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Going Postal is Terry Pratchett's 33rd Discworld novel, released in the United Kingdom on September 25, 2004. Unusually for a Discworld novel (other than the children's books and The Science of Discworlds) Going Postal and its sequels are divided into chapters. These chapters begin with a synopsis of philosophical themes, in a similar manner to some Victorian novels and, notably, to Jules Verne stories. The book has been interpreted as a satirical attack on right-wing libertarianism in general and a parody of the writings of Ayn Rand in particular. The name comes from the expression 'going postal'.

The book was on the shortlist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel. It would also have been shortlisted for the Hugo Award for Best Novel, except that Pratchett withdrew it, as he felt stress over the award would mar his enjoyment of the Worldcon[1][2]. This was the first time Pratchett had been shortlisted for either award.

PlotEdit

Moist von Lipwig (aka Albert Spangler) is a skilful con artist. Nevertheless, he is confined to a cell in Ankh-Morpork and scheduled to be hanged, having stolen a total of AM$150,000. He is saved when his own death is faked and Lord Vetinari offers him a choice: he can walk out of the door (and fall to his death), or he can become Postmaster of the city’s run down Post Office. Lipwig chooses the latter, hoping that a chance to escape will present itself. Lipwig’s first and last escape attempt is thwarted by a golem named Mr Pump, previously called Pump 19 because he had spent the previous 250 years at the bottom of a well pumping water, who delivers Lipwig back to the office of the Patrician.

With great reluctance, Lipwig takes up his duties, only to find things are even worse than he had presumed. The Post Office has not functioned for decades, and the building is literally full of undelivered mail. Two eccentric employees remain: the aged Junior Postman Tolliver Groat, and Stanley Howler, a pin-obsessed boy who was raised by peas. They are more concerned about following the Post Office Regulations than seeing the postal system restored. There is also a Post Office cat, Mr. Tiddles, but it is even more set in its ways than its owners. Lipwig learns that within the last couple of months, while he was waiting to die in his prison cell, a whole string of newly-appointed Postmasters have met their own deaths in the Post Office building. Lipwig eventually discovers that most of the men were killed by failure to safely interact with a "ghost reality" which overlays the physical structure in the Post Office. A wizard at Unseen University explains to him that this phenomenon is caused by the fact that words have power, and masses of them are currently crammed into every available inch of space in the Post Office.

Passing a cruel and dangerous test conducted by the few surviving members of a secret order of postmen, Lipwig "officially" becomes Postmaster, and also learns that the Post Office was once a very efficient operation. Its downfall was when the trans-dimensional letter-sorting machine, created by the infamous inventor Bloody Stupid Johnson, became so highly tuned (owing to Johnson's substitution of 3 for pi in its design) that it was sorting letters before they were written, along with letters which might have been written, but weren't.

Lipwig introduces postage stamps to Ankh-Morpork, hires golems to deliver the mail, and finds himself competing against the Grand Trunk Clacks line. He meets and falls in love with the tough, chain-smoking golem-rights activist, Adora Belle Dearheart, and the two begin a relationship by the end of the book. Dearheart is the daughter of the Clacks founder John Dearheart, though the company was taken away from her by tricky financial manoeuvring. Because of this, she still has useful contacts amongst the clacks operators.

The unscrupulous Clacks chairman, Reacher Gilt, sets a banshee assassin (Mr Gryle) on the Postmaster, but only manages to burn down much of the Post Office building. The banshee dies when he gets flipped onto the space-warping sorting machine. Lipwig makes an outrageous wager than he can deliver a message to Genua faster than the Grand Trunk can. "The Smoking Gnu", a group of clacks-crackers, sets up a plan to send a killer poke into the clacks system that will destroy the machinery, halting the message that Lipwig will race against. Lipwig talks the Gnu out of this plan of destruction, and opts for a more psychological attack on the Grand Trunk which will leave the semaphore towers standing. Through the use of an intermediate Clacks tower, he intercepts the Grand Trunk's message and substitutes his own pretending it is from the ghosts of the dead Clacks operators and which exposes the illegal activities of Reacher Gilt and his Board. This plan succeeds, and Gilt ends up walking through a very specific door - the very option that Lipwig avoided.

Popular References: Edit

The cover design was inspired by the original Star Wars poster and there are many Star Wars references throughout the book.

The title comes from a term that arose in the 1980s because of several mentally stressed U.S. Postal Service employees who went on shooting spree at post offices, killing employees and bystanders. This resulted in the U.S. Postal Service (and many other similarly affected organizations) re-evaluating employee work conditions and decreasing stress in the work place. The term became an American slang term for when an employee or ex-employee goes on a murderous rampage at his workplace, though now it is more often 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 Howler.

Going Postal is the first of the Discworld books to be separated into actual chapters. At the beginning of each chapter is a short summary of what the chapter is about. This is a similar approach to Victorian morality tales, giving the reader a taste of what is to come. Since eight is such a key number in Discworld, it is important that the reader look at the chapter between seven and nine and its heading.

The line, "They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man’s mind wonderfully” 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."

The name of the protagonist, Moist von Lipwig, is very appropriate for a con man. 'Lip Wig' is slang for a 'moustache' a common addition to a disguise. 'Moist' suggests 'slippery', also a common con man trait.

Mr. Wilkinson says, “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.” This line is 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.” The fruit basket analogy with getting past the pineapple is used throughout the novel and is presaged in The Last Continent where the Senior Wrangler discloses that his aunt was a victim of one, a woman who literally could not get past the pineapple. The fruit basket reappears later in the novel when Moist sends a basket to Aggy after he is bitten by the dog while on his rounds. It also is used when Moist is riding on Boris to Sto Helit.

The scene where Moist Von Lipwig, aka Albert Spangler, is waiting to be hanged has many parallels in the song and literature of the Roundworld. The idea of a someone appearing to give the condemned man or woman a last minute reprieve has been done in many forms; the old folk song, The Maid Freed from the Gallows, which is recreated in various forms including Gallows Pole (done by Leadbelly and made famous by Led Zeppelin) and the fairy tale, The Golden Ball to name two. In this case, Pratchett plays with the concept by having the black coach arrive and instead of having it bring a letter of pardon, the person inside says, "I bring a message from Lord Vetinari....He says to get on with it, it's long past dawn!" Pratchett also plays with the idea of the condemned man always getting what he wants for his last meal. It the novel Moist is told that, "breakfast isn't until seven o'clock, ....But, tell you what, I'll do you a bacon sandwich."

Moist's attempt at some famous final words "It's not a bad thing I do now" draws on Dicken's novel, A Tale of Two Cities and Sidney Carton's final speech , "it is a far, far better thing I do". Sidney nobly steps into the shoes of a man he resembles and dies in his place while Moist less nobly 'dies' under one of his aliases - neither dying under their own name.

Moist's real final words are a parody of words Shakespeare used in his will a month before he died, “I commend my soul into the hands of God, my Creator" Moist von Lipwig/Albert Spangler on the other hand says, "I commend my soul to any god that can find it.” He starts to repeat this line again when waiting for the Smoking Gnu on the Post Office roof later in the book.

Vetinari tells Moist to look on him as one of those angels that arrives at a point in a person's life to offer him a chance to correct the mess he has made of it. This is the old concept of a shoulder angel in which a guardian angel tries to direct the person toward the path of righteousness while a devil tries to lead the person astray. Christopher Marlowe's play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus and the opera Faust by Charles Gounod are the best examples of the devil winning but other Roundworld examples include the movie starring Jimmy Stewart It's a Wonderful Life where the angel wins. In this case, however there is no real choice. Moist can take the job which Vetinari is offering to him or walk through the door and fall to his death (a fate similar to those of many of the villains or assistant villains in various James Bond movies). This is a Hobson's choice, which Pratchett references shortly afterwards in the novel. The angel motif is repeated regularly in the book.

When questioned about whether Moist will show up at the post office or skip town, Vetinari says, "One must always consider the psychology of the individual". This is a direct quote from PG Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster series of novels - a line Jeeves often uses when solving one of Bertie Wooster's 'problems'.

Moist escapes town on a "skinny old screw from the Bargain Box in Hobson's Livery Stable". The reader first met this business in The Truth when de Worde met Deep Bone there. Willie Hobson, who owns Hobson's multi-storey Livery Stable, clearly the equivalent of a multi-storey car park, is patterned after Thomas Hobson (1544-1630) a Cambridge stable manager and the origin of the saying "Hobson's choice" (ie the appearance of giving someone a choice, when actually there is only one option). People renting horses from him would be shown all available horses, but in the end they always had to take the one nearest the door, so that all his horses were exercised.

Mr. Pump, the Golem parole officer says to Moist, "You Can't Run And You Can't Hide" which is a play on the common saying "You can run but you can't hide" which originated in the 1940s, and is attributed to the American boxer Joe Louis (1914-81), who supposedly said this on the eve of his fight with the light heavyweight champion Billy Conn.

When Moist tries to escape from the Golem, Mr. Pump, he finds that his horse has been "clamped" a reference to the wheel clamping device used in the Roundworld to stop an impounded car from being moved - known as the "Denver Boot."

"Mr. Pump does not sleep. Mr. Pump does not eat. And Mr. Pump, Postmaster General, does not stop." This is a paraphrase of a line from 1999 film The Mummy: "He will never eat, he will never sleep, and he will never stop." It also resonates with 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!"

Moist says to Vetinari, "I know golems are not allowed to hurt people". Moist is applying Isaac Asimov's first law of robotics to the golem. Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Pratchett pokes fun at these laws when he has Vetinari order Mr. Pump to break one of Moist's fingers and Mr. Pump quotes an addendum to the law "Unless Ordered To Do So By Duly Constituted Authority", which is not part of Asimov's original three. This extra addendum continues a common Pratchett theme of subordinates unquestioningly carrying out the orders of a superior, an argument which was at the core of the Nuremburg Trials after WW II and is known as "the superior orders plea" or the "Nuremburg Defense".

The sign on the wall of the Post Office says, "NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW NOR GLO M OF NI T CAN STAY THESE MES ENGERS ABO T THEIR DUTY."" This inscription comes from the General Post Office in New York City which reads: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." The line was also referenced in Men at Arms.

The list of things on the wall of the post office that one is not supposed to ask about includes Mrs. Cake, who was first introduced in Reaper Man and is a psychic medium who runs a boarding house for the undead in Ankh-Morpork. The list is a parody of the common lists businesses promote encouraging the patron to ask about everything from a restaurant's the new kid's menu to the insurance company's policy options. Being the post office, with a reputation for not being proactive, the list is turned into a negative.

Dimwell Arrhythmic Rhyming Slang is an obvious parody of Cockney Rhyming slang. Dimwell is a district and street in Ankh-Morport. Pratchett points out that even ordinary rhyming slang has an obvious problem for general use in that it is often difficult to trace the logic of the word back to the rhymes that created the first connection. Dimwell Rhyming slang is one step beyond this, like the progression in poetry from rhyming couplets that scan to arrythmic blank verse. For example, Tolliver Groat, who is a fluent Dimwell speaker explains to Moist von Lipwig that his "hair" is "all mine, you know, not a prunes". In Dimwell Rhyming Slang, "syrup of prunes" means wig. (In Cockney Rhyming Slang, the expected derivation would be "syrup of figs - wigs.").

Stanley says, [he had wings] on his hat and his ankles,' "So he could fly the messages at the speed of ... messages." In Roman mythology, Mercury (Hermes to the Greeks) was the messenger to the gods in general and Jupiter (Zeus) in particular. He is depicted with a winged cap and wings on his ankles. As well as making a clever 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 including Michelangelo's David, were discretely covered in a standard fig-leaf, chosen ostensibly because the Bible identified it as the leaf used by Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness, when they saw they were naked, and they were ashamed. The fig leaf with wings covering the penis has another older origin as well. Frescoes discovered intact at the Roman sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum display penises and testicles with wings and in one mural, young women are trying to catch them as they buzz around in like a flock of birds. 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. It was a fertility symbol as well as ensuring good health and a healthy sex life. It was worn around the neck in the same way other religions might wear a cross, or indeed a turtle in Discworld. Conflating these two concepts - Victorian prudery and healthy bawdiness - in the form of a confused-looking fig leaf with wings on it, would suggest Ankh-Morpork is a place confused about what its attitude to sexuality should be... just like Pratchett's own Britain, in fact! Pratchett has used this reference before in Small Gods with Om-as-Tortoise's desperate curse on Brother Nhumrod, "Your sexual organs to sprout wings and fly away!"

The two roommates at the Post Office, Stanley Howler and Tolliver Groat, are polar opposites, one with the messy side to his room and the other super neat. This scenario is reminiscent of such films such as The Odd Couple (TV and movie) and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Living Conditions (Pratchett was probably not consciously thinking of the latter, not being a fan).

Stanley whose parents passed away of the Gnats (a type of plague) and was raised by peas draws a ridiculous parallel to the many "true stories" of children being raised by animals as well as such fictional accounts as Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book boy, Mowgli, who was raised by the wolf pack, or Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan of the Apes, or Romulus and Remus the founders of Rome raised by wolves. The reference to "raised by peas" also draws parallels to the idea of being "pea brained" - in other words a bit dim. Pratchett uses this line in his next book "Thud!" when Vimes says, "That pea-brained idiot at the Post Office has only gone and issued a Koom Valley stamp!"

Stanley exhibits some of the tendencies of autism in his encyclopedic knowledge of pins and obsessive nature toward them. He is the editor of "Total Pins" and hates the rival magazine "Pins Monthly", both popular names for magazines (except for the pins part). Similarly, when he discovers the world of stamps, he shifts completely to this new obsession.

Mr. Tiddles, the cat, is a large black and white cat. To UK readers this would remind them of the BBC children's TV show Postman Pat and its jingle "Postman Pat and his black and white cat" named Jess. It is also an obvious reference to the Monty Python's sketch Interesting People with Graham Chapman where Chapman tells the show's host that his cat, Tiddles flies across the room and lands in a bucket of water when really he throws Tiddles across the room into the water. The real Roundworld Tiddles (1970 -1983) lived in the Paddington Station ladies room and weighed over 30 pounds.

Tolliver Groat (a groat is a medieval coin) and his naturopathic remedies is a send up of the whole alternate medicine field where everything natural is deemed to be good for you. As Pratchett points out by using the natural compound containing arsenic, even poisons occur naturally but that doesn't mean they are necessarily good for the body. A similar point can be made about the homeopathic dead mole around Tollver's neck. Later in the novel, Tolliver is saved from the banshee by his naturopathic remedies but it is the thickness of the mess on his chest that stops the claws of the beast, not the medicine itself.

The piles of undelivered letters in the Post Office, including one accepting a young man's offer of marriage from 40 years ago, references the many stories of postal workers around the world dumping, hiding and generally not delivering their mail, usually because they are unable to deliver it all in their daily shift due to the volume of mail or the size of their route so they save it planning on delivering it on a slow day - which never comes.

The whole question of the viability of the Post Office is raised with the expansion of the clacks tower network, which has been growing and developing over the course of the Discworld series and is like the Roundworld semaphore tower system across southern Britain of the late 1700s, early1800s or the telegraph lines across the North American continent in the early 1900s. They have obvious parallels in the modern Roundworld to the internet and email, Facebook, Twitter etc which have been the death knell for personal mail in the Roundworld as the clacks towers have been in Discworld.

The name of the Clacks Semaphore company The Grand Trunk has several Roundworld references. The Grand Truck Road which is a major road that connects the eastern and western regions of India allowed news to move faster before telephones. The Grand Trunk Railroad operated in Eastern Canada between Ontario and Quebec and the New England States played a similar role in speeding communications and inter-connectivity in North Eastern North America. There is also the Grand Funk Railroad, which was a popular American rock and R & B band in the 1970s.

Moist says, "Good Gods, the madness is catching.....what kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government?" Later on as he settles into his role as Post Master and begins to see the money making possibilities he says, "governments took money off people. That's what they were for." Both these lines reflect Pratchett's general contempt for bureaucracy and government in general and are certainly apropos given the politics of governments around the world today.

When Moist visits the pin shop he walks into a world very reminiscent of any of the seedier establishments of an earlier Roundworld era, like an old style pornography store (before they vanished with the rise of pornography on the internet) with its rows of magazines which would be placed in a plain wrapper before leaving the store, the behind the counter products, age restrictions "not for children", the backroom peep shows and extra services for special guests, etc. Similar comparable "dodgy" establishments would be shops selling rolling papers, pipes and medicinal marijuana in the store front and less medicinal products out the back, the old speakeasies for buying booze during prohibition and even pharmacies in the days when Playboy and Penthouse were sold with a plain brown cover to hide the real cover that was not appropriate for young eyes and which sold contraceptive devices and products from behind the counter instead of out in the open. Later in the novel, Pratchett continues with this analogy when he suggests that the stamps being designed for the Seemstresses' Guild may have to be placed in a plain brown envelope.

Antimony Parker, the Greengrocer says, "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 which Mr. Parker does to extreme, carrying the language on his sign into his own speech.

When Vetinari meets with the officials from Grand Trunk he says, "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." There are parallels between the Grand Trunk and America's now broken up AT&T telecommunications monopoly, but in all likelihood Pratchett was thinking of the UK's British Telecom, which is still a monopoly there and has very few friends among its consumers and is truly reflected in the quote above. British Telecom was once part of the British Post Office and was still known as "Post Office Telecommunications" until 1980, shortly before it was privatized by Margaret Thatcher's government at a fraction of its true value, just like the Grand Trunk.

"The free golems work 24-8...." As anyone who has read Discworld from the beginning know, the number eight is magically important on the Disc and tends to occur wherever our world would use a seven. This reference is to working 24-7 in our world but in Discworld the week is 8 days long.

"'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) also known as 'The Viking Game', 'The King's Table' or simply 'Tafl' wh ich is likely the origin of the Discworld game's name. Hnefatafl is one of the rare breed of games with two unequal sides. It consists of a square chess type playing board (originally cloth) and peg men made out of carved stone or wood. The defending side comprises twelve soldiers and a king, who start the game in a cross formation in the center of the board. Their objective is for the king to escape by reaching any of the four corner squares. The attackers comprise 24 soldiers positioned in four groups of 6 around the perimeter of the board. All pieces move like the Rook in chess and pieces are taken by "sandwiching" i.e. moving your piece so that an opponent's piece is trapped horizontally or vertically between two of your own. The game plays an important role in Thud!. Vetinari is a master at such unequal sided games in the politics of Discworld.

Stanley says, “See a pin pick it up and all day long you’ll have a pin.” which is a variation on the Roundworld rhyme “See a pin (or a penny) pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.”

The description of the pin, "They were hand-drawn and had his trademark silver head with a microscopic engraving of a cockerel." This might be a reference to the fancy microscopic engravings computer chip designers use when endorsing their work or could simply be the kind of identifying style or signature mark any craftsman might put on his work from Faberge's eggs to Robert Thompson's wood work with its signature carved mice. In addition, since both pins and angels are common themes which are interconnected throughout the book, Pratchett might be drawing a connection to the common saying "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin" which is a euphemism for debating minutia while the world collapses around you - much like the Post Office has done.

Moist says, "'Do you understand anything I'm saying?' 'You can't just go around killing people!' 'Why Not?'" This line paraphrasing the line from Terminator 2 where John Connor says, "You can't just go around killing people!" to which Terminator replies, "Why?" John Connor says, "What do you mean, why? Because you can't!" to which Terminator replies, "Why?"

"The leopard doesn't change its shorts" is a malapropism play on the old saying "the leopard doesn't change its spots" (people don't reform or change) as well as the idea of 'having to change one's shorts" after having an accident in them from being scared. This line is used throughout Pratchett's novels.

"Perfect Recall" is reference to "Total Recall" the 1990 Paul Verhoeven movie starring Arnold Swartzenegger and Sharon Stone. Pratchett also pokes fun at this reference in his companion book with Stephen Briggs, "Turtle Recall".

The reference to the young men in the clack towers, working for free or minimum wages, "loners, dreamers, fugitives from the law that the law had forgotten, or just from everybody else" resonates with the world of internet hackers, both groups alone with their little circle of fellow misfits, never leaving their parents' basements; as Pratchett says, "running away from home without actually leaving." In the computer hacker and clack world, they have their own aliases and false (secret identities) such as Princess in Tower 181. In both computer and clacks worlds they speak their own jargon which Pratchett uses to poke fun at their world by combining words that relate to computers, ham radio and telegraph and Morse code, turning a sequence of Roundworld communications terms into a Clack language.

Tower 181 - number abbreviations are used throughout communications, from the signal flags of the early Royal Navy days to the present International Code of Signals. They are also used in CB radio communication, everyone knows '10-4 good buddy'. Whether Pratchett intended it or not Code 181 is from the California Penal Code and refers to the enforced bondage of one individual by another - very apropos for the novel given the "free golem movement". It also has an '8" in it; as stated before, an important number in Discworld.

donkey and non donkey - e-donkey was a file sharing network

system overhead - in computer science, overhead is any combination of excess or indirect computation time, memory, bandwidth, or other resources that are required to perform a specific task.

packet spacing - the gap between bunches of information being sent (like the spaces between words) whether over the internet or the airwaves.

drumming it - in Morse communication the sender develops an identifiable style like the identifiable rhythm of a drummer. Later in the section, Pratchett talks about the clacks tower operators carrying on separate sub-conversations while still sending and receiving totally unrelated messages, a skill which was common among Morse code operators when sending telegraph messages.

hotfooting - It means to leave town in a hurry ahead of the police - not uncommon for computer hackers to leave a site in a hurry ahead of computer law enforcers. Foot was also a common sending/receiving mistake by "hams" (see below) when using American Morse because of the similarity between "T" and "L (the latter a longer dash than the former) which created "fool" instead.

plug-code - the coding system used for different types of plug ends on electrical equipment is the obvious reference but there might be a more subtle one.

hog code - In the patois of telegraphy, "Hog- Morse" is Morse code practiced by inexperienced operators who tend to make mistakes, particularly using American Morse which had confusing and subtle differences that made it easy to make mistakes; It was named because an a operator missed the space between 'm' and 'e' in the word 'home' (.... --- -- .) and transcribed 'hog' (.... --- --.) instead. The name Hog-Morse supposedly was turned into ham (ham fisted) for inexperienced telegraphy operators and eventually became the general term for Ham Radio operators.

jacquard - a apparatus with perforated cards, fitted to a loom to facilitate the weaving of figured and brocaded fabrics which led directly to the punch cards used by early computers.

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. The acronym GNU applies to the regular transmission of John Dearhearts name, see below and under The Smoking Gnu.

(Corgi edition)) The line "It overwhelms the soul, very much like the state he elsewhere describes as Vonallesvolkommenunverstandlichdasdaskeit. " - This line is a take off on the way German runs a whole series of words together to make one noun for a complex concept or idea. When you split the word up into its components it is 'Von' (from) 'Alles' (everything) 'Vollkommen' (completely) 'unverständlich' (incomprehensible) 'das das' (the the {like a stammer of the article 'the'}) and 'keit' (an ending meaning 'ness') which roughly translates as "the state or condition of incomprehensibility of everything" This also presages 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. The German word "Frei" means "free", therefore suited to the recurring topic of freedom in the book. In German and possibly 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. In Roundworld there is the acronym TGIF, for Thank God It's Friday!" to denote that Friday-night feeling at the start of the weekend. Neither the name Friday or "Freitag" are derived from "Free - day" but come from the old Norse Goddess Freya).

Groat's mental soliloquy, "Yea, he will tread the Abandoned Roller Skates beneath his Boots, and Lo! the Dogs of the World will Break their Teeth upon HIm." resonates with passages in the Bible but also foreshadows Moist's trial by ordeal initiation into the Postmen brotherhood as well as the trial by ordeal of the golem Anghammarad.

Reacher Gilt's Igor servant says "The Marthter ith having one of hith little thoireeth, thur" which has parallels to the Rocky Horror (Picture) Show where the hunchbacked servant tells the innocents "You've come on a rather special night. The Master is having one of his affairs..."

"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 Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island, as in 'silver' and 'gold' (gilt) and a 'reacher' is a type of foresail on a sailing vessel as well as a tool for helping disabled people (like Long John Silver with his wooden leg) reach something. It also connotes someone reaching to take everything that he can possible get. 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. The reference to him throwing lavish parties suggests The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. There may also be links and distant echoes to the plot and characters of Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy which is also in this context and is a work of satire parodying 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. Roundworld parallels might include English billionaire playboy-investor Richard Branson and there are certainly parallels to US TV personality and now president, Donald Trump (including the site of Gilt's office in Tump Tower.

The parrot squawking out "Twelve and a half percent! Twelve and a half percent!"– Long John Silver's parrot always repeated "Pieces of eight!" In the days when the value of money was in the material of the coin (silver or gold) people divided the coin by cutting it if they needed a value smaller than the coin in hand. Pieces of eight were pieces of a gold coin divided into eight pieces. Twelve and a half percent is exactly one-eighth of 100% of the whole dollar, gold coin or whatever -a piece of eight. Moist almost explains later in the book, that this is a financial joke.

The line, "les buggeures risible" is Pig French for "Silly Buggers", a common English slang term for deliberately obstructive activity. The real French expression would be "Faire le con" or "Faire l'idiot" ("Someone's playing silly buggers, here...")

When Moist, as "the Unfranked Man" goes through the initiation into the Order of the Post, Pratchett uses the style of ritual that one of the original trades, the Masons used in its initiation rites and uses to this day; the secret signs, the call and response between the Worshipful Master (Grand Master) and the rest of the group, the various oaths that must be repeated, the slightly scary and mysterious rituals. Pratchett turns these rituals on their heads though by making them relate to the every day mundane problems on the postman's rounds; the roller skate on the sidewalk, the toys strewn around the yard on a dark morning, the letter box that snaps shut on one's hand, the extra heavy bag of mail, the killer dogs. The 'unfranked man' refers to a stamp that has not been cancelled at the post office yet - in other words a virgin or uninitiated stamp/man. This and the following scene involving the letters appearing in the air are also reminiscent of evangelical revival meetings.

Moist thinks the dogs used for the initiation are Lipwigzers!" Since Moist is "von Lipwig" which means from Lipwig, we can assume that his ancestors came from the same place as this breed of dog and he is familiar with them because his grandfather raised them, hence his ability to stop them from attacking him. Pratchett is likely punning on Weimaraners or Rottweilers which are German breeds of dog that take their name from the Grand Duke of Weimar from the city of that name or the town of Rottweil respectively. The cover of the UK edition depicts two dogs similar in appearance to Rottweilers. The irony is that the dogs are cross breeds so it is luck not some innate skill that stops them.

During the initiation the Worshipful Master says: “Yes, well, you know what we used to say: you do have to be mad to work here!” This is a twist on the Roundworld saying: “You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps”. This is reinforced later on 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!' In North American slang "mad" tends to mean "angry" rather than "crazy", so Pratchett is playing with the two uses of the word and it is also an echo of Susan's maxim from Hogfather - 'don't get scared, get angry'.

The scene when Moist places the hat on his head and "sees the writing on the wall" (too obvious a reference to even mention) and says "Look, I'm not the One you're looking for!" resonates with Graham Chapman's increasingly perplexed and angry Brian in Monty Python's The Life of Brian. The role also has similarities to Neo in the movie The Matrix as well as 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." It also has similarities to the 1964 Bob Dylan song, "It Ain't Me Babe"

In the same scene, the letters say, "In the beginning was a Word" which is a reference to the Bible, John 1.1 which says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Moist's following words in the call and response are similar to a church revival meeting. The final line in the scene, "Deliver Us!" is a pun on the Israelites' cry from the Biblical book of Exodus.

After passing the initiation, Groat takes Moist to the basement to see the Bloody Stupid Johnson's Sorting Engine. He says, "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." Imps are of course used as the basis for a lot of Discworld technology, but in the British Royal Mail system the huge sorting machines in every mail centre are called Integrated Mail Processors - known as IMPs for short.

When they are viewing the Sorting Engine, Groat says, '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.'" (Pi is the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter and is an irrational number, 3.14159....)There's an old mathematical limerick about this issue.

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.

Pratchett is probably referencing this as well as the misguided attempt to legislate a value for 'pi' in Indiana in 1897 but there was also the urban legend that circulated in the 1990s which began life as a spoof of the creationist fervor in the southern USA.

Pratchett says, "If somewhere, any possible world can exist, then somewhere there is any letter that could possible be written. Somewhere, all those cheques really are in the post." This is a reference to the common saying, "Your cheque is in the mail (post)" often used when the payer is trying to delay paying a bill. However it also refers to the 'infinite monkey theorem' which holds that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. Supplying the monkey with bananas over this time span is a separate issue.

In the American edition Miss Dearheart (nicknamed Spike) says "My gods, it's you! For a minute I thought a second sun had appeared in the sky!" while the British version evidently has Spike saying "My gods, it's you! I thought for a second sun had appeared in the sky!" (both reacting to seeing Lipwig in his golden suit for the first time and radiating like the sun god.) The British version is either an editing error that has been corrected in the American one or else Pratchett is playing on Moist being a "second sun" and "thought for a second" by deliberately leaving the punctuation vague.

Stanley says, 'Coo, you're a good draw-er, Mr. Lipwig. That looks just like Lord Vetinari!' Moist replies, 'That's the penny stamp,' – 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. But by dividing 'drawer' into two words, Pratchett also plays on the fact that Moist is in fact a good "draw", regularly appearing on page one of the Ankh-Morpork Times and becoming a cult hero to the people of the city.

When Moist shows Adora his stamp designs, she says “What’s this? You carry your etchings with you to save time?” which is a reference to the old line "Want to come up to my room 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. The origin of this expression is a novel by Horatio Alger, Jr. called The Erie Train Boy, which was first published in 1891 and after James Thurber used the reference in a 1929 cartoon it became a common expression. Dashiell Hammett used it in his 1934 novel, The Thin Man.

Adora follows this up with, "What's this one? Oh, the Tower of Art... how like a man." an obvious sarcastic reference to the tendency of man (not woman) to immortalize large phallic type structures (cathedral towers, bank buildings, the Trump towers and rocket ships to list a few).

When Moist demonstrates the effect perforations have in the stamp sheet and "Gently, the paper tore down the line of holes." he is inventing perforated stamp sheets which didn't appear until 1857 in the U.S., seventeen years after the penny stamp was introduced.

Moist writes "Post Office" on his stamps. In Roundworld, this happened once as a mistake when the stamps for Mauritius were designed. The legend is that the half blind 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 "Post Office" on the stamp. This is a philatelist myth; the wording was intentional but was subsequently changed to "Postage Paid" on later issuings which made this one of the rarest stamps collected.

'I won't be long. I'm off to see the wizard.'" Pratchett, who uses Wizard of Oz references often in his novels probably couldn't believe his good fortune when presented with the opportunity to use this line from Frank L. Baum's The Wizard of Oz.

"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 Roundworld are Hope, Charity, Faith, Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, and Prudence and are often displayed in niches in churches throughout Europe. The Discworld has Eight Virtues which include Bissonomy and Tubso who are so little remembered that no one knows what they represent. Significantly, Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Faith are not virtues in Discworld while Patience, Chastity and Silence are. Common to both are Hope, Charity and Fortitude.

Professor Pelc asks Moist if he would burn a book. This is a reference to the many examples of the suppression of free speech and knowledge by organizations in power. In some cases, the destroyed works are irreplaceable and their burning constitutes a severe loss to cultural heritage. As early as China's Qin Dynasty (213–210 BCE) books were burned and scholars buried. Other examples include, the burning of the Library of Alexandria (c. 49), the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad (1258), the destruction of Aztec codices by Itzcoatl (1430s), and the burning of Maya codices on the order of bishop Diego de Landa (1562). In these cases the books were irreplaceable but in other cases, such as the Nazi book burnings, copies survived. Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 (the temperature at which books burn) is devoted to the subject and was supposedly written because of Bradbury's concern for book burning in America during the McCarthy era of the 1950s.

Professer Pelc says, "These [books] are not on the public shelves lest untrained handling cause the collapse of everything that is possible to imagine.* – This is likely a reference to 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." It also refers back to the alleged destruction of the universe that happened when B.S. Johnson's Sorting Engine was shut down..

Professor Pelc continues "... 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 close enough that Pratchett is likely drawing a parallel.

When Moist asks Pelc where the wizards go when they die, Pelc replies, "'Where do they go [when they die]?' 'No one's sure, exactly, but you can hear the sounds of cutlery.'"– 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.

Professor Goitre, the wizard who takes early death because it was a very good package, is an obvious reference to employees taking early retirement but also resonates with Douglas Adams' series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the rock star Hotblack DeSiato takes a year off dead for tax purposes. Since goitre is disease caused by a diet of rich food, the professor has an appropriate name for a wizard.

Vetinari's clerk brings government documents for Moist to deliver and indicates that obviously government business is carried for free. The same holds true in many countries of the Roundworld.

Moist muses as he gallops to Sto Helit, "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. Getting past the pineapple is explained earlier.

The mayor of Sto Helit is Joe Camels – 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.

When Mr. Pump doesn't follow him to Sto Helit, Moist muses that perhaps he could fake his own death, "The old pile-of-cloths-on-the-seashore trick". This is a reference to David Nobbs book and TV series "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin" where Reggie fakes his death by appearing to wade into the sea and drown, leaving his clothes behind. Reggie later resurfaces and woos his wife, thinking naively that she doesn't recognize him.

The restaurant, Le Foie Heureux, (literally the Happy Liver) is a play on the French versus English usage of the word 'liver' because the French word only means the part of the body where as the English word also means someone who is happy to be alive.

In reference to the food at La Foie Heureux, Moist says, "Ha, even the damn soup there is fifteen dollars!" - This is very likely a reference to The Blues Brothers, also referenced throughout Soul Music. When the Brothers visit a former band member - now Maître d' in a posh Chicago restaurant - he encourages them to leave the restaurant 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."

'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 gungnu 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.

The punks outside the Mended Drum, who are organizing the brawl they are going to start inside, resonate with choreographed fight scenes in any action movie where each move is scripted in advance (professional wrestling is the same). The organizer sounds like the coach of any professional sports team and the move called the "Double Andrew" is a common fight stunt done by everyone from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith to Chuck Bartowski (Zachari Levi) and Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) in the TV show Chuck, to various James Bonds and their female "Bond Girls".

Adora says to the drunk, "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....'" – This sequence is 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?"

When Gilt meets Moist in La Foie Heureux, he says, "Are you .... the Postmaster .....Without your hat .....I am .... pleased to meet you ... I trust your good luck will continue." which foreshadows the attempt on Moist's life and the mistaken identity caused by the hat.

The reference to the way fire works "fire was sneaky stuff... It sat there and smouldered until you opened the door to see how it was getting on and then the fire caught its breath and your eyeballs got soldered to your skull.", is a description of a flashover which happens when fire in an enclosed room or space suddenly gets a supply of oxygen (like when a door is opened) to make it explode into flame. Moist's plan of "feel the front door,...quite cool. Open it gently ... a rush of air, but no explosion. The big hall, lit with flame... but it was all above him....." describes the proper method of entering a burning room - check with the back of your hand to see if the door is hot and only open it if it is cool, stay low, work from behind the door to avoid flashover when the air hits the room, etc.

When Adora kisses Moist as he enters the burning Post Office "it was like being kissed by an ashtray, but in a good way." - this line resonates with the anti-smoking campaign saying, "Kissing a smoker is like licking a dirty ashtray!"

Stanley says, "But now it was time to put away childish pins."– The King James version of the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:11 "but when I became a man, I put away childish things")

Stanley resorts to the Post Office Book of Regulations; What to do in case of Fire section and goes through the check list which includes yelling "Fire". Pratchett is poking fun at the over reliance of companies, and particularly government departments to write SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for every little thing and insist that employees check all the boxes to eliminate any chance of anything important being overlooked but instead take away any initiative that the employee might have. SOPs of this type are very common in the airline and shipping industry to ensure that cockpit or bridge procedures during landing/take off or docking/departing berth are followed as well as for emergency procedures in both industries. Shouting "fire' is usually not included in the checklist, however.

The line "Stanley the Vampire Slayer" is an obvious reference to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" the character and the TV series starring Sarah Michelle Geller. Buffy stopped demons and vampires in many unusual ways but never with a bag of pins.

The scene where Moist is searching for the cat the basement and is about to be attacked by the banshee is straight from Brett's experience with Jones the cat in Ridley Scott's "Alien".

In that scene Moist thinks, "It's right behind me, yes? Bloody well bloody right bloody behind me!" It is probably a stretch to suggest that Pratchett was thinking of the title of the Supertramp song "Bloody Well Right" but it certainly resonates it. Pratchett is probably simply using the common British expression.

"'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 Lady Ramkin, 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. This hospital was built by and is led by Dr. John 'Mossy' Lawn who was given a large endowment and the plot of land on Attic Bee Street, near Goose Gate, by Sam Vimes in gratitude for assisting during Sam Jr.'s difficult delivery at the end of Night Watch. Dr Lawn named his hospital after his patron. Dr. Lawn's training in Klatch meant that of all the doctors in Ankh-Morpork, his patients tended to get better rather than die.

Moist tells Adora that he will bankrupt Reacher Gilt by 'do(ing) things my way' a reference to the Frank Sinatra song, "I did it my way".

The graveyard shift priest at the temple of Offler, the crocodile god, says " We eat the mere earthly shell, which believe me turns to dust and ashes in our mouths." This is the kind of justification used by unscrupulous priests throughout the ages for enjoying all the material aspects of extravagant worldly living while pretending that there is nothing there to really appreciate but pain and suffering. John Milton (1608–1674) used this reference in Paradise Lost referring to Satan in the lines "....deluded with a shew of the Forbidden Tree springing up before them, they, greedily reaching to take of the Fruit, chew dust and bitter ashes." The original source is likely the Bible which has many references to "ashes to ashes, dust to dust".

Miss Maccalariat, the elderly Post Office denizen says to Moist, "We're all going to be walking the streets!" a double entendre for being out on your ears because there is no building left to work in, but also a "street walker" or prostitute (the last career option, Miss Maccalariat is ever likely to have).

Vetinari tells Moist that all four of the religions to which he prayed expect a tithe - a tithe is 10% of annual earnings and dates back to and is referenced throughout the Bible. So 10% of $150,000 equals $15,000 per god or $60,000 total. Needless to say neither Vetinari or Moist plans on this much going to the church when it is needed to defeat Reacher Gilt.

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.

"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, combined with the following paragraph musing on hope, clearly refers to the UK National Lottery (also known as the Tax For Innumerates) which in the 90s used a 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".

'Find the Lady' is also known as 'Three-card Monte' and 'three-card trick' and is a confidence game in which the victim, or "mark", is tricked into betting a sum of money, on the assumption that they can find the "money card" among three face-down playing cards. It is the same as the shell game except that cards are used instead of shells. The dealer uses his skill with cards to switch the perceived "winning card" with a "loser." This confidence trick was already in use by the turn of the 15th century.

The picture of Tiddles being carried from the burning post office naturally appears on the front page of the Times and continues the tradition started in the Times in The Truth with its heartwarming animal stories and which is also a favourite in the Roundworld in both print and television. Pratchett makes the comment later that no one remembers or cares about the people rescued; the cat is the important one - true in both Discworld and Roundworld.

Mr. Pony says to the Board of the Grand Trunk, "you made me sack a lot of the craftsmen". To which they reply, "We didn't sack them. We let them go...We....downsized". All these lines and Pony's thoughts about craftsmen being replaced by "men who polish a chair with their arse" reflect Pratchett's (and many others) view of the modern corporate world where euphemisms and jargon from spin doctors and "Human" Resources officers have replaced real work and workers actually doing work have been replaced by pencil pushers who contribute nothing to the company's bottom line. Later on Gilt, uses more spin to describe what he will do to revitalize the company and which he has no intention of doing; again much like companies and governments making pronouncements which get put on the back-burner and forgotten almost immediately after the announcement.

Gilt's line to his Board, "Don't Panic" is straight out of Douglas Adams series The Hitch hikers Guide to the Galaxy - the words on the cover of the guide book.

The Post Office as "this phoenix of a building" is a reference to the mythical bird which burns and is reborn from the ashes, just like the Post Office.

Miss Maccalariat chastises Moist for using "the L-word, the T-word, both of the S-words, the V-word and the Y-word". Most of these letters have common vulgarisms to go with them except for the Y-word which shows that Pratchett is poking fun at the whole notion of being too prudish to utter the words intended. The L Word was a Canadian/American TV show that came out about the time Going Postal was published so it is unlikely Pratchett had this in mind.

The line, "The nave of the temple was deserted, except for a little old man in a grubby robe, dreamily sweeping the floor" reminds the reader of the History Monk, Lu-Tze. There are no other details to go with this small point, but since Pratchett tends to use reference upon reference in his novels, it is likely the reader is supposed to think of Lu-Tze in this line. Perhaps the History Monks have taken an interest in the Post Office given the Sorting Engine's ability to bend time and space. Co-incidentally or not, it was installed around thirty years before the "present" or 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.

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.

In the 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. This is a line that Pratchett uses over and over - Hogfather for example. - the idea being that it is all an unfulfilled promise and since tomorrow never comes you aren't going to get the reward anyway. The Oyster Band uses this theme in their song Jam Tomorrow from the album The Shouting End of Life when they say "It's jam tomorrow, shit today".

The line, "Deliver them, of course. You've got to. You are the messenger of the gods." is another reference to Mercury, the Roman mythological messenger of the gods.

Stanley very quickly recognizes the way stamp collecting works with the references alluding to first day covers, specialty stamps, salutes to particular industry or people, etc. Later he makes sure that there are lots of mistakes on the first batch of Sto Lat stamps - a guaranteed way to increase their value in both the Round and Disc worlds.

The line, "There's cabbage soup, cabbage beer, cabbage fudge, cabbage cake, cream of cabbage—'" is very clearly a reference to the Monty Python 'Spam' sketch and perhaps to Bubba's list of shrimp dishes in the movie Forrest Gump. This type of reference is 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.

In the US hardcover: Gilt is in the ‘Tump Tower’ an obvious reference to the Trump Tower, built by Donald Trump (future President of the USA) in New York City. In fact there are many comparisons between Trump and Gilt; both egotistical egocentric con-men who rely on image more than substance to convince others that they are the best in spite of all evidence to the contrary. In England, a 'tump' is a hummock, the antithesis of an erection such as a tower. The sexual innuendos between this and the connection to Donald Trump (with his small hands) are obvious.

Miss Maccalariat asks if the Post Office "embraces divertingly". As Moist explains, she means "embrace diversity" but the malapropism is hard to imagine as 'diverting' means 'to turn aside from a course of action' - not something easy to accomplish when embracing.

When Miss Maccalariat questions Moist's practice of hiring dwarfs, Moist says that they are 'fine workers, Keen on the written word' a reminder of the dwarfs' role in starting the Ankh-Morpork Times with William de Worde, with their printing press.

Miss Maccalariat's concern regarding dwarfs not identifying their sex and potentially using the "wrong privy" resonates with the debates happening in the Bible Belt of the USA in regard to transgender people using the "wrong bathroom". Miss Maccalariat represents that typically holier than thou attitude person in her lines, "I feel I am responsible for the moral welfare of the young people in my charge', the kind of line regularly used by people in favour of censorship from Tipper Gore's campaign against "immoral music" to fundamental Christian ministers' campaigns against everything from gay rights to evolution.

The evolution issue continues shortly afterwards when Pratchett remarks on the pigeon remembering a time when 'it had been a large reptile that could have taken these sons of monkeys to the cleaners in one mouthful' - a reference to birds descending from dinosaurs and man descending from the apes.

The Smoking Gnu refer to themselves as "Crackers" (cracking the system) even though they work with lamps and should be called "Flashers" but that term was already taken - an obvious reference to the term for people who expose themselves in public. Pratchett through Moist pokes fun at the common idea of a group of people whose names all start with the same letter, naming themselves something connected to the letter, by having this group ignore that concept and choose "The Smoking Gnu" instead.

"Moist kept thinking of all the bad things that could happen without the semaphore" - This is the ultimate dilemma for hackers in both the Roundworld and Discworld. In Roundworld, so many things necessary for life now depend on computers, from surgery to flying planes, that to destroy them as some "techno-Luddites would like, would created more problems than it would resolve.

Ridcully says, "We can't have a bunch of grocers and butchers telling a university how to run itself, Stibbons! Pratchett is likely making a veiled reference to the grocer's daughter and former Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, who was famous for telling everyone how to do their business.

The lines about the "ghosts of dead signallers haut(ing) the Trunk may be a reference to a short story by Charles Dickens called "The Signal-Man" which deals with a ghost trying to warn the signal man of impending death and disaster.

"Headquarters had even started an Employee of the Month scheme to show how much they cared. That was how much they didn't care." - Too many bad employers use "employee of the month" as a way of pretending to recognize their staff instead of paying decent wages and giving them decent working conditions. Again, the fast food industry is a prime example.

"You'd better come into the parlour" says Adora to Moist. As she says, in Victorian times the parlour was used for courting, a private but public space for the couple. The line has connotations of a more sinister nature though. In Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", old Joe tells the laundress, charwoman and the undertaker's man to "come into the parlour" where they sell off Scrooge's belongings in one of the more grim scenes in literature. Similarly, in the poem by Mary Howitt (1799–1888), published in 1828, The Spider and the Fly, the spider leads the fly to her doom with, "'Will you walk into my parlour' said the spider to the fly." If Pratchett isn't thinking of these works directly, the reader certainly will and will suspect that what is about to happen in the parlour is not quite above board.

A "Dead Man's Handle" is a common security device in the Roundworld too where trains or ships operated by a single person in the cab or wheelhouse have a device that triggers either a shutdown, slow down to a safe speed or even simply an alarm should the operator fail to keep the device depressed or to trigger it at regular intervals.

US Hardcover: The ‘crackers’ who disrupt the Clacks line are like Roundworld computer hackers. They call themselves "the Smoking Gnu" from the clacks-jargon term for a really fast unlogged message. The name is a reference to the term "the smoking gun" in many conspiratcy theories real and imagined. It was the name given to the tape of the Watergate break-in and was used in the "cover up" of the Kennedy's assassination It is also a reference to the Lone Gunmen, a trio of hackers from The X-Files and later on in their own TV series, two of whom were "hackers" and the third an ex employee of the FCC. (The X-Files Lone Gunmen are in turn a reference to the Kennedy assassination which Pratchett has used himself in other works). The book states that 'G' indicates a message that goes on, 'N' indicates not logged and 'U' indicated that it is turned around at the end of the line. The message that repeats Dearheart's name would qualify for this acronym. In the Roundworld, 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. The GNU Project is heavily associated with hacker culture whose philosophies tend to be counter to monopolistic business practices.

The Smoking Gnus discuss their planned sabotage, "'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?'"– In the Roundworld, certain early (and some current) computer systems could be made to fail in similar ways. Unlikely character strings can sometimes, be interpreted as system codes in binary and cause security breaches or outright system failures. In addition, early mechanical typewriters could lock up if a skilled and fast typist typed too quickly. The QWERTY keyboard was supposedly designed to make this less likely by placing certain commonly used letters where weaker fingers would be the ones typing them, like "a" or by making the same finger type common letters such as "e" and "d" or "r" and t". Similarly the key arms for combinations such as "sh" and "th" were not placed close together. This slowed the fast typist down to a pace to which the mechanical keys could respond. This theory has recently been called into question with the suggestion that the keyboard layout had more to do with what worked for best telegraph operators than for speedy typists. Either analogy ties in to the Clacks in Going Postal.

In the Harper paperback: Miss Dearheart says, "You know how to pray, don't you? You just put your hands together -- and hope." This is 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." Bacall's character's nickname is "Slim", and this is echoed in the affectionate nicknames that Moist and Adora's brother use for Adora, "Slick" and "Spike".

The idea of a race between modern technology and old technology (the clacks versus the Post Office) has many parallels in the Roundworld. It was a popular way of demonstrating traffic congestion in major cities to race a man on foot, a man in an automobile and a man on a bicycle from "home" to "work". In the world of chess, Gary Kasparov went head to head with the computer "Deep Blue". In song, The Ballad of John Henry tells the story of a man driving steel drills with a sledge hammer to place explosives for building a tunnel on a railway line racing against a steam hammer. The American folk trio, The Limeliters did a send up of John Henry about a race between a human street sweeper and an automatic garbage truck - Max Goolis.

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 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 in the transmission of a book full of illustrations: while it takes less time for the start of amessage 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).

Ponder Stibbons says "I call it baize-space". '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" which In dynamical system theory, is a space in which all possible states of a system are represented, with each possible state corresponding to one unique point in the phase space.

When the wizards present the item to be sent to Genua in the race, Mr. Pony says, "But it's a book ... It'll take all night to code! And there's diagrams!" – In Monstrous Regiment, Lieutenant Blouse explains how the clacks towers could send images slowly by transmitting codes for pixel data, exactly the way computers do.

When the wizards are communicating with "Professor" Collabone, Ridcully says, "It's still not working, Mr. Stibbons!" "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. The "fiery eye" in Going Postal is Dr Collabone's eye which is red from allergies and enormous from peering too closely at his end of the omniscope but it is clearly intended to be reminiscent of Sauron. Revelations Chapter 19:12 in the Bible also refers to the fiery eyes of god, "and his eyes were as a flame of fire" and in Egyptian mythology the sun god Ra has an eye of fire.

In the same scene, Ponder says, "I'm sure we have the right-" which has echoes of 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.

When threatened with a lawsuit, Ridcully says, "Oh please sue the University! We've got a pond full of people who tried to sue the University -" a clear reference to wizards and witches turning people who they are annoyed with into frogs.

When the operator in Tower 181, Grandad says, "Gilt can kiss my—" and then remembers the present female company finishes with: '–donkey.'"– This reference points to the American use of ass, an old word for donkey, in place of the British word, arse.

The Smoking Gnu's plan to block the light from Gilt's transmission and substitute their own portable clacks tower is an example of what computer scientists and security researchers refer to as a man-in-the-middle attack, where someone alters the communication between two parties without them knowing it

Collabone says "... I'm close to translating the mating call of the giant clam...'"– This is a Pratchett shout out to a very old jokes. If you place your forearms in front of your face one laid on top of the other and very slowly open them so that only your eyes are visible between them and then swivel your eyes from side to side you are demonstrating the mating call of the giant clam.

At the very end of Going Postal, the game is up and the financial corruption of the Grand Trunk Board of Directors is revealed. One of the Grand Trunk board members, Stowley fakes amnesia and loss of his short-term memory as a desperate ploy to avoid prosecution. It is unlikely that this fooled Vetinari for one moment, but the Roundworld reference 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 Saunders' plea of being unable to face charges on medical grounds seriously, and released him with a short suspended sentence where otherwise he would likely have been looking at several years in prison. Incredibly, Saunders made a full and complete recovery from Alzheimer's shortly after his court appearance, perhaps the only man in medical history to ever reverse the progress of this disease. Pratchett of all people would have held somebody faking Alzheimer's as a "get-out-of-jail-free" card up to scorn, satire and ridicule.

The scene where the financiers are looking at the remains of Cheeseborough's bank and ultimately bailing it out, resonates with the various government bailouts of banks, particularly in the 2008 global financial crisis. In the USA the Treasury Board stepped in and in the UK a 500 million pound government package bailed out, among others, the Bank of Scotland. The book was published four years before this but there have been ample cases through history of banks and governments protecting their own in spite of gross mismanagement or corruption on the part of the bankrupt company's executives.

The final scene where Vetinari offers Reacher Gilt the same kind of deal as he offered Moist begs several questions. Did Gilt, refuse to become Vetinari's man and willingly step out the door to his death when offered the 'option' or did he, as a typical egotist, believe that Vetinari was in fact saying that there was a choice and simply did not look before he leaped.

AdaptationsEdit

Television Edit

Going Postal was adapted for television as a mini-series, directed by Jon Jones and first broadcast on Sky One and Sky 1 HD, in two parts on 30th and 31st of May 2010. Terry Pratchett made a cameo as a postman.

Cast:

  • Moist von Lipwig - Richard Coyle (Coupling)
  • Reacher Gilt - David Suchet (Agatha Christie's Poirot)
  • Patrician Havelock Vetinari - Charles Dance (Game of Thrones, The Jewel in the Crown & The Golden Child)
  • Adora Belle Dearheart - Claire Foy (Little Dorrit)
  • Mr. Pump (body) Marnix Van Den Broeke - (Terry Pratchett's Hogfather)
  • Mr. Pump (voice) - Kerry Shale (RKO 281, Dennis the Menace)
  • Drumknott - Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville)
  • Tolliver Groat - Andrew Sachs (Fawlty Towers)
  • Sacharissa Cripslock - Tamsin Greig (Black Books, Green Wing)
  • Angua - Ingrid Bolsø Berdal
  • Mr. Gryle - Adrian Schiller (Being Human, A Touch of Frost)
  • Stanley Howler - Ian Bonar (Hotel Babylon)
  • Crispin Horsefry - Madhav Sharma
  • Mustrum Ridcully - Timothy West (Edward the Seventh, Brass)
  • Mr. Pony - John Henshaw (Early Doors, Born and Bred)

Theatre Edit

Adapted by Stephen Briggs into a stage play in 2005.

Gallery Edit

TranslationsEdit

  • Пощоряване (Bulgarian)
  • Zasl/raná pošta (Czech)
  • Posterijen (Dutch)
  • Timbré (French, word play with « timbre », French for stamp, for mad, crazy)
  • Piekło pocztowe (Polish)
  • Ab die Post (German)

External linksEdit