Book:The Truth/Annotations

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The title of the book might be a nod towards the official Communist party news-paper named "Pravda" (In Russian -"The Truth"). There is an old Soviet-era joke about Russia's two state newspapers: There's never any truth in Izveztiya (The News) and you'll never find any news in Pravda (The Truth). This may echo the later rivalry between the staid and slightly pompous Ankh-Morpork Times, and its downmarket rival the Ankh-Morpork Inquirer, which emphasises rumours and trivial non-stories at the expense of strict accuracy.

Miss Cripslock in The Truth: Just going through the APF shows that her father was mentioned in as an engraver in Maskerade (see annotation for p.11 there), although this may be her grandfather, on whose behalf she gives William a ringing slap, whilst her well-crafted bosom heaves at him. Which was he concentrating on, we wonder...

William de Worde's career path appears to mirror that of Johann Carolus, who made a living handwriting newsletters for his clients before purchasing a printing press and starting what is recognised (ref) as the world's first newspaper.

Thre incident where William first encounters the Dwarfs and their printing press and gets the letter "R" branded in the middle of his forehead, albeit temporarily. in 17th - 18th century England and possibly elsewhere, a common punishment was to brand an offender with a letter denoting what their crime was. One who disseminated slander (verbally) or libel (in print), one deemed to be a habitual liar and rumour-monger, could have the letter "R" burnt into their face - a humiliting punishment they would carry for life. Apparently this happened to publishers of broadsheets who printed things that annoyed influential people who could command such a sanction...

(Harper Collins (US) paperback, p. 2) "Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and... sunnink"

Empedocles identified the four "classical" Greek elements of Earth, Water, Air, & Fire. Aristotle added the fifth element aether for the heavens. The name was later used for the unrelated concept of the luminiferous aether, a workaround for a medium through which waves of light propagated until they worked out how such waves would work without a medium.

Metal type was kept in shallow drawers (called type cases). Capital letters all in the top, small letters all in the bottom. Hence upper case and lower case. Letter case

Doubleday hardback p39)

"Why's there a bigger box for the 'es?
"'cos that's the letter we use most of."

This figures: the "mnemonic" in English usage, for letter frequency, is apparently ETAOINSHRDLU, where "e" is by far and away the most commonly occurring letter, with the rest ranked afterwards in order of frequency. Apparently the remaining 14 letters are all of such low relative frequency that it isn't worthwhile committing their order to memory: if you can crack these first 12, they occur often and frequently enough in any English discourse for the cryptographer to be able to make an intelligent stab at the structure of the rest.

--AgProv 16:48, 3 April 2008 (CEST)

-Etaoin Shrdlu was the name of a bookworm (larger than .303 cal.) in Walt Kelly's Pogo (the greatest comic strip in history). Wikipedia agrees with Mr. Kelly on the relative frequency of t and a. --Old Dickens 19:15, 3 April 2008 (CEST)

(Doubleday hardback p43)

"...I wish to avoid any low-level difficulties at this time..." In the middle of a discourse about Dwarfs being a very hard-working and valuable ethnic grouping in the city, is it possible that Vetinari has just slipped in a sizeist joke, possibly to see how well Goodmountain and Bodony, faced with a business opportunity, can hold their tempers?

"wishing to avoid low-level difficulties" could well mean "at a time of great potential difficulty with the Dwarfs, it will do no harm to be seen actively sponsoring a Dwarf-owned business, and giving my personal blessing to their prospering in this city."

  • Or possibly he was being culture-savvy, as dwarfs consider "low level" to be superior to high. This aspect of dwarf thinking is examined more deeply in Unseen Academicals, and might explain why the Campaign for Equal Heights is mostly made up of humans: dwarfs who haven't absorbed human concepts of high-equals-good wouldn't realize that many sizeist jokes are intended to be insulting.

at this point there was speculation that this book might be placed differently in the chronology because of Vetinari's reference to "troubles in Uberwald". (which hinted that this was prior to the resolution of said troubles in The Fifth Elephant. However, there are always going to be troubles of one sort or another in Uberwald, as Thud! and Raising Steam demonstrated. so speculation concerning chronology removed as having been proven irrelevant.

If nothing else, it supports the contention that in the latter Discworld novels, events are happening faster and faster and frequently overlap between books - look at the fit of Thief of Time and Night Watch, for instance.

(Doubleday hardback p46) Even in newsletter days, William could rely on Watchmen providing inside information in return for favours. Fred Colon's stated perk is "a drink". By comparision, when members of the Metropolitan police furnish Britain's national press with inside information or services over and beyond the call of duty, the small financial incentive that went the other way was referred to as a "drinkie".

The Truth Shall Make You Free (or fret)... a quote from Abraham Lincoln, which was taken up as a line in the Battle Hymn of the Republic--AgProv 23:54, 12 July 2007 (CEST) - although Abe was himself quoting - John 8:31-2: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. "

'See this sign on my desk, captain? See it, sergeant? It says "Commander Vimes". That means the buck starts here...' "The buck" is essentially responsibility for a problem. "Passing the buck" means passing responsibility for a problem onto someone else. President Truman (it is alleged) had a notice on his desk saying "The buck stops here" meaning he had no one to pass responsibility on to. Commander Vimes seems to think that he is the one who creates problems for people to pass on.

William de Worde Wynkyn de Worde (originally Jan van Wynkyn) was pivotal, along with the more-widely-known Caxton, in introducing printing to Britain. All the national newspaper were (until very recently) printed at Fleet Street in London. Mr. Tuttle Scrope, put up as the replacement Patrician for Vetinari, runs a shop that sells Leatherwork, "... and rubber work... and feathers... and whips... and... little jiggly things" and was, presumably, the supplier for Sir Joshua Lavish in Making Money, who had a cabinet full of such supplies.

"But news is mainly what someone somewhere doesn't want you to put in the paper--" A saying by Lord Northcliffe, a late 19th-early 20th century news magnate in the UK (who, at one point, owned the London newspaper The Times): "News is what someone wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising."

(Doubleday hardback pp 203-205):- There is a possible contradiction and continuity error across books. In Carpe Jugulum, Vlad de Magpyr asserts:- "Everyone knows that cutting off a vampire's head is internationally acceptable". In argument with Agnes Nitt, he states that decapitating a vampire is, on its own, a surefire way of slaying a vampire regardless of its georgraphical or ethnic origin. This certainly suffices for the Count de Magpyr at the end of the book. Yet, here we have the contradiction that Otto Chriek is decapitated by Mr Pin. Otto's head and body remain separately alive and sentient, and Otto is able to calmly issue directions to place his head where his body can reach it so that he can re-attach it. This he does, by an effort of will and his own vampiric physiognomy. He then remarks, after saying it "stings a bit*", that decapitation alone is not sufficient - it requires a stake through the heart, as well. The Count de Magpyr does not seem to know this trick. Perhaps for the de Magpyrs, decapitation alone is sufficient, and Vlad is erroneously arguing from his family back to all vampires? Otherwise, a small error in continuity arises.

( * - a reference to a Monty Python sketch? Where Eric Idle plays a stiff-upper-lip British officer whose leg has just been bitten off and eaten by a tiger, asserting cheerfully that "it stings a bit, sir, but nothing to get bothered about!")

    • Possibly the Count was unable to heal his neck injury because of having "been Weatherwaxed". Certainly the vampires who succumbed to that effect in Carpe Jugulum found their ability to fly was impaired, so it may have hindered some of their other powers as well. - Sharlee

(Doubleday hardback p254) Another of those obscure song references. Sacharissa and Rocky realise they aren't alone in the deWorde mansion. They can hear raucous singing and glass clattering. It is coming from behind a Green Door. What's behind the Green Door? - a question asked, in song, by Jime lowe, Frankie Vaughan, Bill Haley and the Comets, the Goons (or at least Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan) and Shakin' Stevens. The "Green Door" is also used in slang to denote levels of access to information - if you are on the wrong side of a green door, there is a higher level to which you have not been given security clearance.

(Doubleday hardback p258) "Spit or swallow, thought William, the eternal conundrum." Terry Pratchett has a habit of throwing in random punchlines from silly or sometimes eyebrow-raising jokes, perhaps just to see who notices. "Spit or swallow" refers to... ermmm... an intimate practice and the social etiquette that goes along with it, at least for the active partner. Those who know what it means will grin quietly to themselves and read on; for those who don't, it will go right over their heads and remain un-noticed. Therefore Terry wins whichever way. Although how a well-brought up young lad like William knows this... Sacharissa might perhaps require some explanation of the phrase, ideally with diagrams and/or an understanding member of the Seamstresses' Guild to assist. (Ah. Even as these words are written I begin to see how William, a journalist interested in words whose profession involves talking to everybody, knows the phrase. As no doubt Sacharissa will if she remains a journalist).

(Doubleday hardback p269) Interestingly enough, in the mood of hysteria following the fire that destroyed the press , William and Sacharissa are discussing ideas to maximise revenue from the printing presses during down-time, and come up with ideas for glossy magazines. Sacharissa muses...

"Ring, yes. Now that's another thing. There are all the dwarfs in the city. We could produce a magazine for them. I mean... what's the modern dwarf wearing this season?" (The Truth, page 269)

Is this foreshadowing either Bu-Bubble or Shatta inUnseen Academicals? And in Making Money, Gladys the feminised golem is also a devoted reader of a new ladies' magazine... here, Sacharissa also proposes a magazine tentatively called The Lady's Home Companion. Both produced by the Times?

(Doubleday hardback p280) "Klatchian Practices" - -not so long ago, the printworkers' unions were the strongest in Britain, and if any unions justified what was otherwise a myth, and deserved to be called greedy gits who were holding the country to ransom, it was the ones who printed the papers in Fleet Street. They knew exactly how strong they were and their employers were resigned to handing out all sorts of sweeteners to ensure they just did their job and got a paper out for the next day. The consequences and lost revenue were unthinkable otherwise. Once, there was even a strike after management discovered an employee dead for three years was still on the payroll and still drawing a salary. The not unreasonable suggestion that his pay stopped now - let alone any reasonable suggestion of repaying the overpayment - was met with a wildcat strike, on the grounds that his family depended on the money, and would suffer if the pay of the deceased were to be stopped. Fleet Street and provincial printworkers also enjoyed the best sick pay in Britain - Goodmountain alludes to this when he says any man on the Inquirer's presses who goes home early with a headache gets a hundred dollars. They were finally brought to heel by stateless media mogul Rupert Murdoch (think Reacher Gilt with an Australian accent) during a protracted strike in the 1980's, aided by Thatcher's anti-union legislation and the reluctance of any other right-thinking trade unionist to go out and support a union made up, basically, of greedy selfish gits who were giving trade unionism a largely undeserved bad name. (The one set of circumstances where the printworkers' union never went on strike was if a newspaper such as the Sun or the Daily Mail was printing front-page lies about a fellow union on strike: they were implored to come out in support of the Miners' Strike but refused, and carried on print-setting anti-miner lies. So when they were in trouble, the prevalent mood of the rest of the union movement was that the printworkers could go to Hell in a handcart.) Nobody would disagree the newspapers needed reform: but today printworkers are un-unionised and powerless to resist the worst excesses of wage-cutting, arguably the state Thatcher intended for all British workers.

The old excesses of Fleet Street days were known as "Spanish Practices"...

(Doubleday hardback p285) "Privilege" just means "private law". That's exactly what it means. He just doesn't believe the ordinary laws apply to him..."

Compare this to a similar dialogue on the origins and nature of privilege in Book Two of Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! (see Reading suggestions).

At this stage in the book, the Times' offices on Gleam Street have been effectively bombed and burned out, meaning that while the paper can still report and investigate, it has nowhere to print its findings. Compare this to one of the myriad sub-plots of Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus!, where the radical magazine and thorn in the flesh of the Establishment, "Confrontation", is suddenly bombed, apparently to prevent it publishing further inconvenient truths. In fact, this bombing draws in the hard-bitten cynical street coppers Goodman and Muldoon as investigators, just as in Discworld Vimes and Carrot are among the first to the wreckage of the Times printworks. Another link: Confrontation's Arab-American editor Joseph Malik kept rare Egyptian tropical fish in the office to remind him of home. These died in the bombing. The Times' Überwaldean photographer Otto Chriek kept Überwaldean land-eels, another rare fish species from Home, which were lost in the bombing... And earlier on the book, Saharissa is asked, on a scale of one to ten, exactly how much trouble she estimates they're in. William thinks eight. Sacharissa reflects and says two thousand, three hundred and seventeen out of ten. 23 and 17 are the all-important continually repeating arc numbers of the Illuminatus! trilogy, and have a mystic significance.

Also, the star of Evelyn Waugh's novel "Scoop" is a young journalist called William Boot, with strong similarities to William de Worde.

"Kings and Lords come and go and leave nothing but statues in a desert" (HarperCollins 30). This is a reference to Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem Ozymandias which tells of a statue built by 'the king of kings' yet no one remembers who this king is. It is not the kings' legacy that survive but the art they create.