APF Chapter 3: Discworld Annotations [Prev Page] [Index] [Next Page]

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Men at Arms

Annotations | Information | Quotes

- Starting with "Men at Arms", the word 'Discworld' appeared on the copyright page with a 'registered trademark' symbol appended to it.

When asked if this indicated a tougher policy against possible copyright infringements, Terry replied:

"Discworld and some associated names are subject to various forms of trademark, but we don't make a big thing about it. We've had to take some very gentle action in the past and the trademarking is a precautionary measure -- it's too late to do it when you're knee-deep in lawyers. There will be a computer game next year, and possibly a record album. We have to do this stuff.

But -- I stress -- it's not done to discourage fans, or prevent the general usage of Discworld, etc, in what I'd loosely call fandom. By now afp readers ought to know that. It's been done so that we have a decent lever if there's a BIG problem."

- Someone complained on the net that the picture of the Gonne on the back cover of Men at Arms gives away too much information about the story. Terry replied:

"Hmm. We wondered about the cover 'giving away half the plot' and decided to go with it -- especially since Josh got the Gonne exactly right from the description. But I'd say it's pretty obvious VERY early in the book what sort of thing we're dealing with. That's what distinguishes a 'police procedural' from a mystery; after all, you know from the start whodunit in a Columbo plot, but the fun is watching him shuffle around solving it his way..."

- [cover] On the cover, Josh Kirby draws Cuddy without a beard, even though it is mentioned many times in the text that he has one.

- [p. 8/6] "But Edward d'Eath didn't cry, for three reasons."

De'ath is an existing old English name. The De'aths came over with William the Conqueror, and tend to get very upset if ignorant peasants pronounce their name... well, you know, instead of 'Dee-ath' as it's supposed to be pronounced.

- [p. 12/8] "'[...] an iconograph box which, is a thing with a brownei inside that paints pictures of thing's, [...]'"

Kodak's first mass-produced affordable camera was called the "box brownie". A brownie is also the name of a helpful type of goblin. And we all know how cameras work on the Discworld...

- [p. 20/14] "'Twurp's P-eerage,' he shouted."

Burke's Peerage. See the annotation for p. 191/138 of Lords and Ladies .

- [p. 20/15] "'My nurse told me,' said Viscount Skater, 'that a true king could pull a sword from a stone.'"

Arthurian legend, Holy Grail, that kind of stuff.

- [p. 24/18] "Silicon Anti-Defamation League had been going on at the Patrician, and now --"

Cf. the real life Jewish Anti-Defamation League.

- [p. 25/18] "[...] the upturned face of Lance-Constable Cuddy, with its helpful intelligent expression and one glass eye."

Columbo had a glass eye (or rather, Peter Falk, who played the part, had one). And he was rather short.

- [p. 29/22] "'Oh, nil desperandum, Mr Flannel, nil desperandum,' said Carrot cheerfully."

"Nil desperandum" is a genuine old Latin phrase, still occasionally in use, meaning "don't despair".

- [p. 44/33] "'Remember when he was going to go all the way up to Dunmanifestin to steal the Secret of Fire from the gods?' said Nobby."

Reference to Prometheus, who gave fire to man and got severely shafted for it by the previous owners. See also the annotation for p. 131/107 of Eric .

- [p. 44/33] "Fingers-Mazda, the first thief in the world, stole fire from the gods."

The name 'Fingers-Mazda' puns on Ahura-Mazda, or Ormuzd, the Zoroastrian equivalent of God.

- [p. 46/34] "'Remember,' he said, 'let's be careful out there.'"

The desk sergeant in Hill Street Blues used to say this in each episode of the TV series, at the end of the force's morning briefing.

- [p. 49/37] "'Morning, Mr Bauxite!'"

Bauxite is the name of the rock that contains aluminium ore. I have fond memories of this red-coloured rock, because I grew up in a country (Suriname) whose economy depended entirely upon bauxite and aluminium.

- [p. 54/41] "Mr Morecombe had been the Ramkins' family solicitor for a long time. Centuries, in fact. He was a vampire."

In other words: a bloodsucking lawyer, right?

- [p. 56/42] "[...] turn in their graves if they knew that the Watch had taken on a w--"

Only funny the second time you read the book, because it is then that you realise that the first time every reader will have gotten this wrong...

- [p. 62/47] "'No one ever eats the black pudding.'"

Not very surprising at the Assassin's Guild: black pudding is made with blood.

- [p. 64/47] "Captain Vimes paused at the doorway, and then thumped the palm of his hand on his forehead. [...] 'Sorry, excuse me -- mind like a sieve these days -- [...]'"

Acting like a bumbling fool, making as if to leave, then smacking his head, 'remembering' something in the doorway, and unleashing an absolute killer question is exactly how TV Detective Columbo always drives his suspects to despair.

- [p. 72/54] "'NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW NOR GLOM OF NIT CAN STAY THESE MESSENGERS ABOT THIER DUTY'"

This paraphrases the motto of the US postal service: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds".

In Tom Burnam's More Misinformation it is explained that this quote by Herodotus is not really the official motto of the Postal service, since there is no such thing. But it is a quote that is inscribed on the General Post Office building in New York, and has been construed as a motto by the general populace. It refers to a system of mounted postal couriers used by the Persians when the Greeks attacked Persia, around 500 BC.

- [p. 76/57] Capability Brown.

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1715-1783) actually existed, and was a well known landscape gardener and architect. His nickname derived from his frequent statement to prospective employers that their estates held great "capabilities". The existence of Sagacity Smith and Intuition De Vere Slave-Gore must be questioned, at least in this particular trouser-leg of time.

- [p. 77/58] "It contained the hoho, which was like a haha only deeper."

A haha is a boundary to a garden or park, usually a buried wall or shallow ditch designed not to be seen until closely approached.

I'm told there's a rather nice haha at Elvaston Castle just outside Derby. From the house there appears to be an unobstructed vista into the distance, despite the presence of the main road to Derby crossing the field of view about 200 yards away. Unfortunately, when the house was designed, they hadn't invented double-decker buses or lorries, so the effect is a bit spoilt by the sudden appearance of the top half of a bus going past from time to time.

- [p. 88/66] "'I think perhaps Lance-Constable Angua shouldn't have another go with the longbow until we've worked out how to stop her... her getting in the way.'"

The Amazons of legend had a famously cutting way of solving this particular problem...

- [p. 94/71] "There's a bar like it in every big city. It's where the coppers drink."

Quite stereotypical of course, but the bar from the TV series Hill Street Blues is the one that I was immediately reminded of.

- [p. 94/71] "'That's three beers, one milk, one molten sulphur on coke with phosphoric acid --'"

Phosphoric acid is in fact an ingredient of Coca Cola. It's part of the 0.5 % that isn't water or sugar.

- [p. 94/71] "'A Slow Comfortable Double-Entendre with Lemonade.'"

There is an existing cocktail called a 'Slow Comfortable Screw', or, in its more advanced incarnation, a 'A Long Slow Comfortable Screw Up against the Wall'.

This drink consists of Sloe Gin (hence the 'slow'), Southern Comfort (hence the 'comfortable'), Orange Juice (which is what makes a screwdriver a screwdriver and not merely a bloody big vodka; hence the 'screw'), a float of Galliano (which is in a Harvey Wallbanger; hence the 'up against the wall'), served in a long glass (hence... oh, work it out for yourself).

+ [p. 74] "'GONNE'"

'Gonne' is actually an existing older spelling for 'gun' that can be found in e.g. the works of Chaucer.

- [p. 113/85] "[...] or a hubland bear across the snow [...]"

Scattered across the Discworld canon are numerous little changes in terminology to reflect the Discworld's unusual setup, and this is one of the more elegant ones, since there obviously can't be polar bears on the Disc...

- [p. 115/86] The Duke of Eorle.

Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl. Of doo-wop fame.

- [p. 115/87] "One of the thoughts jostling for space was that there was no such thing as a humble opinion."

Terry has admitted that the Duke of Eorl's conversational style was a bit of a dig at the way discussions on the net are typically held. People posting to Usenet newsgroups will often prefix even the most dogmatic monologues or megalomaniacal statements with the words "In my humble opinion...", in a (usually futile) attempt to render themselves invulnerable to criticism. The qualifier is used so often on the net that it even has its own acronym: 'IMHO', so you won't have to type so much when you use it.

- [p. 116/88] "[...] that bastard Chrysoprase, [...]"

Webster's defines chrysoprase as an applegreen variety of chalcedony, used as gem, but literally from the Greek words 'chrusos', gold and 'prason', leek. Chalcedony is a semi-precious blue-gray variety of quartz, composed of very small crystals packed together with a fibrous, waxy appearance.

Note how both the 'gold' etymology and the 'waxy appearance' perfectly match Chrysoprase's character as the rich, suave, uptown Mafia-troll.

Chrysoprase already appears (off-stage) on p. 179/178 of Wyrd Sisters, but his name is spelled 'Crystophrase' there.

- [p. 127/96] "'What can you make it?' Carrot frowned. 'I could make a hat,' he said, 'or a boat. Or [...]'"

This may be far-fetched, but exactly the same joke appears in the 1980 movie Airplane! (renamed Flying High in some countries).

- [p. 130/98] "[...] a toadstool called Phallus impudicus, [...]"

This mushroom actually exists. The Latin name translates quite literally to "Shameless penis". In English its common name is "Stinkhorn fungus", and it has been described to me as a large, phallus-shaped, pallid, woodland fungus smelling very strongly of rotten meat, and usually covered with flies. "Once experienced, never forgotten", as my source puts it.

Another mushroom expert subsequently mailed me a long, detailed description of the toadstool's appearance, 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. 135/102] "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. 136/103] "'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. 137/104] "'Haven't you seen his portrait of the Mona Ogg. [...] The teeth followed you around the room. Amazing.'"

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. 143/108] "'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. 150/113] "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. 22/22 of Sourcery .

- [p. 153/116] "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 Twin Peaks:

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. 155/117] 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 Mountains.

- [p. 157/119] "'It's Oggham,' said Carrot."

See the annotation for p. 305/219 of Lords and Ladies .

- [p. 157/119] "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. 159/120] 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 the dialogue:

"Right you are."
"Cornice overlooking broadway."
"No."
"Ah. You 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 Holofernes Street."
"He had a stick. A firework stick."
"Firework. You know? Bang! Sparks! Rockets! Bang!"
"Yes. That's what I said."
"No, idiot! A stick, you point, it goes BANG!"

- [p. 159/120] "[...] 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. 162/123] "'He also did the Quirm Memorial, the Hanging Gardens of Ankh, and the Colossus of Morpork.'"

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 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. 163/124] "[...] 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!, a musical version of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.

- [p. 168/127] "'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 pick.

- [p. 171/130] "'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. 172/131] "'That,' said Vimes, 'was a bloody awful cup of coffee, Sham.' [...] 'And a doughnut'."

This entire scene is a loose parody of David Lynch's cult TV series Twin Peaks, where the protagonists are forever eating doughnuts and drinking "damn fine coffee".

- [p. 173/131] "'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. 175/133] "'[...] clown Boffo, the corpus derelicti, [...]'"

"Corpus delicti" is a Latin phrase meaning the victim's body in a murder case.

- [p. 176/133] "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. 179/135] "'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 appropriate.

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 grope along.

- [p. 184/139] "'The word 'polite' comes from 'polis', too. It used to mean proper behaviour from someone living in a city.'"

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. 185/140] "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, to capture."

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. 189/143] "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 Cart".

- [p. 192/145] "'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. 193/146] "[...] wondering how the hell he came up with the idea of pre-sliced bread in the first place."

From the saying (of inventions): "the greatest thing since sliced bread".

- [p. 194/146] "'My cartoons,' said Leonard. 'This is a good one of the little boy with his kite stuck in a tree,' said Lord Vetinari."

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. 197/149] "'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 hand.")

After including this annotation in earlier editions of the APF, 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. 203/153] "[...] 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. 106/95 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 even: "I <heart> 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. 205/155] "'Chrysoprase, he not give a coprolith about that stuff.'"

Coprolith = a fossilised turd.

- [p. 209/158] "'He say, you bad people, make me angry, you stop toot sweet.'"

"Toute suite" = immediately. One of the few bits of French that the typical Brit is said to remember from schooldays.

- [p. 210/158] "'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 'moonshine' variety.

- [p. 218/165] 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. 235/178] "[...] 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. 238/180] "'Hi-ho -- '-- hi-ho --' 'Oook oook oook oook ook --'"

The dwarvish hiho-song. See the annotation for p. 88/73 of Moving Pictures .

- [p. 239/181] "'He said "Do Deformed Rabbit, it's my favourite",' Carrot translated."

Running gag. See also the annotation for p. 226/162 of Small Gods .

- [p. 251/190] "'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 ... Inspection.'"

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 M@A."

- [p. 252/191] "'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".

- [p. 255/193] "'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. 257/195] "'No sir! Taking Flint and Morraine, sir!'"

These two trolls first appeared as actors in Moving Pictures.

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 melting glacier".

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.

Hey, don't look at me -- I'm just the messenger...

- [p. 258/196] "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. 258/196] "'Lord Vetinari won't stop at sarcasm. He might use' -- Colon swallowed -- 'irony.'"

This reminded many correspondents of Monty Python's 'Dinsdale' sketch:

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. 263/200] "'I mean, I don't mean well-endowed with money.'"

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: 'Nothing'.

- [p. 268/203] "'Shall we be off... Joey, wasn't it? Dr Whiteface?'"

Another Grimaldi reference. See the annotation for p. 143/108.

- [p. 269/204] "'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. 277/210] "'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. 279/212] "Gonnes don't kill people. People kill people."

Slogan of the US National Rifle Association.

- [p. 284/216] "'It's Bluejohn and Bauxite, isn't it?' said Carrot."

More troll names. For Bauxite see the annotation for p. 49/37. 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 French.

- [p. 285/216] "'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. 297/226 Detritus repeats the phrase as "You got a field-marshal's button in your knapsack", while on p. 302/230 Cuddy creatively manages "You could have a field-marshal's bottom in your napkin".

+ [p. 287/218] "'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."

- [p. 295/224] "'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. 82/62: Bjorn Again is the name of an Australian band with a repertoire that consists entirely of Abba covers.

- [p. 295/224] "'Aargh! I'm too short for this shit!'"

A phrase originating from US forces slang during the Vietnam war, where the tour of duty was fixed so the 'grunts' knew exactly how long, to the day, until they were due back in 'the world'. A short timer was one who didn't have long to go and therefore didn't want to put himself at undue risk -- hence "I'm too short for this shit".

Another popular reference to this expression is "I'm too old for this shit", a catchphrase for Danny Glover's character in the Lethal Weapon series of movies.

Terry adds:

"'I'm too short for this shit' is a line that has appeared in at least two grunt movies. I had intended Cuddy to use it in the sewers..."

- [p. 305/232] "'I thought you rolled around on the floor grunting and growing hair and stretching,' he whimpered."

Reference to the famous werewolf transformation scenes in the 1981 horror movie An American Werewolf in London.

- [p. 307/234] "'So we're looking for someone else. A third man.'"

A reference to the film The Third Man. Terry says:

"It may be that there is a whole generation now to whom The Third Man is just a man after the second man. And after all, it wasn't set in Vienna, Ohio, so it probably never got shown in the US :-)"

The book contains a couple of other resonances with The Third Man. In the film, the British, French, American and Russian occupation troops in Vienna patrol the city in groups of four, one from each country, to keep an eye on each other. Carrot sends the Watch out in similar squads of a human, a dwarf and a troll. The final chase through the sewers under the city also mirrors the film.

- [p. 313/238] "'As I was a-walking along Lower Broadway, [...]'"

Terry says: "While there are 789456000340 songs beginning "As I was a-walking...", and I've probably heard all of them, the one I had in mind was 'Ratcliffe Highway'."

'Ratcliffe Highway' (a version which can be found on the album Liege & Lief by Fairport Convention) starts out:

As I was a-walking along Ratcliffe Highway,
A recruiting party came beating my way,
They enlisted me and treated me till I did not know
And to the Queen's barracks they forced me to go

- [p. 317/241] "'Hand off rock and on with sock!'"

The Discworld version of an old army Sgt Major yell to get the troops up in the morning: "Hands off cocks, on with socks!".

- [p. 318/242] "'We're a real model army, we are'"

The New Model Army, besides supplying the name for a Goth group, was the Parliamentarian army which turned the tide of the English Civil War, and ensured the defeat of King Charles I.

- [p. 321/244] "'Yes, sir. Their cohorts all gleaming in purple and gold, sir.'"

Lord Byron, The Destruction of Sennacherib:

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold...
The sheen of his spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

A cohort is not an item of clothing or armour but a division of the old Roman Army: the tenth part of a legion, 300 to 600 men.

- [p. 325/246] "[...] Fondel's 'Wedding March' [...]"

Fondel = Händel.

- [p. 325/247] "'[...] it's got the name B.S. Johnson on the keyboard cover!'"

Johann Sebastian Bach's initials are 'JSB', which is 'BSJ' backwards, and Bach was of course also involved in organ music. But Terry has mentioned numerous times (not just on-line but also in The Discworld Companion) that he did not choose the name with this intention at all.

- [p. 332/252] "'Who would have thought you had it in you,' said Vimes, [...]"

Shakespeare. See the annotation for p. 227/226 of Wyrd Sisters .

- [p. 341/258] "'Detritus! You haven't got time to ooze!'"

"I ain't got time to bleed!" is a line from Predator, another Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie.

- [p. 345/262] "It was important to ensure that rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated."

Paraphrase of a famous quip Mark Twain cabled to Associated Press after they had reported his demise.

- [p. 357/271] "Cling, bing, a-bing, bong..."

The scene with Vimes' watch mirrors the movie For a Few Dollars More. All the way through this film, the bad guy has been letting a watch chime, telling his victims to go for their gun when the chimes stop (of course he always draws first and kills them). At the end of the film his victim is Lee van Cleef, and just as the watch chimes stop, Clint Eastwood enters with another watch, chiming away, to ensure Lee gets his chance and all is well.

Terry says: "[...] when the play of Men At Arms was done a couple of months ago, [Stephen Briggs]'s people actually went to the trouble of getting a recording of the 'right' tune for the watch.

It was interesting to hear the laughter spread as people recognised it..."

- [p. 365/277] "'They call me Mister Vimes,' he said."

In the Sidney Poitier movie In the Heat of the Night the most famous line (and indeed the name of the sequel) is Poitier saying "They call me Mister Tibbs."

- [p. 371/281] "'Would he accept?' 'Is the High Priest an Offlian? Does a dragon explode in the woods?'"

Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods?

- [p. 373/283] "'Like a fish needs a... er... a thing that doesn't work underwater, sir.'"

From the quip (attributed to feminist Gloria Steinem): "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." Note that the bicycle is not known on the Discworld to anybody but the Patrician and Leonard of Quirm. And they don't know what it is.


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