By page number
Page numbers refer to the U.S. edition
Cover - The cover design was inspired by the original Star Wars film poster, because there are other Star Wars references in the book.
Title- Around 1986 several mentally stressed U.S. Postal Service employees went on a shooting rampage at post offices, killing employees and bystanders. This resulted in the U.S. Postal Service (and many other organizations) re-evaluating employee work conditions and decreasing stress in the work place. The term has remained in U.S. slang for when an employee or ex-employee goes on a murder rampage at his workplace, though it is more used to predict that someone is getting upset with job conditions enough to go postal. In the book this emotional condition is perfectly represented by Stanley.
Character Annotation on Tolliver Groat:-
The name, the character description, and the Gormenghast-like Post office building, are straight out of Mervyn Peake: Tolliver Groat's personal take on the grotesque means that he could walk in to Peake's fantasy virtually as is. Indeed, Groat's dogged adherence to rule and ritual, his having practically memorised the Post Office rulebook long after the system has effectively collapsed and his insistence the rules still be followed because, well, they are the Rules, is reminiscent of Ghormenghast's Master of Ceremonies, the ageing, repellent, and soap-innocent Barquentine. Moist von Lipwig has arrived in the Post Office system in time to be a less malevolent Steerpike - ie, the character who shakes the system up and reinvigorates it. (Hmmm, Moist as Steerpike in a Ghormenghast-like system - the manipulative outsider who causes a stir and gets things done). Steerpike also, metaphorically and literally, climbs from the lowest Hell-like depths of the kitchens where is otherwise imprisoned for life as a lowly scullion, to the higher floors of the castle - via the outside of the building - where nobody questions his right to be there and he can re-integrate himself at a higher social level with a series of plausible cover stories. Compare this to Moist's resurrection from the dead and rebirth into a higher social position. The climbing metaphor becomes more explicit in Making Money, where, as with Steerpike's desperation climb, Moist is found edificeering on the exterior of his own building and just about to be exposed as a thief and a crook - for all the wrong reasons...
(p8) US hardcover- – reference to “the clacks” – this is a Discworld version of a telegraph or fax machine and is based on “A semaphore telegraph, optical telegraph, shutter telegraph chain, Chappe telegraph, or Napoleonic semaphore is a system of conveying information by means of visual signals, using towers with pivoting shutters, also known as blades or paddles. Information is encoded by the position of the mechanical elements; it is read when the shutter is in a fixed position. These systems were popular in the late 18th - early 19th century.”(Wikipedia)
(p11) US hardcover - "They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man’s mind wonderfully” – This is a paraphrase of a quote by Samuel Johnson: "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
(p11) " 'Er... it's not as bad a thing I do now...er'" – Perhaps this is a spoof of the famous speech Sidney Carton says before he is executed in Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. There is some ironic similarity here. Carton stepped in nobly to die for another man whom he physically resembled. Here, Moist is being executed under the alias of Albert Spangler. In both cases, Carton and von Lipwig are dying under someone else's name.
(p12) "What you had to do in this life was get past the pineapple, Moist told himself. It was big and sharp and knobbly, but there might be peaches underneath. It was a myth to live by and so, right now, totally useless." – This philosophy is mentioned many times in the book and sounds like a somewhat ironic send-up of Forrest Gump's philosophy about life and a box of chocolates.
(p13)US hardcover: Mr. Wilkinson “I told him, sir, that fruit baskets is like life: until you’ve got the pineapple off’t the top you never know what’s underneath.” – Reminiscent of the Forrest Gump quote: “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.’”
A dialogue in The Last Continent presages the whole getting past the pineapple bit. Corgi PB pp64-67, where amongst other things the Senior Wrangler discloses his aunt was a victim of one, a woman who literally could not get past the pineapple.
(p20) "They'd clamped it. They'd bloody clamped it...." – The bright yellow tire lock (wheel boots) is sometimes used by law enforcement in our world for the same purpose.
(p22) "'Mr. Pump does not sleep. Mr. Pump does not eat. And Mr. Pump, Postmaster General, does not stop.'"
- Possibly a paraphrase from the 1984 film The Terminator: "That Terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!"
- It's close to a quote from the 1999 film The Mummy: "He will never eat, he will never sleep, and he will never stop."
(p23) "'Wait! Wait! There's a rule! A golem mustn't harm a human being or allow a human being to come to harm!'" – This is the first of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (Golems are the Discworld equivalent of robots). Asimov, of course, didn't add the conditional "unless ordered to do so by duly constituted authority" that Vetinari did.
(p26) "'"NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW NOR GLO M OF NI T CAN STAY THESE MES ENGERS ABO T THEIR DUTY."'" – The inscription on the General Post Office in New York City reads: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." This was also referenced in Men at Arms.
(p26) "'Who's Mrs. Cake?... They seem pretty frightened of her." – Mrs. Cake, first introduced in Reaper Man, is a psychic medium who, more importantly, runs a boarding house for the undead of Ankh-Morpork.
(p33)US hardcover(footnote) “Dimwell Arrhythmic Rhyming Slang” is a variation on Cockney rhyming slang. The example, “Apples and Pears” is from Cockney slang. Rhyming Slang phrases are derived from taking an expression which rhymes with a word and then using that expression instead of the word. For example the word "look" rhymes with "butcher's hook". In many cases the rhyming word is omitted - so you won't find too many Londoners having a "butcher's hook" at this site, but you might find a few having a "butcher's". The rhyming word is not always omitted so Cockney expressions can vary in their construction, and it is simply a matter of convention which version is used. (from http://www.cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk)
(p47) "'[Wings] on his hat and his ankles,' said Stanley. "So he could fly the messages at the speed of ... messages.'" – Mercury (Hermes to the Greeks) was the messenger to the gods in general and Jupiter (Zeus) in particular. He's commonly depicted with a winged cap and ankles. As well as making a neat stand-alone joke, the concept of the modesty-saving fig-leaf also having wings neatly pokes fun at the reason why fig-leaves went on public statuary in the first place. These were a Victorian invention devised to spare unmarried ladies under thirty from the sight even of sculpted male genitalia, carved by their unthinking forebears in earlier centuries. statues up to and including Michelangelo's David, which for several hundred years had flaunted all, were issued the standard fig-leaf. (The fig was chosen ostensibly because the Bible identifies it as the leaf used by Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness, when they saw they were naked, and they were ashamed.) This contributor has been to the National Museum in Berlin, where a rotunda houses old statues on which, without exception, the penises of the males on display have been excised and drilled through, so as to house the mounting for the fig-leaf... ouch... Of course, a second referent for fig leaves with wings comes from wall frescoes discovered intact at the Roman sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. On these imaginatively bawdy paintings, you may see that which the Victorians thought necessary to cover with a fig leaf, but flying round independently of any attached body, propelled by their very own sets of wings. In one mural, young women are trying to catch them as they buzz around in a flotilla... indeed, a popular lucky charm/religious amulet worn by Romans, frequently discovered in archaeological digs, was a pendant of an erect penis and testicles, with wings. This apparently symbolised fertility and good health as well as assuring a healthy sex life. It was worn around the neck in the same way other religions might wear a cross, or indeed a turtle. (Why do you get the feeling the wrong religion won in ancient Rome?) I also can't help thinking of the Special Air Service's winged dagger cap badge in a new and Freudian light here... Conflating these two concepts - Victorian prudery and healthy bawdiness - in the form of a confused-looking fig leaf with wings on, would suggest Ankh-Morpork is a place confused about what its attitude to sexuality should be... just like modern Britain, in fact!
Also note Om-as-Tortoise's desperate curse on Brother Nhumrod in Small Gods (Corgi pb p 40) - "Your sexual organs to sprout wings and fly away!"
(p56) "'Be with you in jus't one moment, s'ir, I'm ju'st—'" – Greengrocers throughout the English-speaking world (but in England in particular) are known for their persistent abuse of the apostrophe-ess combination on their handwritten signs.
(p63) "'The free golems work 24-8...." – It's rarely mentioned anymore that the number eight is magically significant on the Disc and tends to occur wherever our world would use a seven. In particular, the Discworld week is 8 days long. But at this point, go to your copy of Going Postal, which is the first Discworld book to be separated into formal chapters. (Each has a heading where the chapter contents are summarised at the start, in the manner of a Victorian morality fable). Now look at the chapter heading for the one that comes in between Chapter Seven and Chapter Nine. Look closely at it.
(p72) "'However, I note that since you acquired the Grand Trunk at a fraction of its value, breakdowns are increasing, the speed of messages has slowed down, and the cost to customers has risen.'" – While there are some parallels to the Grand Trunk and America's now-broken AT&T telecommunications monopoly, there are far more parallels to the UK's British Telecom, which is still a monopoly there and has very few friends among its consumers. Interestingly, the history of BT is that it was originally part of the British Post Office and was still known as "Post Office Telecommunications" until 1980, shortly before it became privatized.
(p74) "'This, my lord'," said Gilt, gesturing to the little side table..."'Is this not an original hnaflbaflsniflwhifltafl slab?'" –The Vikings were known to have played a game called hnefatafl (king's board). It consisted of a marked board and peg-like pieces and seems to have some similarities to backgammon. "Hnefatafl" seems to be the origin of the word used for the Discworld game.
Of course we learn much more about this game in Thud!
(p83)US hardcover: Stanley: “See a pin pick it up and all day long you’ll have a pin.” – A variation on the Roundworld rhyme “See a pin pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.”
(p83) "'They were hand-drawn and had his trademark silver head with a microscopic engraving of a cockerel.'" – Perhaps this is a reference to the fancy microscopic engravings computer chip designers use when endorsing their work.
(p96) "'Do you understand anything I'm saying?' shouted Moist. 'You can't just go around killing people!' 'Why Not?'" – Paraphrasing from Terminator 2 this time. John Connor: "You can't just go around killing people!" Terminator: "Why?" "What do you mean, why? Because you can't!" "Why?"
(p99(British edition)). Grandad's speech on "We keep that name moving in the Overhead", referring to the mysterious death of John Dearheart and the great unhappiness this has provoked among long-time Linesmen. The following text quotes almost verbatim from Glen Campbell's country and western hit Wichita Lineman, about the life and death of an electrical lineman in the heart of the USA....
(p104(Corgi edition)) "It overwhelms the soul, very much like the state he elsewhere describes as Vonallesvolkommenunverstandlichdasdaskeit. " – This German is a bit mangled. With proper spaces it is "Von Alles Vollkommen unverständlich das das -keit" which translates as "from everything completely non-understandable (incomprehensible) the (neutrum) the (neutrum)" and a suffix changing a word into a noun (this might refer to "unverständlich": Unverständlichkeit would be incomprehensibility). This also appears to foreshadow the extensive employment of cod-German philosophy which defines Mr Nutt's character in Unseen Academicals
Freidegger is a clever pun on the famous German philosopher Heidegger[] who wrote about time. (And he is difficult to understand either in his native German or in a translation). The German word "Frei" means "free", therefore suited to the recurring topic of freedom in the book. In German and posssibly also in Überwaldean, Freitag is a day of the week: Friday, when most people are freed of the burden of having to work for a living and get the weekend to themselves. An advertising campaign for chocolate cleverly used the slogan That Friday Feeling, and we have the acronym TGIF, for Thank God It's Friday!" to denote that expansive Friday-night feeling at the start of the weekend. (Although I should point out, in the name of accuracy, that the current name "Freitag" is not derived from "Free - day" but from the old Norse Goddess Freya)
(p105) "The Marthter ith having one of hith little thoireeth, thur" – In the Rocky Horror (Picture) Show, the hunchbacked servant tells the innocents "You've come on a rather special night. The Master is having one of his affairs..."
(p106) "Reacher Gilt certainly looked like a pirate, with his long, curly black hair, pointed beard, and eyepatch. He was even said to have a parrot." – The name "Reacher Gilt" is itself a pun on "Long John Silver", the pirate captain from Treasure Island. Gilt's name, appearance and libertarian-capitalist ideology has stronger resonances with Ayn Rand's charismatic capitalist hero John Galt and pirate Ragnar Danneskjold, from Atlas Shrugged. There may also be suggestions of English billionaire playboy-investor Richard Branson.
There may also be links and distant echoes to the plot and characters of Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy, also in this context a work of satire which parodies Ayn Rand's right-wing libertarian and extreme free-market philosophy. In this book, a "book within a book" is a parody of Ayn Rand's polemic, called Telemachus Sneezed.
(p106) "Twelve and a half percent! Twelve and a half percent!" – As Moist almost explains later in the book, this is a financial joke. Long John Silver's parrot always repeated "Pieces of eight!" Pieces of eight were one-eighth pieces of a gold dollar coin. A dollar is one hundred cents, and one hundred percent make a whole. Twelve and a half percent, then, is exactly one-eighth of a dollar--a piece of eight.
(p129) "les buggeures risible" – Pig French for "Silly Buggers", a common English slang term for deliberately obstructive activity. ("Someone's playing silly buggers, here...")
(p131) "This was going to be...ironic. They'd actually got hold of Lipwigzers!" – The author possibly seems to be punning on Weimaraners (), which are a German breed of dog that take their name from the Grand Duke of Weimar, Karl August. The cover of the UK edition depicts two dogs similar in appearance to Rottweilers. (And there is Rottweil)
(p131) US hardcover: Worshipful Master: “Yes, well, you know what we used to say: you do have to be mad to work here!” – a spin on the Roundworld saying: “You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps” This is reinforced on (page 165) when Moist looks at the unfortunate selection of mugs Stanley has used for preparing tea for him and Sacharissa Cripslock. The cup Moist receives has a jokey message which has faded from You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps to Be mad - it helps!
(p137) "'Look, I'm not the One you're looking for!'" – Possibly, but not clearly, a reference to Neo's role as the One in the Matrix films. Or, more likely, a reference to Graham Chapman's increasingly perplexed and angry Brian in Monty Python's The Life of Brian. This is also the title of a song by American goth-rockers the Blue Öyster Cult, about having to settle not for what you want, but for the best deal you can actually get. Another possible reference is to the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in which Obi-Wan Kenobi uses the force to deceive soldiers saying: "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
(p137) "Deliver Us!" – A pun on the Israelites' cry from the Biblical book of Exodus.
(p146) "'Three and a bit, that's the ticket. Only Bloody Stupid Johnson said that was untidy, so he designed a wheel where the pie was exactly three.'" – There's an old mathematical limerick about this very
- It's a favorite hobby of mine
- A new value for pi to assign.
- I would set it to three
- 'Cause it's simpler, you see,
- Than three point one four one five nine.
It also reminds me of the story of the legislature of an US state setting a definitive value for Pi.
Quote: It happened in Indiana. Although the attempt to legislate pi was ultimately unsuccessful, it did come pretty close. In 1897 Representative T.I. Record of Posen county introduced House Bill #246 in the Indiana House of Representatives. The bill, based on the work of a physician and amateur mathematician named Edward J. Goodwin (Edwin in some accounts), suggests not one but three numbers for pi, among them 3.2, as we shall see. The punishment for unbelievers I have not been able to learn, but I place no credence in the rumor that you had to spend the rest of your natural life in Indiana. Full story here [].
The urban legend spoofing the creationism struggle here []
(p153) "My gods, it's you! I thought for a second sun had appeared in the sky!" (Spike reacts from seeing Lipwig in his golden suit for the first time.) On first reading, it may appear that something is wrong with this sentence. However, if punctuated thus: "I thought, for a second, sun had appeared in the sky!", the interpretation is clearer.
(p156) "'Coo, you're a good draw-er, Mr. Lipwig. That looks just like Lord Vetinari!' 'That's the penny stamp,' said Moist.'" – In our world, British Postmaster-General Sir Rowland Hill designed and introduced the first penny stamp, with a profile of Queen Victoria, in 1840 after much political debate. As on the Discworld, stamp collectors began to appear almost immediately afterward.
It's interesting that Moist writes "Post Office" on his stamps. In our world, this happened once as a mistake when the stamps for Mauritius were designed. There's a nice story how the engraver forgot the correct wording (Postage Paid), took a walk to the Post Office to ask, but when he saw the sign "Post Office" turned back without asking and wrote that on the stamp. []
(p156)US hardcover: When Moist shows her his stamp designs, Adora says “What’s this? You carry your etchings with you to save time?” – Adora’s referring to the phrase "Want to come up and see my etchings," a romantic cliché in which a man entices a woman to come back to his place with an offer to look at something artistic.
(p167) "Gently, the paper tore down the line of holes." – Perforated stamp sheets didn't appear until 1857 in the U.S., seventeen years after the penny stamp was introduced.
(p175) "'I won't be long. I'm off to see the wizard.'" – The author has probably been waiting years to use this line from Frank L. Baum's The Wizard of Oz.
(p176) "Just below the dome, staring down from their niches, were statues of the Virtues: Patience, Chastity, Silence, Charity, Hope, Tubso, Bissonomy, and Fortitude." – The seven Virtues in our world (the Discworld has eight) are Hope, Charity, Faith, Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, and Prudence. Their frescoed images adorn the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy.
(p176) "These [books] are not on the public shelves lest untrained handling cause the collapse of everything that is possible to imagine.* (footnote: Again.) – There's a popular quote from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory, which states that this has already happened."
Less likely is that it is a reference to the alleged destruction of the universe that happened when the B.S. Johnson's Sorting Engine was shut down, as described on page 149 (US hardcover).
(p.179) "... and in those caves are entombed more than a hundred thousand old books, mostly religious, each one in a white linen shroud....intelligent people have always known that some words at least should be disposed of with care and respect." – In Jerusalem old or damaged Bibles and Torahs are buried in special tombs rather than destroyed. The tradition is that words are sacred and have power. The Hebrew name for such depository is "geniza", not exactly the wizards' "gevaisa", but enough to make you wonder...
(p181) "'Where do they go [when they die]?' 'No one's sure, exactly, but you can hear the sounds of cutlery,' said Pelc...." – The Viking concept of the afterlife for warriors, Valhalla, was basically an enormous and never-ending feasting hall. University wizards are likewise known for their love of a good large meal.
(p197) "But, in truth, Boris- once you got past the pineapple- wasn't too bad a ride. He'd hit his rhythm, a natural, single-footed gait..." – Single-footing is a smooth, four beat "running walk" that some horse breeds (example: Icelandic, North American Single-footer, Rocky Mountain Saddle Horse) do naturally, sometimes as fast as other horses canter. At its fastest (racing single-foot), only one foot hits the ground at a time- hence the name. The single-foot gait is very smooth and easy on a rider if he uses a special saddle and sits further back on the horse. Moist is riding bareback, carrying a heavy load over his shoulder and leaning forward so he does not get the full effect. However, he seems quite amazed Boris is smoother than expected.
(p200) "'Er... Joe Camels, sir,' he said nervously. 'I'm the mayor here...'" – Joe Camel was the (un)official name of the now-defunct mascot of Camel Cigarettes. The resemblance to the mayor ends with the name, however.
(p204) "And her hair was plaited and coiled up on either side of her head in those discs that back home in Uberwald had been called 'snails,' but in Anhk-Morpork put people in mind of a woman with a curly iced bun clamped to each ear." – Think of old German beer waitresses, not Princess Leia from Star Wars.
(p224) "'Tell me,' said Moist, 'have you ever heard of something called the Smoking Gnu?'" – A pun on "The Smoking Gun", a newsletter published by the Lone Gunmen, a trio of computer hackers (or crackers) from the television series The X-Files, on whom the members of the Smoking Gnu are based. The gun → gnu joke has also been used in Mr. Pratchett's book for children, Truckers, Chapter 9, in which a young Nome named Vinto Pimmie persistently misreads "gun" as "gnu". The real meaning of the word "gnu" refers to a species of large antelope. "Gnu" also evokes the Free Software Foundation, which promotes the development and distribution of free software.
(p230) "'What is sticking in your foot is a Mitzy "Pretty Lucretia" four-inch heel, the most dangerous footwear in the world. Considered as pounds per square inch, it's like being trodden by a very pointy elephant. Now, I know what you're thinking: you're thinking, "Could she press it all the way through to the floor?" And, you know, I'm not sure about that myself....'" – Adapted from Clint Eastwood's famous challenge in Dirty Harry: "I know what you're thinkin', punk. You're thinkin', did he fire six shots or only five? And to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. But bein' this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and it'll blow your head clean off, you could ask yourself a question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
(p235) "But now it was time to put away childish pins." – "When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." – 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) (the King James version has "but when I became a man, I put away childish things")
(p249) "'There's the Lady Sybil Free Hospital,' said Miss Dearheart. 'Is it any good?' 'Some people don't die.' 'That good, eh?'" – Lady Sybil Vimes nee Ramkin, of course, is the wife of Commander Vimes of the Watch, the Duchess of Ankh-Morpork, and in terms of assets, the wealthiest woman in the city. Up until now she's devoted herself to caring for swamp dragons, and horse doctors in Ankh-Morpork were considered more reliable for people than people doctors. This hospital is developed and now led by Dr. Lawn, on the plot of land on Attic Bee Street, near Goose Gate, that Vimes signed over to him as payment for helping Sam Jr. into the world (an event at the end of Night Watch). The accuracy of this annotation is currently under discussion, mainly regarding whether Lady Sybil actually runs the hospital or only lends her name and money. See Talk page.
Another possible reason for the name is that Dr Lawn chose to name his hospital after, basically, the main person who got him the land in the first place.
(p259)US hardcover: Moist’s idea of what a master criminal could buy: “seaside properties with real lava flows near a reliable source of piranhas” sounds like the hideout of typical James Bond villains.
(p.260(Doubleday hardcover)) "Even Miss Extremelia Mume ... was doing good business among those prepared to back an outside chance. She'd hung a banner over the door. It read: 'It Could Be YOU'".
This, along with the following paragraph's musings on hope, clearly refers to the UK National Lottery (also known as the Tax For Innumerates). The Discworld people are making small donations/prayers to the temples hoping for a monetary windfall like Moist just got. It's obvious when you remember that a 90s TV campaign for the lottery featured a giant sparkly hand coming out of the clouds to point at winners... and their slogan at the time was "It Could Be YOU" .
(p263) "The nave of the temple was deserted, except for a little old man in a grubby robe, dreamily sweeping the floor." This detail is out of place, unless it's a reference to Lu-Tze. Possibly the History Monks have taken an interest in the Post Office, or kicking Reacher Gilt out before he can become Patrician. For the History Monks to have somebody keeping an eye on an institution where a machine (the Sorting Engine) is capable of bending time and space is only logical, as well as the evidential detail that it was installed perhaps thirty years before the "present" - ie, roughly the same time that Samuel Vimes re-enters time in Night Watch. So if the destruction of one time-bending machine (the Glass Clock) is responsible for taking Vimes out of time, then the switching-on of a second time-bending machine (the Sorting Engine) might have been the trigger event dictating when Vimes and Carcer were returned to normal space-time? (Or delivered, so to speak) Alternately, it could just be a guy sweeping up after services, as the Men In Saffron don't have a monopoly on wearing robes, particularly in a temple.
(p276) Lipwig's musing about Gilt not needing "a tower with ten thousand trolls camped outside" brings to mind Saruman from The Lord of the Rings.
(p279) US hardcover: Moist says "your big words tell them it’s going to be jam tomorrow and they hope." – a reference to Alice in Wonderland, in which the Queen offers Alice jam every other day: "The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day."
(p287) US hardcover:‘Tump Tower’ refers to the Trump Tower, built by Donald Trump in New York City
(p293) "Deliver them, of course. You've got to. You are the messenger of the gods." – Another reference to Mercury.
(p300) US Hardcover: The ‘crackers’ who disrupt the Clacks line are remarkably like Roundworld computer hackers
(p304) "'There's cabbage soup, cabbage beer, cabbage fudge, cabbage cake, cream of cabbage—'" – Stanley's stream of cabbage recipes parallels Bubba's list of shrimp dishes in the movie Forrest Gump, and Monty Python's Spam sketch.
- Also used in The Science Of Discworld II, when Rincewind obsessively recites all the potato recipes he can think of to prevent the elf Queen from reading his thoughts.
(p308) "'Did you spot how the swage armature can be made to jump off the elliptical bearing if you hit the letter K and then send it to a tower with an address higher than yours but only if you hit the letter Q first and the drum spring is fully wound?'" – Certain early (and some current) computer systems could be made to fail in similar ways. Unlikely character strings can sometimes, in binary, be interpreted as system codes and cause security breaches or outright system failures. Likewise, early mechanical typewriters could lock up if the wrong series of letters were pressed in quick succession, a phenomenon which the QWERTY keyboard was designed to make less likely.
(p326) Harper paperback: Miss Dearheart says, "You know how to pray, don't you? You just put your hands together -- and hope." A play on Lauren Bacall's famous line in the 1944 film "To Have and Have Not," "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."
(p319) "'All right, but why "Smoking GNU"?' said Moist. 'That's cracker slang for a very fast message-send throughout the system,' said Sane Alex pointedly." – In our world, GNU is also a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix", and the GNU Project is an ongoing effort to develop a free operating system compatible with commercial Unix.
(p326) "'I call it baize-space,' said Ponder Stibbons proudly." – 'Baize' is the name given to the felt-like cloth used to cover billiards tables. As Stibbons points out later, it's also a pun on "phase space".
(p339) "'But it's a book!' said Mr. Pony. 'It'll take all night to code! And there's diagrams!'" – It was established in Monstrous Regiment that the clacks towers could send images slowly by transmitting codes for pixel data, exactly the way computers do.
(p352) "'It's still not working, Mr. Stibbons!' he bellowed. "Here's that damn enormous fiery eye again!'" – In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Sauron appeared as a great fiery cat's eye in visions and metaphoric descriptions. In Peter Jackson's movie adaptations, the Eye appears (aside from a literal interpretation on top of Sauron's fortress) in the palantíri (seeing-stones), which have a very similar function to the University's omniscope.
(p360) "'Gilt can kiss my—' Grandad began, then remembered the present company and finished: '–donkey.'" – A reference to American use of ass, an old word for donkey, in place of arse.
(p361) "'... I'm close to translating the mating call of the giant clam...'" – TP likes to drop hints of corny old jokes. Place your forearms in front of your face one laid on top of the other. Very slowly open them so that only your eyes are visible between them and swivel your eyes from side to side. That's the mating call of the giant clam.
(p341) Right at the end of Going Postal when the game is up and the financial corruption of the Trunk board is revealed, Stowley fakes amnesia and loss of his short-term memory as a desperate ploy to avoid prosecution. This hopefully didn't fool Vetinari for one moment, but the Roundworld referent is more depressing:
Charged with a range of financial misdemeanours in the late 1980's, including false accounting, fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion, Ernest Saunders, a senior member of the Guinness brewing and finance family, provided medical testimonials that he was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and had no recollection of the sequence of events that had led him to court. As genuine sufferers of Alzheimer's know, one of the first symptoms of the disease is the loss of short-term memory. The judge took his plea of being unable to face charges on medical grounds seriously, and released him with a short suspended sentence where otherwise he might have been looking at several years inside.
Incredibly, he made a full and complete recovery from Alzheimer's shortly after his court appearance, perhaps the only man in medical history to ever have reversed the progress of this disease. TP of all people would have an absolute right to hold somebody faking Alzheimer's as a "get-out-of-jail-free" card up to scorn, satire and ridicule.
Refer to share-trading fraud for the full story, including Saunders' miracle recovery from Alzheimer's.
Odds and ends
Apologies if this is in the wrong place or noted elsewhere but the reference to the Matron will be to the Harridan played by (almost exclusively) Hattie Jacques in the various Carry On films concerning the UK NHS.-- SJC 2 June 2010 (BST)
Moist von Lipwig
- While I haven't found a good source for Germanic interpretations / history of the name, a 'lip-wig' is a slang term for a moustache. Hence 'von Lipwig' = 'of the (fake) moustache' - very fitting for a conman who relies on the addition of distinguishing features to disguise his undistinguished face. --SiD 22:18, 13 November 2006 (CET)
- [p. 17-18 (UK Corgi PB)] "'Er... would you mind signing the rope beforehand, sir? ... Worth more signed, of course.'" - Daniel "One Drop" Trooper
- Gotta love the irony that Moist von Lipwig / Albert Spangler, the consummate con-man, is helping his executioner to get 'money for old rope'! --SiD 22:18, 13 November 2006 (CET)
- [p. 47 (UK Corgi PB)] "A large black and white cat had walked into the room"
- Does the colour remind anyone else of Postman Pat's cat, Jess?
- [p. 187 (UK Corgi PB)] "'Actually it is the Sorting Engine,' said Groat. 'It's the curse of the Post Office, sir. It had imps in it for the actual reading of the envelopes, but they all evaporated years ago.'"
- While imps are of course used as the basis for a lot of Discworld technology, I doubt many people outside the Royal Mail know that the huge sorting machines in every mail centre are called Integrated Mail Processors - known as IMPs for short! --SiD 22:18, 13 November 2006 (CET)
- [p. 352(UK Corgi PB)p.330 (Doubleday hardcover)]
"I'm sure we have the right-" Ponder began.
This echoes Aragorn in Lord of the Rings/Two Towers, when he wrests control of the Palantir from Sauron, and the next morning is seen looking drawn and exhausted from the mental and psychic strain of doing direct battle with the dark lord.
"I had the right, but barely" he explained to Gandalf.
While I agree that the the "fiery eye" is intended to be reminiscent of Sauron it is clearly not actually Sauron but merely the eye of Dr Collabone; red from allergies and enormous from peering too closely at his end of the omniscope. --Neilxt 05:03, 21 August 2007 (CEST)
(p137) "'Look, I'm not the One you're looking for!'" - For some, this resonates with Obi-Wan's use of the Jedi mind trick to escape storm troopers -- "These aren't the droids you're looking for." This is annotated elsewhere on the Wiki as – Possibly, but not clearly, a reference to Neo's role as the One in the Matrix films. Or, perhaps the most likely, a reference to Graham Chapman's increasingly perplexed and angry Brian in Monty Python's The Life of Brian when chased by hordes of adoring wannabe disciples. Or even this song...
(p313) "'You know how to pray, don't you? You just put your hands together -- and hope.'" - obviously based on Lauren Bacall's famous line from "To Have and Have Not", to Humphrey Bogart: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow." Bacall's character's nickname is "Slim", and this is echoed in the affectionate nicknames of Moist and Dearheart, "Slick" and "Spike". --Eitheladar 07:47, 31 December 2007 (CET)
(p??) The entire episode of a mail coach vs. the clacks system transporting the contents of a book evokes a saying that is well-known among us computer science types: "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes". It's also known in other forms, e.g. "It's faster to send a petabyte of data to Hong Kong by sailboat than over the internet". Pratchett doesn't explicitly reference this saying, but he has created an instructive example of the difference between latency and bandwidth: while it takes less time for the start of a message to arrive via the clacks towers, the mail coach has an advantage when the size of the message is large (e.g. in case of sending the contents of a book, or even a large number of letters).
(p??) The crackers' blocking of the light and substitution of their own portable clacks tower is an example of what computer scientists and security researchers refer to as a man-in-the-middle attack.
(p??) "'Ha, even the damn soup there is fifteen dollars!' said Moist" - Very likely a reference to The Blues Brothers, also referenced sporadically throughout Soul Music. When the Brothers visit a former band member - now Maître d' in a posh Chicago restaurant - at his place of work, he encourages them to leave on the basis that they can't afford to eat there, remarking "Come on guys..let me buy you a cup of coffee. The soup here is f*cking ten dollars."