The Annotated Pratchett File
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The Annotated Pratchett File
which I’m not going to include here. Sufﬁce it to say that
it’s full of phrases like “yellow, glutinous goo”, “the head
exudes a black slime” and “I’ve smelled these from 50
paces on a still day”.
And no, the Phallus Impudicus is not edible.
– [ p. 102 ] “A lot of equipment had been moved away,
however, to make room for a billiard table. [. . . ] ‘My
word. Perhaps we’re adding just the right amount of
camphor to the nitro-cellulose after all —’ ”
In reality, nitro-cellulose (also known as guncotton) is an
extremely explosive substance that was discovered by
people trying to make artiﬁcial ivory for billiard balls.
Camphor is nicely ﬂammable in its own right.
– [ p. 103 ] “ ‘Oh well. Back to the crucible.”
As well as being alchemist-speak for ‘back to the drawing
board’ (a crucible is a container used in high-temperature
melting), there is also the Crucible Theatre in Shefﬁeld
where the World Snooker Championships are played.
– [ p. 104 ] “ ‘Haven’t you seen his portrait of the Mona
Ogg. [. . . ] The teeth followed you around the room.
It can easily be observed that the Mona Lisa’s eyes follow
one around the room; Leonardo da Vinci supposedly
achieved this by using some mysterious painting
technique that only the greatest of painters are capable
of. But as Tom Burnham explains in his Dictionary of
Misinformation: “The eyes-that-follow-you trick is a
simple one, used by innumerable artists in everything
from posters to billboards.”
– [ p. 108 ] “ ‘Brother Grineldi did the old heel-and-toe
trick [. . . ]’ ”
Joseph (Joey) Grimaldi was a famous English clown and
pantomime of the 19th century. He was so inﬂuential and
instrumental in creating the modern concept of the clown
that circus clowns are still called “Joeys” after him.
– [ p. 113 ] “Possibly, if you fought your way through the
mysterious old coats hanging in it, you’d break through
into a magical fairyland full of talking animals and
goblins, but it’d probably not be worth it.”
Reference to the children’s classic The Lion, The Witch
and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. See also the annotation
for p. 22 of Sourcery.
– [ p. 116 ] “I’m on the path, he thought. I don’t have to
know where it leads. I just have to follow.”
This is almost a direct quote from a scene in David
Lynch’s cult TV series Twin Peaks:
Agent Cooper: “God help me, I don’t know
where to start.”
Hawk: “You’re on the path. You don’t need to
know where it leads. Just follow.”
– [ p. 117 ] Zorgo the Retrophrenologist.
For a while I thought we had ﬁnally found a troll whose
name wasn’t mineral-related, but no: zorgite is a metallic
copper-lead selenide, found at Zorge, in the German Harz
– [ p. 119 ] “ ‘It’s Oggham,’ said Carrot.”
See the annotation for p. 219 of Lords and Ladies.
– [ p. 119 ] “Soss, egg, beans and rat 12p. Soss, rat and
fried slice 10p. [. . . ]”
People keep seeing a Monty Python reference in this,
because they are reminded of the “Eggs, bacon, beans
and spam. . . ” sketch.
But Terry says: “It’s not really Python. Until recently
transport cafes always had menus like that, except that
‘Chips’ was the recurrent theme. I used to go to one
where you could order: Doublegg n Chips n Fried Slice,
Doublegg n Doublechips n Doublebeans n Soss. . .
..and so on. . .
The key thing was that you couldn’t avoid the chips. I
think if anyone’d ever ordered a meal without chips
they’d have been thrown out.
Note for UK types: this place was the White Horse Café
at Cherhill on the A4. Probably just a memory. It wasn’t
far from where some famous rock star lunched himself in
his car, although, come to think of it, not on chips.”
– [ p. 120 ] Some people on a.f.p. indicated that they had
difﬁculty understanding just what the Gargoyle was
saying, so here is a translation into English of his side of
“Right you are.”
“Cornice overlooking broadway.”
“Ah. You work for Mister Carrot?”
“Oh, yes. Everyone knows Carrot.”
“He comes up here sometimes and talks to us.”
“No. He put his foot on my head. And let off a
ﬁrework. I saw him run away along
“He had a stick. A ﬁrework stick.”
“Firework. You know? Bang! Sparks! Rockets!
“Yes. That’s what I said.”
“No, idiot! A stick, you point, it goes BANG!”
– [ p. 120 ] “[. . . ] the strangest, and possibly saddest,
species on Discworld is the hermit elephant.”
Our real world’s hermit crab (which can be found on
islands like Bermuda) behaves similarly: it has no
protective shell of its own, so it utilises the shells of dead
land snails. The reason why the hermit crab is one of the
sadder species in our world as well is given in Stephen
Jay Gould’s essay ‘Nature’s Odd Couples’ (published in
his collection The Panda’s Thumb ): the shells that form
the crabs’ natural habitat are from a species of snail that
has been extinct since the 19th century. The hermit crabs
on Bermuda are only surviving by recycling old fossil
shells, of which there are fewer and fewer as time goes
on, thus causing the hermit crab to become, slowly but
surely, just as extinct as the snails.
– [ p. 123 ] “ ‘He also did the Quirm Memorial, the
Hanging Gardens of Ankh, and the Colossus of
The last two items are equivalents of two of our world’s
‘seven wonders of antiquity’: the Hanging Gardens of
Babylon and the Colossus of Rhodes. The Quirm
APF v9.0, August 2004
memorial is less obvious. Perhaps Mausoleus’ Tomb?
There is also a similarity between the Colossus of
Morpork and the sequence in Rob Reiner’s 1985 movie
This Is Spinal Tap where a Stonehenge menhir,
supposedly 30 feet high, is constructed to be 30 inches
high, and ends up being trodden on by a dwarf.
– [ p. 124 ] “[. . . ] the kind of song where people dance in
the street and give the singer apples and join in and a
dozen lowly match girls suddenly show amazing
choreographical ability [. . . ]”
Terry is probably just referring to a generic stage musical
stereotype here, but the production number mentioned
most frequently by my correspondents as ﬁtting the
context is ‘Who Will Buy?’ from Oliver!, the musical
version of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.
– [ p. 127 ] “ ‘Some in rags, and some in tags, and one in a
velvet gown. . . it’s in your Charter, isn’t it?’ ”
This comes from the nursery rhyme Hark! Hark!. The
Mother Goose version goes:
Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark,
The beggars are coming to town;
Some in rags, some in tags,
And some in velvet gown.
Opies’ Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes gives the
last two lines as:
Some in rags, some in jags,
And one in a velvet gown.
Terry’s household nursery rhyme book must strike a
balance between these two versions. The rhyme is said to
be about the mob of Dutchmen that William of Orange
brought over with him to England in 1688, with the “one
in a velvet gown” being the Prince himself. Or else it is a
reference to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries,
forcing monks to beg on the streets for a living. Take your
– [ p. 130 ] “ ‘A sixteen, an eight, a four, a one!’ ”
This makes perfect sense: since trolls have silicon brains,
naturally they’d think in binary. Every number, no matter
how large can be represented in binary (29, for instance,
is 11101; sixteen plus eight plus four plus one). Cuddy is
therefore absolutely right when he points out to Detritus:
“If you can count to two, you can count to anything!”
– [ p. 131 ] “ ‘That,’ said Vimes, ‘was a bloody awful cup of
coffee, Sham.’ [. . . ] ‘And a doughnut’.”
This entire scene is a loose parody of Twin Peaks, where
the protagonists are forever eating doughnuts and
drinking “damn ﬁne coffee”.
– [ p. 131 ] “ ‘And give me some more coffee. Black as
midnight on a moonless night.”
In one of the early Twin Peaks episodes, Agent Cooper
praises the coffee at the Great Northern Hotel, and is
very precise in ordering breakfast, specifying the way the
bacon etc. should be cooked and asking for a cup of
coffee which is “Black as moonlight on a moonless night”.
Although the waitress at the Hotel is considerably less
inclined to nitpick than Sham Harga, she also makes a
comment along the lines of “That’s a pretty tough order”.
– [ p. 133 ] “ ‘[. . . ] clown Boffo, the corpus derelicti,
[. . . ]’ ”
“Corpus delicti” is a Latin phrase meaning the victim’s
body in a murder case.
– [ p. 133 ] “The whole nose business looked like a
conundrum wrapped up in an enigma [. . . ]”
Paraphrase of a famous quote by Winston Churchill,
referring to Russia: “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery
inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.”
– [ p. 135 ] “ ‘He went into Grope Alley!’ ”
Terry has conﬁrmed that Grope Alley is based on
Threadneedle Street in the City of London, which used to
be the haunt of prostitutes and hence rejoiced in the
name ‘Gropecunte Lane’ — its modern name is just a
more euphemistic way of putting things. It’s the site of
the Bank of England. Some would consider this to be
There’s also a Grope Alley in Shrewsbury, getting its
name from the Tudor buildings on either side almost
meeting each other at roof level, causing one to have to
– [ p. 139 ] “ ‘The word ‘polite’ comes from ‘polis’, too. It
used to mean proper behaviour from someone living in a
As far as I can tell this is utter and total balderdash.
‘Policeman’ indeed comes from ‘polis’, but ‘polite’ comes
from the Latin ‘polire’, to polish.
– [ p. 140 ] “Vimes had believed all his life that the Watch
were called coppers because they carried copper badges,
but no, said Carrot, it comes from the old word cappere,
This, however, appears to be true, according to Brewer’s,
who says that it is “more likely” that ‘copper’ derives
from ‘cop’ (instead of the other way around!), as in the
verb ‘to cop something’, which indeed comes from the
Latin ‘capere’, to take.
– [ p. 143 ] “He pushed his hot food barrow through
streets broad and narrow, crying: ‘Sausages! Hot
Sausages! Inna bun!’ ”
From the folk song ‘Molly Malone’:
In Dublin’s fair city
Where the maids are so pretty
I ﬁrst set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
She wheels her wheel-barrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying “cockles and mussels alive alive-o”
I am told that the statue that was put up in Dublin in
honour of Molly was such an artistic failure that it is now
fondly known by the Dubliners as “The Tart with the
– [ p. 145 ] “ ‘I call it a ﬂapping-wing-ﬂying-device, [. . . ] It
works by gutta-percha strips twisted tightly together.’ ”
This time, Leonard has invented the
rubber-band-powered model aeroplane.
– [ p. 146 ] “[. . . ] wondering how the hell he came up
with the idea of pre-sliced bread in the ﬁrst place.”
MEN AT ARMS
The Annotated Pratchett File
From the saying (of inventions): “the greatest thing since
– [ p. 146 ] “ ‘My cartoons,’ said Leonard. ‘This is a good
one of the little boy with his kite stuck in a tree,’ said
The reference to Charlie Brown’s struggle against the
kite-eating tree in Charles M. Shultz’s comic strip
Peanuts will be obvious to most readers, but perhaps not
everyone will realise that in Leonardo da Vinci’s time a
cartoon was also a full-size sketch used to plan a painting.
– [ p. 149 ] “ ‘They do things like open the Three Jolly
Luck Take-away Fish Bar on the site of the old temple in
Dagon Street on the night of the Winter solstice when it
also happens to be a full moon.’ ”
I’m rather proud of ﬁguring this one out, because I really
hadn’t a clue as to why this Fish Bar would be such a bad
idea. Then it occurred to me to look up the word ‘Dagon’.
Webster’s doesn’t have it, but luckily Brewer saves the
day, as usual: ‘Dagon’ is the Hebrew name for the god
Atergata of the Philistines; half woman and half ﬁsh.
It was actually a Dagon temple that the biblical Samson
managed to push down in his ﬁnal effort to annoy the
Philistenes (Judges 16:23, “Then the lords of the
Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great
sacriﬁce unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they
said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our
After including this annotation in earlier editions of the
, there have been numerous emails from people
pointing out that H. P. Lovecraft also uses the entity
Father Dagon as the leader of the Deep Ones in some of
his horror stories. Terry has conﬁrmed, however, that the
inspiration for his Dagon goes back to the original source,
not Lovecraft’s incarnation.
– [ p. 153 ] “[. . . ] Dibbler, achieving with his cart the kind
of getaway customarily associated with vehicles that have
ﬂuffy dice on the windscreen [. . . ]”
Take an old, battered car of the type that the Waynes and
Kevins of our world (boyfriends to Sharon and Tracey —
see the annotation for p. 95 of Reaper Man) often drive —
a Ford Cortina or Capri is the usual candidate in the UK.
Respray it metallic purple. Some go-faster stripes,
possibly a la ‘Starsky and Hutch’ may be appropriate at
this time. Plaster rear window with car stickers in
dubious taste: “Passion wagon — don’t laugh it could be
your daughter inside”, “My other car is a Porsche”, or
Ankh-Morpork”. Advanced students might like
to experiment with a stick-on cuddly Garﬁeld in the rear
window. Put in stretch seat-covers, preferably in
luminous pink fur. Add a Sun-strip, possibly with the
names of the owner and ‘His bird’ on them (so they can
remember where to sit presumably). Hang a pair of ﬂuffy
dice from the rear-view mirror. That kind of vehicle.
– [ p. 155 ] “ ‘Chrysoprase, he not give a coprolith about
that stuff.’ ”
Coprolith = a fossilised turd.
– [ p. 158 ] “ ‘He say, you bad people, make me angry, you
stop toot sweet.’ ”
“Toute de suite” = immediately. One of the few bits of
French that the typical Brit is said to remember from
schooldays. “Toot sweet” is a common mispronunciation
for comic effect.
– [ p. 158 ] “ ‘C. M. O. T. Dibbler’s Genuine Authentic
Soggy Mountain Dew,’ she read.”
Terry is not referring to Mountain Dew, the American soft
drink, but is using the term in its original meaning, as a
colloquialism for whisky — particularly, the homemade
– [ p. 165 ] VIA CLOACA
The major sewer in ancient Rome, running down into the
Tiber, was called the Cloaca Maxima. Anything with ‘Via’
in its name would have been a street or road. The Cloaca
Maxima was actually a tunnel.
– [ p. 178 ] “[. . . ] huge scrubbing brushes, three kinds of
soap, a loofah.”
Loofah is a genus of tropical climbing plant bearing a
fruit, the ﬁbrous skeleton of which is used for scrubbing
backs in the bath.
– [ p. 180 ] “ ‘Hi-ho — ‘— hi-ho —’ ‘Oook oook oook oook
ook —’ ”
The dwarvish hiho-song. See the annotation for p. 73 of
– [ p. 181 ] “ ‘He said “Do Deformed Rabbit, it’s my
favourite”,’ Carrot translated.”
Running gag. See also the annotation for p. 162 of Small
– [ p. 190 ] “ ‘All right, no one panic, just stop what you’re
doing, stop what you’re doing, please. I’m Corporal
Nobbs, Ankh-Morpork City Ordnance Inspection City
Audit — [. . . ] Bureau . . . Special . . . Audit . . .
Nobby is imitating Eddie Murphy. Terry explains:
“Almost a trademark of the basic Murphy character in a
tight spot is to whip out any badge or piece of paper that
looks vaguely ofﬁcial and simply gabble ofﬁcial-sounding
jargon, which sounds as if he’s making it up as he goes
along but nevertheless browbeats people into doing what
he wants. As in:
‘I’m special agent Axel Foley of the Special . . . Division
. . . Secret . . . Anti-Drugs . . . Secret . . . Undercover . . .
Taskforce, that’s who I am, and I want to know right now
who’s in charge here, right now!’
Cpl Nobbs uses this technique to get into the Armoury in
– [ p. 191 ] “ ‘Have you got one of those Hershebian
twelve-shot bows with the gravity feed?’ he snapped.
‘Eh? What you see is what we got, mister.’ ”
This is straight from The Terminator. Arnold says to the
gun shop owner: “Have you got a phase plasma riﬂe in
the 40 watt range?” and the shopkeeper responds: “Hey,
just what you see, pal”.
There’s also a WYSIWYG resonance here, see the
annotation for p. 45 of The Science of Discworld.
APF v9.0, August 2004
– [ p. 193 ] “ ‘Oh, wow! A Klatchian ﬁre engine! This is
more my meteor!’ ”
Perhaps obvious, but this really had me puzzled until I
realised that ‘meteor’ refers back to Sgt Colon’s use of
the French word ‘métier’ a few pages back. . .
– [ p. 195 ] “ ‘No sir! Taking Flint and Morraine, sir!’ ”
These two trolls ﬁrst appeared as actors in Moving
As far as their names go, Flint is obvious, but I had to
look up Morraine: Webster spells it with one ‘r’, and
deﬁnes it as “the debris of rocks, gravel, etc. left by a
An email correspondent subsequently pointed out to me
that Webster’s deﬁnition is lacking, because (a) the
spelling with two r’s is valid, and (b) morraine is
unstratiﬁed debris only. If it were stratiﬁed it would be
called esker or kame, which are of course ﬂuvioglacial
products rather than just glacial ones.
Hey, don’t look at me — I’m just the messenger. . .
– [ p. 196 ] “Sometimes it’s better to light a ﬂamethrower
than curse the darkness.”
From the old saying: “It is better to light a candle than
curse the darkness”.
– [ p. 196 ] “ ‘Lord Vetinari won’t stop at sarcasm. He
might use’ — Colon swallowed — ‘irony.’ ”
This reminded many correspondents of Monty Python’s
Vercotti: I’ve seen grown men pull their own
heads off rather than see Doug. Even
Dinsdale was frightened of Doug.
Interviewer: What did he do?
Vercotti: He used sarcasm. He knew all the
tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos,
puns, parody, litotes and satire.
Presenter: By a combination of violence and
sarcasm the Piranha brothers, by February
1966, controlled London and the South East.
– [ p. 200 ] “ ‘I mean, I don’t mean well-endowed with
Very obvious, but still: it is the conventional stereotype
that both under-sized males as well as black males are
‘better-endowed’ than white males. Hence the joke:
‘What is ﬁfteen inches long and white?’ Answer:
– [ p. 203 ] “ ‘Shall we be off. . . Joey, wasn’t it? Dr
Another Grimaldi reference. See the annotation for
– [ p. 204 ] “ ‘All those little heads. . . ’ ”
Clowns’ faces are trademarked and cannot be copied by
any other clown (unlike clothes or a speciﬁc act). If you
are a clown, you can send a photograph of your face to
the Clown and Character Registry, where the face is then
painted on a goose egg (a tradition dating back to the
1500s) and stored.
– [ p. 210 ] “ ‘Stuffed with nourishin’ marrowbone jelly,
that bone,’ he said accusingly.”
All through the 1960s and 1970s, TV commercials for Pal
(“Prolongs Active Life”) dog food used to claim that it
contained “nourishing marrowbone jelly”, and showed an
oozing bone to prove it.
– [ p. 212 ] “Gonnes don’t kill people. People kill people.”
Slogan of the US National Riﬂe Association.
– [ p. 216 ] “ ‘It’s Bluejohn and Bauxite, isn’t it?’ said
More troll names. For Bauxite see the annotation for
p. 37. Bluejohn is another one I had to look up, and again
I was saved by Brewer’s, because Webster’s doesn’t have
it. Blue John is “A petrifaction of blue ﬂuor-spar, found in
the Blue John mine of Tre Cliff, Derbyshire; and so called
to distinguish it from the Black Jack, an ore of zinc.
Called John from John Kirk, a miner, who ﬁrst noticed it.”.
Brewer’s may not have the ﬁnal word on this, however. A
correspondent tells me that Blue John is actually derived
from a rock called ‘Bleu-Jaune’ (blue-yellow) because of
its mixed colouring. This rock was originally named in
French either because it was ﬁrst found shortly after the
Norman invasion or because the buyers were primarily
– [ p. 216 ] “ ‘Remember, every lance-constable has a
ﬁeld-marshal’s baton in his knapsack.’ ”
“Every French soldier carries in his cartridge-pouch the
baton of a marshal of France.” Said originally by
Napoleon, though of course he would have pronounced it
as “Tout soldat francais porte dans sa giberne le baton de
mere’chal de France.”
Note that on p. 226 Detritus repeats the phrase as “You
got a ﬁeld-marshal’s button in your knapsack”, while on
p. 230 Cuddy creatively manages “You could have a
ﬁeld-marshal’s bottom in your napkin”.
– [ p. 218 ] “ ‘Only two-er things come from Slice
Mountain! Rocks. . . an’. . . an’. . . ’ he struck out wildly,
‘other sortsa rocks! What kind you, Bauxite?’ ”
Detritus in drill sergeant mode replays a scene from the
movie An Ofﬁcer and a Gentleman, in which sergeant
Foley (played by Louis Gossett, Jr) has a conversation
with a new recruit as follows:
Sgt Foley: “You a queer?”
Sid Worley: “Hell no sir!”
Sgt Foley: “Where you from, boy?”
Sid Worley: “Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, sir.”
Sgt Foley: “Ah! Only two things come out of
Oklahoma. Steers and queers.”
A very similar exchange also occurs in Stanley Kubrick’s
movie Full Metal Jacket. Only there the offending state is
Texas. And the Sgt’s language is a bit more, um,
colourful. See also the annotation for p. 62.
– [ p. 224 ] “ ‘You just shut up, Abba Stronginthearm!’ ”
One of the members of the legendary Swedish pop group
Abba was Bjorn Ulvaeus. Obviously, by Discworld logic, if
Bjorn is a typical dwarf name, so is Abba. Not to mention
the ‘Bjorn Again’ pun Death makes on p. 62: Bjorn Again
is the name of an Australian band with a repertoire that
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