The Annotated Pratchett File




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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.

Soul Music



- The cover of Soul Music bears more than a passing resemblance to the cover of the album Bat out of Hell by Meatloaf, one of the 70s best-selling rock albums.


- [p. 8/5] “This is also a story about sex and drugs and Music With Rocks In.”


For anyone living in a cave: the classic phrase is “sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”.


+ [p. 8/5] “Well... ...one out of three ain’t bad.”


With the many Meatloaf references in Soul Music it is perhaps no surprise many people think they’ve spotted another one here, namely to the ballad ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’ on Bat out of Hell.

But in this case both Terry and Meatloaf are simply using a normal English phrase that’s been around for ages. There is no connection.


+ [p. 9/7] “A dark, stormy night.”


“It was a dark and stormy night” has entered the English language as the canonical opening sentence for bad novels. Snoopy in Peanuts traditionally starts his novels that way, and Terry and Neil used it on p. 11/viii of Good Omens as well.

I never knew, however, that the phrase actually has its origin in an existing 19th century novel called Paul Clifford by Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton. Someone kindly mailed me the full opening sentence to that novel, and only then did I understand how the phrase came by its bad reputation:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

There even exists a Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which people try to write the worst possible opening sentences for imaginary novels. The entries for the 1983 edition of the contest were compiled by Scott Rice in a book titled, what else, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. I am told that there were at least three such compilations released.


+ [p. 13/10] “It was always raining in Llamedos.”


Llamedos is ‘sod em all’ backwards. This is a reference to the town of Llareggub in Dylan Thomas’ short prose piece Quite Early One Morning. That story was later expanded into Under Milk Wood, a verse play scripted for radio. In that version the name of the town was changed to the slightly less explicit Llaregyb.

Apart from that, Llamedos is instantly recognisable to the British as the Discworld version of Wales. The double-l is a consonant peculiar to the Celtic language (from which Welsh is descended), hence also Buddy’s habit of doubling all l’s when he speaks.


- [p. 14/10] “[...] a fizzing fuse and Acme Dynamite Company written on the side.”


Acme is an often used ‘generic’ company name in American cartoons.Particularly, most of the ingenious technical and military equipment Wile E. Coyote uses in his attempts to capture the Roadrunnner is purchased from Acme.

One of my proofreaders tells me he has a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon t-shirt manufactured by ACME. Make of that what you will.


+ [p. 14/11] “The harp was fresh and bright and already it sang like a bell.”


Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ is, with the possible exception of ‘Louie, Louie’, the greatest rock ‘n roll song of all time. It begins:

“Way down Louisiana close to New Orleans,

Way back up in the woods among the evergreens...

There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood,

Where lived a country boy name of Johnny B. Goode...

He never ever learned to read or write so well,

But he could play the guitar like ringing a bell.”


- [p. 17/13] “WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? SERIOUSLY? WHEN YOU GET RIGHT DOWN TO IT?”


This philosophical question was of course first posed by none other than the famous Ephebian philosopher Didactylos, in Small Gods.


- [p. 20/15] “As far as looks were concerned, Susan had always put people in mind of a dandelion on the point of telling the time.”


To begin with, in order to understand the dandelion reference, read the annotation for p. 10/10 of The Light Fantastic.

Next, many people on a.f.p. have been wondering if Susan was perhaps based on somebody specific, especially since Terry describes her appearance in such great detail. Various candidates were suggested, ranging from Neil Gaiman’s Death (from his Sandman stories) to Siouxsie Sioux (singer for the Goth band Siouxsie and the Banshees), to Dr Who’s granddaughter.

Terry replied: “As far as I’m aware, the Death/Dr Who ‘coincidences’ are in the mind of the beholders :-) Death can move through space and time, yes, but that’s built in to the character. I made his house bigger on the inside than the outside so that I could have quiet fun with people’s perceptions—in the same way that humans live in tiny ‘conceptual’ rooms inside the vastness of the ‘real’ rooms. Only Death (or those humans who currently have Death-perception) not only sees but even experiences their full size.”

“I have, er, noticed on signing tours that (somewhere between the age of ten and eighteen) girls with names like Susan or Nicola metamorphose into girls with names like Susi, Suzi, Suzie, Siouxsie, Tsuzi, Zuzi and Niki, Nicci, Nikki and Nikkie (this is in about the same time period as boys with names like Adrian and Robert become boys with names like Crash and Frab). This is fine by me, I merely chronicle the observation. I’ve always had a soft spot for people who want to redesign their souls.

She got the name because it’s the one that gets the most variation, and got the hairstyle because it’s been a nice weird hairstyle ever since the Bride of Frankenstein. She’s not based on anyone, as far as I know— certainly not Neil’s Death, who is supercool and by no means a necronerd.”

I agree with Terry about Neil’s Death. She’s a babe. Go read the books.


+ [p. 25/19] “I REMEMBER EVERYTHING. [...] EVERY LITTLE DETAIL. AS IF IT HAPPENED ONLY YESTERDAY.”


Jim Steinman is the song-writing and production genius behind rock star Meatloaf. In 1977 he wrote the all-time classic ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’, which opens with the lines:

“Well, I remember every little thing

as if it happened only yesterday.

Parking by the lake

And there was not another car in sight”

In 1981, Steinman recorded the album Bad For Good by himself (he either had a falling out with Meatloaf or the latter had voice problems at the time—the story is not clear on this point; but in any case Steinman had originally intended the album as a Meatloaf project, but eventually decided to use his own vocals). On that album appeared a song (soliloquy, really), called ‘Love and Death and an American Guitar’, which begins similar to ‘Paradise’, but quickly goes off in an entirely different direction:

“I remember every little thing

as if it happened only yesterday.

I was barely seventeen

and I once killed a boy with a Fender guitar”

When Soul Music came out, it immediately became a question of utmost importance (no, I don’t know why, either) to Pratchett annotators all over the world to find out whether Terry based Death’s outburst on the original Meatloaf track, or on the later Steinman song.

Eventually, somebody attended a book signing and asked Terry then and there. The answer: Terry’s source was Jim Steinman’s own version of the song.

I suppose I might as well mention the rest of the story while I’m at it, or else my mailbox will start filling up again: in 1993, Steinman and Meatloaf finally teamed up together again and recorded the album Bat out of Hell II—Back to Hell. The track called ‘Wasted Youth’ turned out to be a re-recording of ‘American Guitar’, but it is still recited by Jim Steinman himself.


- [p. 26/20] “I MAY BE SOME TIME, said Death.”


Terry likes this quote—it’s the third time he’s used it. See also the annotations for p. 258/226 of Reaper Man and p. 236/170 of Small Gods.


+ [p. 28/21] “’You know salmon, sarge’ said Nobby. ‘It is a fish of which I am aware, yes.’”


A parody of the History Today sketches by Newman & Baddiel, where two old professors use a discussion on history to insult each other. These often started with a similar style of exchange along the lines of: “Do you know the industrial revolution?” “It is a period of history of which I am aware, yes”.


- [p. 30/22] “’Are you elvish?’”


The way everyone keeps asking Imp if he’s elvish resonates with our world’s ‘are you sure you’re not Jewish?’, but it’s of course also a play on the name ‘Elvis’, which eventually leads to the joke explained in the annotation for p. 376/284.


- [p. 31/23] “’Lias Bluestone,’ said the troll [...]”


See the annotation for p. 103/86 of Moving Pictures.


- [p. 31/23] “’Imp y Celyn,’ said Imp.”


This gets pretty much spelled out in the text: “Imp y Celyn” is a Welsh transliteration of ‘Bud of the Holly’, i.e. Buddy Holly. Terry originally mentioned this name on alt.fan.pratchett without giving the explanation. It took the group quite a while to figure it out, but luckily there are some Welsh people on the Internet...


- [p. 31/24] “’Glod Glodsson,’ said the dwarf.”


As his name indicates, Glod Glodsson is the son of the irritable dwarf Glod we learned about earlier in the footnotes for Witches Abroad.


- [p. 33/25] “[...] what you would get if you extracted fossilized genetic material from something in amber and then gave it a suit.”


What Terry means is that Mr Clete is a bit reptile-like. The reference is to the blockbuster novel/movie Jurassic Park, in which various murderous lizards were brought to life using prehistoric DNA found in amber-fossilized mosquitoes.


- [p. 35/27] “’Gimlet? Sounds dwarfish.’”


“Gimlet, son of Groin” is a dwarf appearing in the well known National Lampoon parody Bored of the Rings by the famous Dutch author Tolkkeen with four M’s and a silent Q. The original dwarf being, um, lampooned here is of course Tolkien’s Gimli, son of Gloin.

In the Discworld canon, this is the first time Gimlet makes an actual on-stage appearance, though he has been mentioned a number of times before, most notably in Reaper Man (see the annotation for p. 31/30 of that book).


- [p. 36/27] “’Give me four fried rats.’ [...] ‘You mean rat heads or rat legs?’ ‘No. Four fried rats.’”


This is a spoof of the restaurant scene in The Blues Brothers. Jake orders “Four fried chickens and a coke”, and the waitress (Aretha Franklin) asks him whether he’d like chicken wings or legs, etc. Even the “best damn fried rat in the city” is a direct paraphrase of a Blues Brothers quote.


- [p. 36/27] “’And two hard-boilled eggs,’ said Imp. The others gave him an odd look.”


This is partly a continuation of the Blues Brothers reference (after Jake asks for the fried chickens, Elwood asks for two slices of dry toast), and at the same time a nod to the Marx Brothers. In the cabin scene from A Night at the Opera, Groucho is giving his order to the steward outside the cabin; Chico is calling out “And two hard boiled eggs!” from inside, Groucho repeats it to the steward, then Harpo honks his horn and Groucho says “Make that three hard boiled eggs.” This happens several times, with Groucho ordering a multi-course meal in between. At one point Harpo adds a second honk, in a different pitch, and Groucho adds, “And one duck egg.” At the end Harpo produces a long series of honks in assorted tones, and Groucho says to the steward, “Either it’s foggy out, or make that a dozen hard boiled eggs.”


+ [p. 38/29] “’I won that at the Eisteddfod,’ said Imp.”


The eisteddfod is a real Welsh concept, originally a contest for poets and harpists. Nowadays, I’m told, it is more of a generic arts and crafts fair/contest, and it has spread as far as Australia, where the annual Rock Eisteddfod, according to one of my correspondents, is one of the most entertaining and highly competitive interschool activities around.


+ [p. 69/52] “The Hogfather is said to have originated in the legend of a local king [...] passing [...] the home of three young women and heard them sobbing because they had no food [...]. He took pity on them and threw a packet of sausages through the window.”


This recalls the legend of the original (Asiatic) St Nicholas, bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey, who threw a bag of gold (on three separate occasions) through the window of a poor man with three daughters, so the girls would have dowries, saving them from having to enter lives of prostitution.

I don’t know about other countries, but in the Netherlands we still celebrate St Nicholas’ day (on December 5th) rather than Christmas. Let me rephrase that. We do celebrate Christmas, but we have no tradition of a fat man in a red suit going ho-ho-ho while delivering presents.Instead, we get St Nicholas (‘Sinterklaas’), who also wears red, and comes over from Spain each year (don’t ask) to ride a white horse (not named Binky, as far as I know) over the rooftops and drop presents down the chimneys.


- [p. 43/33] “Just a stroke of the chalk...”


I’m not sure if it warrants an annotation, but I was fairly puzzled by this bit when I first read Soul Music. Only on re-reading did it dawn on me that what Terry is trying to tell us here is that chalked on the guitar is the number ‘1’. This will turn out to be rather significant, later on.


- [p. 46/35] “’You’re not going to say something like “Oh, my paws and whiskers”, are you?’ she said quietly.”


The White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “’The Duchess! The Duchess! Oh my dear paws! Oh my fur and whiskers!’”.

Terry doesn’t like the Alice books very much, though. See also the Words From The Master section in Chapter 5.


- [p. 47/36] “[...] ‘Shave and a haircut, two pence’ [...] Bam-bam-a-bambam, bamBAM.”


‘Shave and a haircut, two bits’ is a classic rock ‘n’ roll rhythm (used in just about everything Bo Diddley did, for instance). It was most recently reintroduced to the public as a punchline to a joke in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit.


- [p. 48/37] A-bam-bop-a-re-bop-a-bim-bam-boom.


A-wap-ba-ba-looba-a-wap-bam-boom, one of rock ‘n roll’s most famous phrases, from Little Richard’s ‘Tutti Frutti’.


- [p. 50/38] “’[...] oh, you’re a raven, go on, say the N word...’”


The N word is, of course, ‘Nevermore’ from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’.

See also the annotation for p. 217/191 of Reaper Man.


- [p. 55/42] “The wizard who thought he owned him called him Quoth, [...]”


The line from ‘The Raven’ fully goes: “Quoth the raven ‘Nevermore’.”

Quoth the Raven—get it?


- [p. 56/42] “Lunch was Dead Man’s Fingers and Eyeball Pudding, [...]”


Terry explains that this is “based on the UK tradition of giving horrible names to items on the school menu, such as Snot and Bogey Pie. Eyeball Pudding was usually semolina, Dead Men’s Fingers are sausages. At least, they were at my school, and friends confirm the general approach.”


- [p. 56/42] “Miss Butts [...] practised eurhythmics in the gym.”


Eurhythmics is an existing but little-known form of movement therapy (usually to music), which is also where pop band The Eurythmics got their name (both spellings of the word are valid).


- [p. 63/48] “There’s a floral clock in Quirm. It’s quite a tourist attraction.”


A flower display common in the more genteel and down-at-heel seaside resorts in the shape of a clock face, with the design of the face picked out in flowering plants of different colours. The more clever ones use flowers which open and close at different times of day, thus in principle allowing the time to be told by looking at the flowers. The less subtle ones just have a clock mechanism buried in the middle, and big hands.


- [p. 69/52] “There’s a song about him. It begins: You’d Better Watch Out...”


The real world equivalent of this song is of course ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’. I just
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