If you rotate the figure 6 so it is upside down, you get a 9, and vice versa. We all know that.
This trope is about those cases where confusion between these two numbers becomes a plot point. The most common (but not the only) scenarios:
- Causes some sort of confusion in the plot, that doesn't allow it to advance (like the example below).
- It's used for The Reveal or a Plot Twist. Often, but not necessarily, is the Number of the Beast.
For example: Alice is a detective and has learned from a phone call that weird things are happening in Apartment 6. She goes over there and investigates, but finds nothing. But the phone calls continue, so Alice goes again to Apartment 6, but finds out that the apartment where she was investigating was number 9, but the "9" somehow was unscrewed before and looked like a 6.
This trope also covers any other symbol (or collection thereof) that could be misinterpreted if read at the wrong angle, such as M and W.
Not to be confused with LOL, 69 (especially since that number is immune to this trope).
- In The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, the title character notices a '90' tattooed on her arm that wasn't there before. It isn't until she time leaps a few more times that she realizes it was the number of leaps she had left, and it was actually '06'.
- Gang members Scorch and Chills in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL use the Number monsters "Number 61: Volcasaurus" and "Number 19: Freezadon", which have opposite motifs (fire and ice), body styles, strategies, and stat at 2500 (Volcasaurus: 2500 ATK, Freezadon: 2500 DEF).
- Elie from Rave Master gets her name from reading her tattoo after suffering Identity Amnesia. She read it upside down: the tattoo actually says "3173".
- Used for a gag in the final episode of Gundam Build Fighters Try. Meijin Kawaguchi announces the winner of the Meijin Cup modeling contest is Entry #9, Minato Sakai. After Minato gets a moment to boast, Meijin looks more closely at the card and corrects himself, saying that it's actually #6, making Yuuma Kosaka the winner. As Yuuma takes the stage, we see Minato crumble into dust.
- In The Broken Ear, ''Tintin realizes that the license plate "169 MW" is actually "MW 691" flipped upside down.
- Asterix in Britain: Asterix and friends get the address (number VI in a row of identical suburban huts) of the thief who stole their barrel of magic potion. But when they bust down the door, it turns out to be a perfectly ordinary couple living at number VII (the I fell off).
- In the "Tales from the Pit: Black Day at Bad Rock" story from Judge Dredd, a squatter is given apartment number 666 as a reward for informing to the Judges. When he goes to open the door, it turns out to be one of the apartments Booby Trapped with explosives that an old lady from eariler in the story was using to coverup her welfare fraud.
Priest: Did you see that Struthers? Numbers 999 must have slipped loose to make 666.
Struthers: Yeah. Just like in a vidcom.
Priest: Life's like that sometimes - one bad joke.
- A comic parody of The Omen had the Antichrist Damien, at school, start a fire with telekinesis. His flustered teacher, unable to remember the telephone number for the Fire Brigade, has his memory jogged when he sees the tattoo on Damien's scalp note and later thanks him for being so helpful. In the parody, this is Damien's inevitable fate: his attempts to be the embodiment of ultimate evil always blow back on him and achieve the opposite.
- An early example in the 1920 short One Week. After all their labor building the house, Buster Keaton's character and his wife find out that the Lot 99 sign actually meant Lot 66, so they have to move the house.
- In National Lampoon's European Vacation, the Griswolds spend some time with German-speaking relatives. As they leave, they slam the door and the 6 swings down and becomes a 9, they'd been staying with strangers and didn't realize it.
- In End of Days, the Number of the Beast is really 999.
- Something like that happened in the French/British Film La Grande Vadrouille, set during World War II, with hotel rooms 6 and 9.
- In the film version of Minority Report, there was a scene where John Anderton gets Crow's hotel room wrong due to the figure 9 or 6 having a screw loose.
- This happens to Lenny in Memento, causing him to bash a random motel resident in the face.
- In The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Pluto interrogated the body clinic specialist to find the identity of the crime boss and was given "WZW" initials as a clue, but found no results upon searching. Realizing the initials was read upside-down, he searched "MZM" and found one result.
- The plot of Ruang Talok 69 is set off when the 6 on a flat door keeps flipping accidentally to resemble a 9, resulting in all kinds of mayhem.
- Eighties Tom Hanks comedy The 'Burbs had the villains' house address being "696". No points for guessing the 9 was flipped.
- In the 1990 Italian comedy Le Comiche ("The Comic Actors") in the 3rd episode the numbers on hotel rooms 6 and 9 keep flipping every time someone as much as touches a door, completely disregarding common sense. Room 9 is occupied by a jealous husband with a beautiful wife, followed by a busful of lovers; room 6 is occupied by newlyweds accidentally driven to nervous breakdown by protagonists in the 1st episode. And the delivery man keeps confusing the doors (he's new at this job, he's a Traveling Salesman working off the damages inflicted on the hotel earlier that day).
- Done oddly in Identity where it's revealed that the guests are being killed in the order of their room numbers. Shortly after one of the characters walks into room 9, the closing of the door causes their number to flip to 6, making them the next target. The fact that they're all alternate personalities in a Battle in the Center of the Mind means this might not be coincidental.
- Mr. Bean's Holiday is kicked off by him holding ticket 616 to a lottery where ticket 919 is the winner.
- Ever hear about the blonde hired as a proofreader at the M&M factory? She was fired for tossing out all the 3's, E's and W's.
- In The Mona Lisa Mystery, Jessica, staying in room 9, sees someone enter her room at night. Turns out that her roommate had earlier slammed the door, so that one screw came out and the 9 fell upside-down.
- There is one scene in a Patrick McManus story where one of the characters wakes up in the middle of the night on a camping trip, takes out an analog watch, and reads it upside down, interpreting it as 7:00 instead of the intended 1:30.
- In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Bad News", the numbers 50 to 1 are hidden in the episode as a countdown until Marshall receives the news of his father's death. A file folder Barney is holding is marked with the number 9, and later the folder is picked up upside down, now representing the number 6 in the countdown.
- In a Halloween episode of Quantum Leap, Sam leaps into the body of a horror writer whose street address is 669. Near the climax, the 9 flips upside down to reveal that the devil is amongst them.
- Parodied in an early episode of Saturday Night Live, one sketch was a parody of The Omen. Late in the sketch, one character accuses the child, Damien, of being spawned from Satan, and they should check for the Number of the Beast on his forehead. One character checks by standing behind the child, and declares that everything is okay with him, because the number on his forehead is 999.
- Cheers: The bar has a raffle using numbered pingpong balls. Number 99 gets chosen, but Sam points out that the 99 looks like a 66. Hilarity Ensues.
- Parodied in 3rd Rock from the Sun:
Harry: "Dick, I've lost all feeling in the left side of my body. [looks at can upside down] Could somebody please call "1-1-6"?
- In episode 9 of The Unusuals, the cops find out that the perpetrator of the case they're investigating lives in apartment #6. They go to the apartment, and find the wrong person entirely. Naturally, the apartment they knocked on was actually #9, and the nail had fallen out of the top of the sign. (Cue chase scene, set to "Tunak Tunak Tun", as the actual perp has had plenty of time to prepare to flee...)
- In a short sketch on The Benny Hill Show, Benny as a jealous husband breaks into a hotel room and shoots the man & woman in the bed. Then he takes another look at them, looks at the room number, rotates the 6 to a 9, and sheepishly exits.
- In an episode of cult The '70s British cop show The Sweeney, the "6 with a screw missing turns into a 9" gag is used in a scene where a very respectable family are eating dinner when armed policemen crash into their home, and are just as surprised as they are because they were expecting to meet armed criminals. After the mistake is cleared up, the officers leave with apologies and the family calmly return to their meal. Moments later, a crash is heard in the distance, and the father comments that it sounds as though they've found number 9.
- In an episode of Diagnosis: Murder, a woman found a dead mime in the house she was staying at. She then noticed the 6 in the house number had a nail missing, making it a 9, and she deduced that whoever killed and left the mime got the wrong house. It turns out it was a Red Herring.
- Doctor Who episode "Terror of the Vervoids":
Rudge: Uh, no. The other way round, I think. You are in cabin 9, and that is where you will find your luggage, Professor.
- The Electric Company (1971): A sketch about a lucky number versus an unlucky number.
- In House, Kutner tries to pull a fast one on Dr. House by flipping his candidate number (6) over once he'd originally been eliminated. House finds it amusing and (since he pitched a good idea) gave him another chance.
- Happens in an episode of Get Smart when Max and the Chief are under the Cone of Silence. As usual, it isn't working right, so Max decides that they should use CONTROL's secret word file, which contains a bunch of different cards which they show to each other. Max's first cards read, "Is KAOS after 66?" The Chief replies with "Who's 66?" Max realizes he has the last card (the one that said "66") upside-down, and flips it over to say "99".
- In an episode of Supernatural, Sam & Dean investigate an old folks' home and think they've found a demon-worshiping old woman because she has an inverted cross nailed to her wall. A scene or two later, Dean is impersonating an orderly and the woman asks whether he finally came to fix her cross, which has fallen upside down.
- In the Hancock's Half Hour episode "The Alpine Holiday", Tony Hancock twice ends up on the wrong side of a 6/9 misunderstanding, both times involving confusion over whether the room is his or that of a female film star who is staying at the same resort as he is; when she goes into what she thinks is her room but is actually Tony's room, the film star has the hotel staff throw him in the local jail for lewd behaviour.
- In the Doctor in Charge episode "Honeymoon Special", newlywed doctors Lawrence and Mary Bingham have had to be driven to their honeymoon hotel by fellow doctor and Mary's ex-boyfriend, Duncan, as Lawrence's leg has been put in plaster as a prank and Mary cannot drive. As he cannot get back to London until the next morning, Duncan stays the night at the hotel and is given Room 9 while the Binghams are given Room 6. When prankster doctors Dick and Paul call the hotel to confess that Lawrence's leg isn't broken, they wake up Duncan and the Binghams. Duncan goes back to his room and slams the door, causing the "9" to flip upside-down; Mary stops at the bathroom on the way back and goes into Duncan's room by mistake, leading to a Bedmate Reveal when Lawrence goes to what he thinks is Room 6 and switches on the light.
- Dad's Army has an episode in which Corporal Jones is told to telephone the local military headquarters after a plane crash, on Walmington-166. Unfortunately he writes it down, misreads it as Walmington-991 when he gets to the phone box, and is put through to the local cinema instead.
- In the Married... with Children episode "Hi, I.Q." Al and Jefferson are putting together a workbench and get annoyed when they keep finding parts shaped like 7's instead of L's.
- Jimi Hendrix referenced this trope in his song "If 6 Were 9" from his album Axis: Bold as Love. In 1994, a group called The Beautiful People created a club-mix called "If 60s were 90s".
- A band named themselves "If Six Was Nine" after his song.
- A They Might Be Giants song called "The Secret Life Of Six" has six and nine disguise themselves as each other - six pretending he's older and nine pretending he's younger.
- The Judds recorded a song in 2000 titled "The 90's Was the 60's Turned Upside Down".
- In the music video for Madonna's "What It Feels Like For A Girl", Madonna shuts her motel room door with the number 669, causing the 9 to swirl around and build 666.
- The Far Side: In one cartoon, a painter has just painted "999" on Satan's office door in hell. Satan doesn't look happy, and the painter says "I must have been holding the dang work order like this!"(ie: upside down).
- There was a Pearls Before Swine strip where Pig is sitting contently, reading a comic book. Suddenly, The Bluebird of Happiness flies onto his window and announces that he has been watching Pig for years, and thinks he deserves some joy in his life. Pig thanks the bird, who replies "No, thank YOU, Joseph C. Skalabonsky!". It was then revealed that he was supposed to go to 608 Bradbury, but he held the directions upside-down and went to 809 Bradbury, which is Pig's house. The bluebird then says "Ohhhhh.", flies away, and Pig sighs.
- In a FoxTrot comic, Peter's teacher is handing back a test:
Peter: [yelling for the whole class to hear] A 99! I got a 99! I knew it! I'm gonna own this semester!
Teacher: You're holding it upside-down.
- Newspaper cartoon from about 30 years ago:
Boating lake worker: Come in No. 61, come in No. 61.
Other boating lake worker: We don't have a No. 61.
First boating lake worker: Oh dear! Are you in trouble, No. 19?
- Comes out many times in riddles like in Riddle 58 here, as seen in the solution.
- Episode 4 of Retarded Animal Babies featured a fake TV screen as a bonus feature, and selecting Channel 666 will lead to a video of Satan eating children from a bowl. Channel 999 is this upside down.
- Victor Borge, during his Phonetic Punctuation sketch, would pull out a book and read a passage. "It starts on page nine." He would look at the book, realize he's holding it upside-down, turn it around and say, "Page six."
- The Math Factory had an episode where Cranston and Stubby were playing with a card (19 is 61 upside down).
- An early Muppet sketch on Sesame Street spoofing Dragnet had a couple of police detectives looking for a fugitive W. When the detectives encounter a W, the letter fools them by flipping over, claiming to be an M.
- In Old Harry's Game, there is a bit where Satan received a phone call intended for the emergency services because the caller had the phone upside down. note
- A Running Gag in the Australian comedy Verve, by Mark Lucas. Various characters turn up at 16 Sunnybrook Crescent, the apartment of Butt-Monkey Mitchell Germaine whose wife slammed the door too hard after walking out on him. First is Warren (a TV repairman who believes it's No. 19) then Leon (a dyslexic pizza deliveryman) and finally escort girl Tasha.
Mitchell: I've got it! Number 19.Tasha: That'll cost you 100 bucks.Leon: What the dude means is that you were looking for No. 19 Sunnybrook Crescent.Tasha: One! I was called to No. 1 Sunnybrook Crescent.Mitchell: Excuse me. (goes outside and returns with a shocked expression, holding the 9 in his hand) I don't believe it!Warren: Well, she must have slammed it very hard.Mitchell: I don't believe that George Lorimer in number 1 would order a prostitute!
- In Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy), a Timed Mission puts police detectives Carla and Tyler in a hotel attempting to find the protagonist, Lucas, who is hiding in room 369. The player controls Carla/Tyler, but the first "room 369" you enter has someone else inside; the lettering on the door un-sticks and swivels to reveal that they're actually at room 366. The mistake gives Lucas just enough time to get his own objective done and hide.
- Pops up every so often in the Professor Layton games. If a puzzle requires you to manipulate a set of numbered tokens which can be freely rotated, it's probably a good idea to assume this trope is in play. Alongside 6 becoming 9 and vice versa, you can often find plus signs rotating 45 degrees to become times signs, or minus signs rotating 90 degrees to become 1s.
- In The Shattered Medallion, you have to rotate a series of letters that could be N or Z, U or C, H or I, and M or W to find an arrangement that spells out a clue.
- Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors revolves around a set of bracelets numbered from 1-9, but not everything is as it seems:
- Late in the game, a #0 bracelet is introduced, but it acts as if it were #6. It's actually the letter O.
- Immediately following this, one character theorizes that June's #6 bracelet is actually a 9, which allows her to open any of the doors in the game, which in context implies that Santa's #3 bracelet marks him as Zero. This theory is mostly correct, but it's the other way around. Santa is the real #9, and June from nine years ago is the real Zero.
- This comes to a head when the final door with an apparent "9" on it turns out to be a "q". In Japanese, the number 9 can be pronounced as kyuu, while in English it's easy to mistake the two.
- In the remake-exclusive fifth case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, a piece of evidence contains a note that reads "6-7S 12/2." However, the note was apparently written upside down and it actually reads "2/21 SL-9," tying it to another case altogether.
- In Dragonball Z Abridged, Vegeta orders Nappa to fight Goku, saying he'll have an easy time of it since Goku's power level is only 1006. Nappa promptly gets thrashed, and Vegeta realizes that he'd had his scouter upside-down; Goku's power level is actually over nine thousand.note
- The 8-bit Haunted Dance Party video has Felicia Day being invited to a halloween party at 966 Ravenscroft Lane. As she walks through the gate of what she thinks is the address, the 9 swings down and turns into a 6.
- An episode of Rugrats involved Tommy being kidnapped as a result of criminals succumbing to this trope.
- In the "Snow White" special of the "Tales From the Crib" series, one of Angelica's magic mirrors rates her a nine, then to show his disdain for her, he turns the card over to rate her a six.
- In an episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Ickis is waiting in line with the other monsters to get Snorch'd and is given the number 61, much to his relief since it takes more time. The monster in front of him then reminds him that he has the sign upside down and flips it, showing it as 19 instead.
- In VeggieTales, Larry the Cucumber never got his pizza in one Silly Song because the house number (16) on his door was broken.
- When April O'Neil of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series was posing as a news reporter, she wore a badge saying she represented Channel 9. When it was damaged, it flipped down, making her a reporter for Channel 6, referencing the original series. One of several shout-outs in that episode.
- In Hey Arnold!, after Arnold visits Eugene in a hospital room from a bike accident, the loose screw on the 9 of the door's room number causes it to become a 6. Eugene, therefore, gets his tonsils and his spleen removed by mistake.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- The 'W' and 'M' were allegedly mixed up in "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy IV" as well; when SpongeBob shrinks people and things with Mermaid Man's belt, Patrick tells him he has it set to M for "mini" instead of W for "wumbo." This doesn't seem to do anything, but Mermaid Man's later comment indicates there really is a "wumbo" setting.
- In "Born to Be Wild", 'W' is 'M'. SpongeBob rips the letter 'W' from the shirt of a biker belonging to a scary gang, the Wild Ones. The biker actually belongs to a much tamer group, the Mild Ones.
- In "Moving Bubble Bass", Bubble Bass Tricks SpongeBob and Patrick into heping him move his belongings from his mother's basement to his grandmother's basement. The address Bubble Bass gave them was house #166, but because SpongeBob and Patrick were holding the paper upside down, they mistake house #991 for the proper address, much to the chagrin of the house's owner.
- There is also another example of 'W' is 'M' in The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries episode "A Nutcracker Scoob". Daphne finds a lapel pin on the floor with the initials W.N. on it, which everyone believes stands for Winslow Nickelby. In the end, it turns out that they were holding the lapel pin upside-down so the correct initials were N.M. for Nanette Musette.
- In the Futurama episode "A Big Piece Of Garbage", the crew are sent to blow up the titular ball of garbage set to collide with the Earth. Unfortunately, they end up nearly getting killed due to Professor Farnsworth having set the timer while the screen was upside down.
Leela: That idiot! It wasn't set for 25 minutes, it was set for 52 seconds!
- The Simpsons: The official answer to "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" involves a clue where Burns left when he fell on the town sundial, pointing to W and S which implicates Waylon Smithers - except from his angle, he was pointing to M and S for Maggie Simpson, the true culprit. Notably, they actually did consider this before, since (despite having no motive) it could still have implicated Moe Szyslak as a Red Herring.
- An episode of Mr. Bean: The Animated Series has Bean getting his credit card eaten by an ATM because he kept inputting the wrong PIN number. After he gets his credit card back he finally realises he was holding the piece of paper that he wrote his PIN number on upside-down.
- In an episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series, 625 finds an inactive experiment, which is labeled with its number like all the others. Gantu looks up its number (611), discovering that it is an "unstoppable superweapon", and sends it to Hämsterviel, reporting that he found it. 625, angered by Gantu taking credit for his discovery, warns him of karma coming back to bite him, and it does: the experiment was actually 119, which was a much less useful experiment Hämsterviel did not actually want to deal with.
- In The Loud House episode, "Home of the Fave", when Lola and Lynn Sr. are playing pageant, Lola seems to give Lynn Sr. a score of 9, but the card was upside down and his real score is 6, which he's okay with.