling alley (it's Homer, he dreams small) and go crawling back to Mr. Burns to get back his hated job at the nuclear power plant. Mr. Burns rubs it in by putting up a sign by Homer's work station reading, "Don't Forget: You're Here Forever." Homer strategically covers it up with pictures of Maggie until the sign appears to read, "Do it for her."
    • In "Bart on the Road", the Sunsphere from the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville has a sign that reads "WO__D F_IR", which Bart reads in confusion. The "R" in "F_IR" then falls off.
    • When Maude Flanders died in "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily", Marge made a tombstone-shaped cake that said, "REST IN PEACE", until Bart took away the A and the C.
    • In "Behind the Laughter", the Simpsons move into MC Hammer's mansion. Homer whacks a "HammerTime" sign on the front gate to make it say "HomerTime".
    • In "Kill the Alligator and Run," the family stays at a hotel called the Royal Fart Inn, during Spring Break. Some college boys rearrange the sign to read, "The Royal Frat Inn."
    • In "Homer's Night Out", Bart rearranges the letters on a sign that says "TODAY'S SPECIAL - COD PLATTER, $4.95" so that the middle part says "COLD PET RAT".
    • At the beginning of "Wandering Juvie", a drunken man stumbles in front of a sign that says "COSTINGTON'S - DOWNTOWN'S LAST GASP OF CLASS", causing the P, C, and L to fall down and resulting in the sign saying "COSTINGTON'S - DOWNTOWN'S LAST GAS OF ASS". When Bart sees the sign, he bursts out laughing.
    • In "Postcards From the Wedge", Bart and Milhouse find and activate an abandoned subway train, which causes an earthquake in Springfield. Outside the town hall is a sign that says "EMERGENCY EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE MEETING". The Earthquake causes a few letters to fall off the sign, resulting in it saying "EMERGENCY QUAKE R MEETING" and attracting a group of Amish people to the town hall.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "St. Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses", Star ends up trapped in the laundry room with a brainwashed Flying Princess Pony Head, and breaks down crying after raging at a propaganda poster reading "Embrace a Princess Mentality - Wash Away Your Individuality". Fortunately, the sight of Star in tears causes Pony Head to finally snap out of it, and she proceeds to tear up the poster so it reads "Embrace Your Individuality".
  • In the TaleSpin episode, "A Baloo Switcheroo", a mysterious idol causes Baloo and Kit to switch bodies. On the following day, Kit-in-Baloo's-body participates in a flying competition. Near the competition, a billboard for a novel called Look For a Way Out! is being built. When Kit-in-Baloo's-body flies the Sea Duck through the billboard, it ends up saying Look Out!.
  • Tear Along the Dotted Line: In one episode Zero imagines his part-time job about teaching kids as a run-down factory named "Ripetizioni di Calcare" (more or less, "Calcare's Remedial Classes"). The L from the sign falls down, turning it into "Ripetizioni di Cacare" or, roughly, "Shitty Remedial Classes". (In Italian "cacare" means "to take a shit", and "fa cacare" is equivalent to "it sucks").

    Real Life 
  • The famous "Ear Inn" by the Hudson River. The neon sign originally said "BAR", but when it changed owners in the 70s, the new ones managed to avoid the red tape involved with changing the signage by painting over the arcs of the 'B' and it stayed that way since then.
  • A roadside restaurant in Florida next to I-4 had gone out of business, leaving various signs around. One of them advertised truck fuel, right in front of the off-ramp from the passing interstate. Over time, half the sign fell down, and in large yellow letters on a black background, people would be greeted with DIESEL.
  • Comedian Eddie Izzard toured one year with a simple backdrop of two vertical banners with her name on them. Whoever put up the banners failed to notice the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe has a black cloth fringe at the front of the stage to conceal the lighting rig. This meant that to anyone not in the first few rows he did the show there framed by the legend "DIE IZZARD".
  • A common "fail" picture, which is pictured above, is of a Shell gasoline station with the "S" dark. Because what's the worst that could happen at a Hell gas station?
  • Some gas stations have FOOD MARTS attached to them. Years of neglect contribute to them being called OOD MARTS.
  • The famed HOLLYWOOD sign (which used to say "HOLLYWOODLAND" before something happened to it) was a falling-down wreck for many years, until it was restored in 1978. Prior to the restoration, it read "H⋃LLYWO D".
    • The sign has been altered at least twice, once in 1976 and again in 2017, to read "HOLLYWeeD".
  • Due to one missing letter, the Ministry for Religious Affairs sign on Kanfei Nesharim Street in Jerusalem appeared for several years to read "the Ministry for Strawberry Affairs" in Hebrew.
  • The Cambridge, MA restaurant Nick's Beef and Beer House became "Nick's eef & Bee Ho e" due to letters falling off its sign, until it finally changed its name in 1996.
  • This album shows some funny real life examples of this trope: Who would want to go to a Petco Supplies & Fish store, a Blockbuster video store, the Dynasty Buffet? The Black Angus Steakhouse? The Burlington Coat Factory? Scrapbooks? The Hotel Cass? The Virginia Lodge? The Home Depot? There's even a place called Self storage where Santa must store his elves that he doesn't need.
  • Similar to the Elf Storage above, Tacoma's Tacoma Self Storage had the second S burn out, resulting in TACOMA ELF STORAGE. It just happened to be around the time of Christmas, and the owners loved it so much, that every year, they turn off the lights in that S so it can read "ELF STORAGE" every Christmas.
  • The Japanese shopping center Canal City (perhaps best known online as "that place with the waterfall that makes pictures") had the first 'C' burn out on its sign, leaving "ANAL CITY".
  • Canal Street in Manchester, England. Which also happens to be the city's main LGBT+ district.
  • Another Japanese example comes from Pachinko (パチンコ) parlors with the パ burnt out on the sign, leaving チンコ, meaning "penis".
  • A sign for Rogers Pass in Montana once had the "P" scratched off.
    • There was also a swimming pool (located near hot springs) with a sign that had a letter scratched off and seemed to be taking advantage of the fact:
      Welcome To Our
    • One 2000s teen magazine (possibly J-14?) had, as part of its "Embarassing Moments" section, a story where a reader was about to go off a diving board at her community swimming pool when she noticed that one of the little kids who was there earlier had peed right where she was going to jump. She considered saving up her money to buy a "Welcome to our OOL" sign for the pool.
  • A popular type of prank in Germany is obscuring the "K" on the frequently found "Gas weg: Kinder" signs (meaning "Slow down for kids", usually placed near schools), leaving "Gas weg: inder", meaning "Slow down for indians". As those signs also feature a caricature of two waving schoolkids with absurdly orange tan skin, and both the words "Gas" and "weg" have rather unfortunate connotations (gas and away, respectively), it makes the whole thing just more offensive.
  • Apparently there's nothing as funny as the first time you see a Waffle House with the W missing, but for some tropers it may be unclear why. "Awful House."
  • If an Office Depot happens to have its second "e" go out, it leaves "officed pot". One might half-expect to see light smoke near the building ...
    • Similarly, a Home Depot can become "Homed pot" under that same circumstance.
    • At least one image exists online of a Home Depot store with a few of the letters burned out creating a "Ho Depot" instead.
  • At one point, a Sobeys (Atlantic Canadian grocery store) had both of its "S"es burn out on its sign, reading "OBEY".
  • In many public restrooms there are hand dryers with instructions on them, and the first instruction is inevitably "Push Button." And 99% of the time, the last two letters are scratched off. The second instruction has almost invariably been altered to read "Rub hands gently under warm air".note 
  • A large commercial brewery in the North of England called Thwaite's has a large and impressive neon sign bearing the company name on the roof of its main production facility. In 2014 the management were unwise enough to institute a large round of lay-offs without first securing the control panel for the sign, enabling an anonymous soon-to-be-former worker to tell the world exactly what they thought of the owners. This ended up making the national news.
    • Thwaite's becomes '''THWAITE'S
  • If every other letter in a HOOTERS sign burns out? H O E S.
  • Baby changing stations are often victims of vandalism. The most common "edit": baby changing station.
  • Jack Astor's Bar and Grill is a restaurant chain in Canada that has a donkey as its mascot. Of course, this led to them having a little bit of fun with the lit-up signs, by flashing the "tor" in Astor's on-and-off (which would make it say "Jack Ass Bar and Grill"). However, some of the locations have stopped doing this post-renovation.
  • Ever come across a Sears store with a non-working "e" on the sign? That makes the sign instead display "S ARS". What about when the first "s" goes out, which makes the store all "EARS"? Or what about when both of them go out at the same time? That's a real pain in the ARS.
  • If the "W" were to go out on the sign of a Goodwill store, warehouse, or donation center, the building would display the contrasting words "Good ill" If all but the last three letters were to go out, the business becomes "ill".
  • Throughout the United States, you can find large tracts of undeveloped land owned by various agencies of the federal government, most of which are available for "recreational" use. Some of these areas allow recreational shooting and some don't. Those that don't have lots of prominently-posted signs advising visitors. In the same vein as the Wyatt Earp example above, if you find one of these "NO SHOOTING" signs, it is guaranteed to be riddled with bullet holes.
  • World Book encyclopedia sets use Idiosyncratic Cover Art where the volumes spell out "WORLD BOOK" when placed in the proper order. More than one bored student in a high school library has discovered that you can rearrange the books to spell out "WEIRD COCK".
  • The "Florence Y'All" water tower was built in front of Florence Mall in Florence, Kentucky. Due to a law saying that water towers could not advertise businesses that were not yet open, the ends of the "M" were painted over, making the water tower read "Florence Y'All". It became so noticeable that it stuck even after the mall opened.
  • The Metropolitan Storage Warehouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts is frequently photographed from a certain angle due to part of the architecture obscuring some of the letters - if you approach the building from one particular side, a tower that juts out from the main building blocks some of their sign, making it appear to read "METROPOLITAN STORAGE WAREHOUSE - FIRE PROOF". Naturally, a punk rock band from the area dubbed themselves Metropolitan Rage Warehouse.
  • Played for Laughs by Robot Combat team Ballistix (best known for entering Robot Wars Series 10 with Donald Thump) when they unveiled its successor Theresa Mayhem. Team captain James Davies did so while dressed as Theresa May and standing at a lectern decorated with her much-derided political slogan of "STRONG AND STABLE". As Davies spoke, some of the letters gradually fell off the sign until it read "STRONG AND STABLE".
  • Countdown is a New Zealand grocery store chain - Occasionally the "o" in their signs short out, turning it into "Countdown".
  • This sign inverts the trope and plays it straight, as the lit letters say BRODIE FOOD MART, and the unlit letters say BRODIE FOOD MART.
  • In January of 2018, a display monitor on the Northern State Parkway warned of coming blizzards over the weekend. Unfortunately, the 'B' in 'blizzards' burned out, giving the impression that it was warning about reptiles.
  • A persistent piece of graffiti on the suburb sign for Cook in Canberra, Australia (which is in white letters on brown wood) involves blacking out part of the second O; thereby informing motorists that they have just arrived in the suburb of COCK.
  • There is a British supermarket chain called Morrisons. The "ris" on their sign burning out seems to be a somewhat common problem.
  • In Sofia, Bulgaria, a new sign was installed to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Russian cultural center. The "3" had soon fallen off, resulting in the sign saying "0 years".
  • Someone photo-shopped a picture of a controversial anti-immigration billboard featuring Maxime Bernier, leader of the right-wing People's Party of Canada. The billboard, which originally said "Say NO to Mass Immigration", now appeared to read "Say NO to Ass Man".
  • A few removed letters for Pinecrest High School yields Incest High School.
  • On August 19, 2019, Paul DeJong of the St. Louis Cardinals hit a home run ball that took out the illuminated "M" in Busch Stadium's "BIG MAC LAND" sign, making it say "BIG AC LAND".
  • The city of Liège in Belgium has a convention center named the Palais des Congrès (Congress Palace), which used to have a Hollywood-like sign at the top spelling out PALAIS DES CONGRÈS. In early 2020, two strong storms ripped out the last 4 letters, making the sign read PALAIS DES CON (Morons' Palace) instead. When another storm was approaching, the owners decided to remove the entire signage.
  • In the 1980s, the letters of the Beverley Swimming Pool sign started falling off, leading to the sign reading "EVER SWIM IN POO" at one point.
  • A Vine involves a Del Taco with the letters on "Fresh Avocado" being spaced oddly, leading to "fre sha voca do".
  • This trope is said to be the reason why the British film actress Diana Dors used a Stage Name. As she herself pointed out:
    They asked me to change my name. I suppose they were afraid that if my real name, Diana Fluck, was in lights and one of the lights blew...


Video Example(s):


You Fat Arse

In the New Year's special, Red attempts a lighting project that spells out "Toast Yourself At New Years Eve". Unfortunately, a short causes some of the lights blow out, resulting in it saying something more insulting.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / SignsOfDisrepair

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