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Lost in Translation: Inverted Sign in Kuala Lumpur

Why would this shop intentionally invert their sign? Was it lost in translation or was there a clever reason?

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I was walking through the streets of Kuala Lumpur when a shop’s sign caught my attention. It wasn’t the usual misuse of an English word or poor grammar or an absolute syntax fail. It was simply inverted, like how the word “ambulance” is written backwards on the front of ambulances in the USA so it reads correctly in a rear view mirror. There were three languages written on the sign — Malay, Chinese, and English — so this wasn’t a blunder where the people simply didn’t know which way the Latin alphabet should be arranged.

Why the hell would a shop intentionally put up an inverted version of their sign?

As I stood there I found myself momentarily stumped.

Then I looked a little closer:

It was a print shop. They sell things like customized rubber stamps.


For a second there it was I who was lost in translation.


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Filed under: Lost in Translation, Malaysia

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3715 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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