Snuff is the 39th novel by Terry Pratchett in the Discworld series after I Shall Wear Midnight. It went on sale on Thursday 13th October 2011 and was the third-fastest-selling novel in the United Kingdom since records began, having sold over 55,000 copies in the first three days. It is the eighth City Watch story and is based largely around Commander Sir Sam Vimes. Pratchett emphasized that the word 'snuff' has "at least two meanings". It takes its title from the nasal tobacco used by the upper classes (a pinch of snuff) as well as 'snuff' meaning to exterminate someone. The Discworld snuff is called "Double Thunder".
In Snuff, Commander Sam Vimes is forced by his wife, Lady Sybil, to take a holiday with their son, Young Sam, at her family's mansion Crundells. After a short time of enjoying his holiday, he discovers that the rural community has a dark past with the resident goblins, humanoid lifeforms that live in caves nearby. Vimes finds out that the son of Lord Rust has been enslaving goblins to force them to work on his tobacco plantations in Howondaland, allowing him to manufacture cigars cheaply that are then smuggled to Ankh-Morpork. After teaming up with the local constable, a young man called Feeney Upshot, Vimes manages to arrest those responsible for the crime. In the end, thanks to his wife's organisational skills and powers of persuasion, goblins are recognised as citizens by all major nations and rulers. Rust's son is disinherited and exiled to Fourecks, where Lord Vetinari assures an eye will be kept on him, or more likely an assassin.
One of the recurring themes in the novel is the division between the "upstairs" and the "downstairs" crowd - privilege and the sense of entitlement that goes with being born into the right circle vs the hoi polloi. In Unseen Academicals, Pratchett uses the analogy of the crab bucket, whereby any crab trying to escape the cooking pot, is dragged back down by his fellow crabs, much the way ordinary people will believe lies and innuendos about their fellows and discourage them from bettering themselves rather than see them escape the cooking pot and rise above their peers. In this novel, Pratchett continues to explore the divide and the expectations of the upper and lower classes. The murders committed by the psychopath Stratford on the behest of the Marquis of Fantallier and the Marquis' flight into exile in Fourecks is very reminiscent of the Roundworld case of Lord Lucan who in 1974 tried to murder his estranged wife one dark night. Incredibly, he got the wrong woman, and bludgeoned his children's nanny to death, then fled in panic. The British nobility closed ranks in protecting one of their own, a less than edifying example of their sense of ingrained privilege and of being above the law. The police claimed to have tried their hardest to crack the case, but were in part deterred by a sense of social expectations - i.e., you cannot haul in relatives of royalty and give them the same sort of robust questioning you wouldn't think twice about giving to an Irish bombing suspect, a person of colour or a striking miner. Comment was made that "It was only the nanny, for goodness sake!" and the British nobility made it clear (as a challenge to any authority that believed it could treat them like commoners) that they knew perfectly well where Lucan was, but were not going to tell. Lord Lucan's wife stated in an interview that she believed he committed suicide in 1974. However, it was said that in 2011, a criminal who fled justice in 1974 and was covertly helped out by cash handouts from other nobles died in exile, possibly in Australia or New Zealand.
In a similar vein, the maid servants who turn their faces to the wall when meeting one of the 'upstairs' residents is another example of the privileged nobility and the commoners who are expected to be invisible. This is another example of Pratchett's obscure plot detail culled from his extensive research of Roundworld events. At Warwick Castle, there was a set of rules for servants, including how to behave in the presence of their 'betters', which requires them to turn and face the wall and try to look invisible. The official Warwick Castle reason given is so that the servants' superiors don't have to acknowledge them, rather than to protect them against the advances of randy aristocrats (the Discworld reason), which as 'inferiors' they might have a hard time resisting.
The debate of what is humanity and what rights does one being have over someone else, continues with Vimes discussion with Feeney regarding the humanity of goblins. When Feeney says that goblins are nothing more that the calves in the field - veal on the hoof, the debate culminates in Vimes saying "what would you say if the calf walked up to you and said "Hello, my name is Tears of Mushroom." to which Feeney replies "I think I would have the salad". This debate has been at the center of every rights movement in history as to what is and what is not a human, citizen or sentient being. At various times in the not to distant past, it was argued that women, men who didn't own property, mine workers (the Scottish Mine act of 1606), serfs, everyone who was not the king and indigenous people across the world were less than human and entitled to be treated as slaves and little more than property. As increasingly, humans have gained the right to be considered equals (still not there in many areas of the world), the debate is now expanding into the animal kingdom with primates now being considered as more than 'just an animal' and whales and dolphins beginning to be thought of as sentient beings by many people. Hence the debate by vegetarians regarding the right to consume another being as outlined above and by the cow in Douglas Adam's Hitch hikers Guide to the Galaxy when it offers the diners a piece of its flesh for dinner at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The idea that goblins eat their babies in times of famine adds to this debate because, as Pessimal explains, it goes to the survival of the gene pool of the species in Discworld and in Roundworld. This kind of common scare tactic is often employed when demonizing another group but does raise some interesting connundrums. The argument is simply that the baby will die anyway if the mother dies so better to eat the baby and have the mother survive to perhaps have another child to continue the genetic line. So the question becomes twofold. Firstly, at what point does that being have the right to independent existence and a right not to be treated as property to be killed as needed or desired. Rust clearly does not view the goblin girl as anything more than a commodity when he kills her. If the goblins kill their babies they clearly view them as food in times of famine. So the question becomes, at what point does the individual cease to be a commodity and become a being instead. This is at the heart of the pro-life movement which argues that life begins at the moment of conception rather than at birth. The second question then is which set of rights takes precedence; those of the individual to independent and free existence or those of the species (to survive). Pessimal explores this further with his analogy of the shipwrecked sailors trying to decide who to eat - the rationale being that the survival of the whole group is more important than the survival of the individual.
In Pessimal's discussion he is talking from actuarial, biological and pragmatic grounds rather than moral or ethical. While there is historical and anthropological evidence that eating one's children has been the practice in certain human societies - usually for the reasons Pessimal summarises and invariably among marginal "primitive" groups living in inhospitable margins - this has always even in those tribal societies been an absolute desperation measure in times of famine.
In presenting these argument, Pessimal is touching on the arguments of Jonathan Swift, Dean of Dublin, who wrote a satirical pamphlet attacking the English attitude to destructive famine in Ireland. Swift's A Modest Proposal suggested that welfare benefits should not be given during the Irish Famine to the peasant Irish, who were feckless and idle and even if they were not, would have their self-reliance and willingness to perform honest work fatally weakened by hand-outs and charity. As long as they had resources to consume and goods to sell in an open market, they should have to exhaust all such resources before any sort of charity was permissible. And as Swift pointed out, an under-stated resource happened to be all those peasant Irish children in those large Catholic families. Irish babies should be seen as a cost-effective, economical and easily replaced source of nutrition and calories for their parents, who were otherwise too fond of holding up shrivelled and decayed potatoes, yelling "famine!", and expecting to sit back and receive hand-outs from the foolishly over-generous English. Indeed, the choicer cuts of their children could also be exported to England to grace the tables of genteel English homes, the price for which would defray the expenses to absentee landlords in housing and sheltering these people. Why should the Irish have the best, even of their own children?
Unfortunately, the satire was missed by many in England who took his pamphlet at face value and thought Swift was onto a good idea. A Modest Proposal satirizes the way the rich think about the poor in Swift's time just as Snuff does today.
The Goblins store their bodily fluids in 'Unggue' pots; the word likely taking its name from unguent which is a salve, lubricant or ointment (in this case for the afterlife), This is the nearest thing goblins have to a religion. Pastor Mightily Oats, whose treatise is considered to be the final work on the subject, wrote:
The goblin experience of the world is the cult or perhaps religion of Unggue. In short, it is a remarkably complex resurrection-based religion founded on the sanctity of bodily secretions. Its central tenet runs as follows: everything that is expelled from a goblin’s body was clearly once part of them and should, therefore, be treated with reverence and stored properly so that it can be entombed with its owner in the fullness of time. In the meantime the material is stored in unggue pots.... This is a magically sound view, as one of the fundamental thaumic laws is that anything that is personal to someone can be used, voodoo-like, against them. Excrement is not retained since it is just food that has changed shape and consistency and neither is urine which is the same going in as out according to goblin tenet.
Another major theme is the common one in a Pratchett novel; the idea of ordinary people standing by while despicable acts are done. The goblins are enslaved and murdered and the town folk don't stand up for them because people in power are the perpetrators. As Mr. Hasty says at the end, "What could we have done?" This has been the common cry during every single genocide and Holocaust. Ultimately, as the Nuremberg trials proved, it is no defense.
Popular References Edit
Vetinari says that he has "no particular objection to people taking substances that make them ...see little dancing purple fairies -or even their god if it comes to that. It's their brain after all, and society can have no claim on it, providing they're not operating heavy machinery at the time. However, to sell drugs to trolls that actually make their heads explode is simply murder, the capital crime." Pratchett is likely thinking of the fentanyl crisis in making this comment which is particularly telling in present day Roundworld where fentanyl is killing thousands of unsuspecting recreational drug users and the sellers seem to be acting with relative impunity. Later in the novel, Vimes discovers the drugs being smuggled are Crystal Slam which is an obvious reference to "crystal meth" - all Troll drugs starting with the letter "S".
Vetineri is having his usual contest over the crossword in the Ankh-Morpork Times (crossword and paper a takeoff on the London or New York Times). The word 'cucumiform' is in fact the real word for 'shaped like a cucumber or squash' but the clue is the kind of easy bad pun clue that a true crossword puzzle maker would not use in a Times crossword, hence his comment, "I thumb my nose at you, madam!" Thumbing one's nose is a gesture of contempt. Alternately, he could be happy he has solved the puzzle and is thumbing his nose at the crossword maker for thinking he wouldn't be able to solve it. The origin of the expression itself is unknown but was a popular display of contempt in the 1920. Romeo bites his thumb to show his contempt for his rival in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet so there may be some connection to the two actions over time.
Venieri says to Drumknott, "In short, Drumknott, a certain amount of harmless banditry amongst the lower classes is to be smiled upon ..... but what should we do when the highborn and wealthy take to crime ...if a poor man will spend a year in prison for stealing out of hunger, how high would the gallows need to be to hang the rich man who breaks the law out of greed?" Pratchett is getting at the heart of modern laissez faire capitalism in today's world in this line; a world in which laws like the "three strikes rule" in the USA send a person to prison indefinitely for petty crime or possession of marijuana while the junk bond traders, corrupt banking executives and unscrupulous Wall Street Brokers involved in massive multi-million dollar fraudulent thefts are treated like heroes by the courts and government alike. They are given a slap on the wrist at worst (no need to incarcerate because they are 'not a threat to society') or their companies get government bailouts at best, even though the impact of their actions on the country and economy are far worse than that of the petty thief. Later when Vimes discovers the Crystal Slam in the tobacco containers he reveals the central problem with taking a lax approach to smuggling. While on the surface it may appear that it is a victimless crime, in reality the greed for even more money by the smuggler leads to the product switching from the innocuous to the deadly - drugs, humans, exotic animals, endangered species - with the profits going to the criminal element.
Captain Haddock is on an exchange in Quirm and enjoying the 'avec'. Pratchett mentions 'avec' in Unseen Academicals where the night cook Glenda Sugarbean says "You're giving them Avec. Nearly every dish has got Avec in it, but stuff with Avec in the name is an acquired taste." "Avec" is french for "with." Pratchett is poking fun at ostentatious restaurants with their menus written in french, even when they are serving standard fare, in Unseen Academicals. In Snuff, Quirm dining really is the equivalent of French cuisine.
Vimes' discussion of who owns the fish in the stream might seem strange to someone from North America where you can buy a fishing license to let you fish wherever you want in fresh, or alternately salt, water (parks and the like excluded in some cases). In Britain the property owner owns the rights to the fish in his section of river (as Vimes points out, as long as the fish stay in his section and don't wander off to the neighbours) and can prevent anyone from fishing there or can charge a fee for fishing on his 'river'. In fact, England and Wales landowners have been successful in preventing other waterway users from "trespassing" on their sections of the river, thus limiting formal right of access to English rivers by canoeists, kayakers as well as people who simply want to swim to a mere 3% of English and Welsh rivers: 1,400 out of 42,700 miles.
Vimes comments regarding urns and art juxtaposed with the naked women is a common theme in Pratchett's works; a reference to the idea of when does nudity become art and not pornography or simply naked bodies.
Bowler hats on the gamekeepers has an origin in Roundworld, where they were in fact originally devised by Edward Coke of Leicester as practical wear for his gamekeepers to protect their heads from low branches when they were out patrolling the estate on horseback. In confusing their wearers with bailiffs, Vimes is perhaps thinking of the sort of hard men employed by Lord deWorde to remove his embarrassing son William in the climactic scene at the end of The Truth, who are described as wearing bowlers and as the sort of hard men every Lord finds it useful to employ to smooth such distasteful moments - including the foreshadowed events of this novel.
The line, "the rumble of the honey wagons as Harry King's night soil collectors went about the business of business" is a reference to the what is now called 'fecal sludge' - a euphemism for human feces collected from cesspools, privies, pail closets, pit latrines, privy middens, septic tanks, etc. It was removed from the immediate area, usually at night, by workers employed in this trade. Sometimes it could be transported out of towns and sold on as a fertilizer. In Roundworld, a 'honeywagon' is the slang term for a "vacuum truck" for collecting and carrying human excreta. In Discworld it is likely horse drawn.
Sybil introduces Vimes to a widowed friend of hers, Lady Ariadne, who has six spinster daughters who live in full expectation of the acknowledged truth that 'a man, once in possession of an independent income and a country estate, will surely be looking for a wife' - an obvious reference to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. One of them is even called Jane, and, not surprisingly, she is the strange self-sufficient one who closely observes the world around her and wants to become a writer. Ariadne means 'most holy' in Greek. In Greek mythology, Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos. She fell in love with Theseus and helped him to escape the Labyrinth and the Minotaur, but was later abandoned by him. Eventually she married the god Dionysus. Hermione, the youngest daughter who has brought shame to the family by becoming a lumberjack is an obvious reference to the famous Monty Python sketch - in that case the main character bringing shame by 'coming out' as an effeminate or gay lumberjack.
When discussing the career of writing, Vimes says to Jane "Well it can't be a difficult job given that all the words have probably been invented already, so there's a savings in time right there, considering that you simply have to put them together in a different order." This is a reference 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. Pratchett used this reference in Going Postal too. It is also likely a shot at the common notion that being a writer is not a real job but something anyone can do in their spare time. Vimes recommends to Jane that she write what she knows saying that he would write about crime. In the end her novel is "Pride and Extreme Prejudice", clearly more in line with Vimes' field of expertise than Jane Austin's.
The hermit in the woods who, like his father, grandfather and forefathers before that, practices celibacy is Pratchett's joke at the whole genre since obviously you couldn't have children if you were celibate. Pratchett explains his joke (unnecessarily) and adds that every job is entitled to two weeks vacation (something that Vimes disagrees with since he doesn't want to be on vacation in the country and away from the Watch).
The game of crockett, is clearly a reference to Roundworld's croquet mixed somewhat with cricket. It is called 'the game of games and king of games' and is played on village greens over several days (like cricket) and governed by the sort of arcane laws that made Sam Vimes' eyes glaze over while a keen player was earnestly explaining them to him. Jackson Fieldfair, a student who is now Bishop of Quirm, is said to have taken his mallet in both hands and given the ball a gentle tap...the origin of crockett. The sexual innuendo is obvious, particularly given the following....
St Onan's Theological College leads to the interesting question as to the sort of theology this college teaches, and how on the Discworld Onan got his sainthood, since in the Bible, Onan is struck dead by the LORD for "spilling his seed on the ground", an action taken by generations of theological commentators to be masturbation and referred to as the 'sin of Onan'. St. Onan's is located in Ham-on-Rye, a play on English place names that combine the town's name with the river beside which it is located (such as Hay on Wye) and the kind of bacon sandwich on rye bread that Vimes loves but can't eat because his wife forbids it. The Rye is a river in Ireland, a tributary of the Liffey.
Young Sam's interest in the natural world extends to aquatic insects with pebbles covering their bodies - a Discworld equivalent of the caddisfly larvae which uses a pebble like coating as a camouflage.
The line, "knowing whether it was ..... a cow or a bull without having to bend down to find out" is an obvious reference to looking under the bovine to see if it had testicles and a penis to identify it as male. However it also is a reference to the old slapstick joke about bending over and being charged and butted by a bull - not a cow.
Major Rust's continual expression, "What, What!" is actually not a question but is a corruption of 'wot' which is the 1st and 3rd person singular of 'wit' - old English for 'to know'. So when used at the end of a sentence as done by Rust, or more famously by PG Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster it means, "don't you know". In general it is little more than filler in the same way that Canadians add 'eh' to the end of a sentence or Americans (particularly younger ones) intersperse 'like' throughout their speech instead of saying 'um'. Its first known usage was in the 14th century and today it is generally used as a caricature of British upper class "snobbish" speech.
With the World of Poo, the book Vimes is given by his wife to read to young Sam, Pratchett is poking fun at the whole obsession with bodily functions by both children and also by their parents. Defecation and urine have always been a popular form of scatological humour, particularly among the 'lower classes" (Shakespeare threw sexual innuendo and bodily function jokes into his plays to keep the less sophisticated audience members engaged). However, nowadays there are hundreds of books on how to potty train your child, how to get them over the fear of the 'toilet monster' etc ad infinitum - everything from the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey to I Have To Go by Robert Munsch. The whole genre is a mix of that base level scatological humour combined with modern parenting which feels a need to overthink everything and look for an outside 'expert' to deal with even the most basic things. We all 'shit' whether we have taken a course or not. The terrors of toilet training are a 'first world problem' not a real issue. The author of the book, Miss Beedle resonates with JK Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard from the Harry Potter series which in itself pokes fun at the world of children's stories of the Enid Blyton style which were popular in the early 1900s.
Vimes refers to the country folk or barn dance 'Strip the Willow' as 'Strip the Widow' a descriptive malapropism.
When Vimes is going to fight the blacksmith there is the question of whether or not Dukes should fight. This is clearly a play on the expression 'to duke it out' meaning 'to fight' as well as 'put up your dukes' which is a challenge meaning to 'put up your fists and get ready to fight'.
The Marquis of Fantailler and his rules of pugilism are an obvious take off on the Marquis of Queensbury and his rules governing boxing. Fant means Ghost in French and aille is garlic. Fant Ailler is also a form of fancy.
St Onan's Theological College leads to the interesting question as to the sort of theology this college teaches, and how on the Discworld Onan got his sainthood, since in the Bible, Onan is struck dead by the LORD for "spilling his seed on the ground", an action taken by generations of theological commentators to be masturbation and referred to as the 'sin of Onan'. St. Onan's is located in Ham-on-Rye, a play on English place names that combine the town's name with the river beside which it is located (such as Hay on Wye) and the kind of bacon sandwich Vimes loves but can't eat because his wife forbids it. The Rye is a river in Ireland, a tributary of the Liffey.
Willikins identifies the "Parkinson's warbler, the deep-throated frog-eater and the common creed-waggler"among the birds singing in the bushes. None are real Roundworld birds but the "Parkinsons Warbler" is likely a shout out to the singing group who call themselves "The Warblers" which helps people who have Parkinsons disease. The deep-throated frog-eater is likely a reference to the French who eat frogs, given all the other French references in the novel. A creed is a set of values that govern your life. "Common Creed" is a song by American Christian rock singer Wes King and a 'waggler' is a type of fishing float. Perhaps the last bird is a shout out to the joys of fishing as per Isaac Walton.
The "Light Dragons" military regiment is an obvious play on "Light Dragoons" - in Discworld they are in charge of dragons rather than 'charging on horseback."
Willikins ambushes Vimes to keep him on his toes much in the way Kato ambushes Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther series. Both are more deadly than Clouseau or Kato, however.
The Bhangbhangduc food names are the kind of stereotypical Chinese names used in books and movies (like early James Bond) popular 50 years ago which have fortunately fallen out of fashion in a more enlightened world. They usually have a sexual component and are accompanied by a white man with his eyes painted to look slanted and "Chinese". Enough said.
Like so many established families, the Ramkins got their start in piracy. The illegal acquisition of wealth becoming legitimized certainly echoes in the Roundworld from the Kennedys and Bronfmanns making their fortunes as rumrunners, to the present Russian 'nobility/Mafia', to drug czars laundering their wealth into legitimate businesses, to third world politicians amassing fortunes on the backs of their people; the list is endless.
Gravid Rust - Gravid means pregnant as in 'full of eggs or young' but also 'full of meaning'.
The expression "dot and carry one" was first used to denote someone who had a wooden leg (coming from the 1770s) but which has since come to mean someone with a limp. The 'dot' was the mark in the sand left by the peg leg and the 'carry one' the normal leg. The term likely came from the method of adding and subtracting in which the units were set down in a column and you carried over the tens to the next column of figures by putting one dot in the next column as a reminder for every ten that you wanted to carry over.
In a reference to Thud! and the Summoning Dark. Sam discovers his arm is itching, the arm marked by the quasi-demonic entity he fought and defeated with the aid of the Guarding Dark. When the goblin Stinky tries to articulate his people's need for just ice (justice), Vimes has a vision of a dark cave and the desire for "terrible endless vengeance" which he puts down to Stinky having touched him on the scar left by the Summoning Dark. He comments that "while all coppers must have a bit of villain in them, nobody wants to walk around with a bit of demon as a tattoo." Later evens suggest that perhaps by defeating the Summoning Dark in Thud!, it is now working for him or at least marked him in some broader way than just the scar. He can see in the dark as well as any deep-down dwarf and he meets the Summoning Dark in dreams and it treats him with respect. The parallels with the 'dark mark' tatoo that Voldemort's supporters have on their arms (and which sting or burn and glow brightly as well as being used for summoning) is obvious and there can be no doubt that Pratchett was aware of JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels and this symbolism.
Igors throughout Pratchett's works have clear parallels to the assistants to the mad scientist types who create such monsters as found in horror films and books like Frankenstein. So the image of lightning flashes and evil looking machines being used to brew coffee - a cappuccino machine gone wrong, is a particularly good one, especially when combined with Nobby Nobbs slumped into the chair with straps on the arms for the wrists and Fred Colon adding to Igor, "the sergeant has had a bit of a shock, Igor, so I thought you might be able to help him."
Mistress Slightly has obvious parallels to Mother Goose, reinforced by Pratchett's line, "She kept geese, as any self-respecting dame should do."
When Vimes visits Miss Beedle the whole scene is reminiscent of the Starkadders' smallholding at Cold Comfort Farm as well as other novels of rural England. Tears of the Mushroom, the goblin girl echoes the role of Elfine, the unworldly free spirit and the unhinged Starkadder family, those archetypes of inbred rurality, would in this context be the habitues of Jiminy's public house, the Goblin's Head. Miss Felicity Beedle might well be Flora Poste, the displaced city intellectual who reads a lot, and who acts as a stone cast into the still and stagnant local pond, sending ripples everywhere but Vimes also resonates with this character. The owl-shaped clock in Miss Beedle's cottage also appears on Miss Flitworth's parlour wall in Reaper Man, where it serves to seriously discomfort Death in his Bill Door mortal aspect. Here, it worries Sam Vimes. (another reference to the deeper themes of Reaper Man, also a novel set largely in the rural Shires) It need not necessarily be the same one. These kinds of curios are inexplicably popular items in modern 'culture' and have an unsettling effect on people with any sense of taste at all. The owl as a creature of the night that flies on silent wings is also a symbol of death, passage into eternity, and a harbinger of change (change often meaning death).
The bathroom with the erotic figures clearly evokes Pan the cloven foot Greek god of the wilds, shepherds and flocks who is associated with debauchery.
Miss Beadle's description of her early childhood after she was taken from her goblin roots has a strong resemblance to the way aboriginals/natives have been treated around the world. In Roundworld they were taken away from their family and homes, placed in 'residential schools', punished for speaking their language, and sexually abused by white authority figures (missionaries, ministers and government officials). It is only recently that reconciliation and compensation began to be contemplated for these past crimes in countries such as Canada.
Throughout the novel there are various references to Sybil's ancester Woolsthorpe Ramkin sitting under the apple tree when an apple falls on his head. This echo Sir Isaac Newton, who was living at his ancestral home, Woolsthorpe Manor, when a falling apple led him to the theory of gravity. In Woolsthorpe Ramkin's case this get slightly confused with Sir Isaac's 3rd law of motion "to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". In Discworld this leads to him setting someone else under the apple tree so that he can observe an apple rising into space after the first apple falls to the ground - the equal and opposite reaction.
Pessimal mentions the analogy of the shipwrecked sailors trying to decide who to eat when they are starving- the rationale being that the survival of the whole group is more important than the survival of the individual as discussed above in "themes". That particular scenario is another common philosophical discussion of the "trolley car" type which Pratchett has used before which debates when it is justifiable to kill someone else for the 'greater good'. Eating each others' legs however resonates with Monty Python's Lifeboat Sketch involving cannibalism that was itself drawn from the famous 1884 English criminal law case of R v Dudley and Stephens,which involved survival cannibalism among castaways after a shipwreck among others.
Horrids of Broadway is obviously based on Harrods in London and Twister Boote bottle shop is likely based on Boots (formerly Boots the Chemist Ltd)
Carrot comments in regard to Precious Jolson that "all Jolson's family comes from (Howondaland)" This is another of Pratchett's little jokes - easy to miss. 'Al Jolson' was an American singer and comedian dubbed the 'world's greatest entertainer' for 40 years until his death in 1950. He often performed in 'black face' and was a huge influence on such stars as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.
Pratchett's use of the name Bewilderforce Gumption is a very appropriate one given that he is dealing in !tobacco products made by slave labour in Howondaland. William Wilberforce was the main campaigner in Britain to end the use of slave labour. Clearly someone who didn't have the same moral compass would be "bewildered" in understanding how wrong that was and also showing a lot of 'gumption' in smuggling it into Ankh-Morpork in the first place.
Vimes refers to the magistrates as 'some kind of local body? There appears to be no oversight on these people, no circuit judge" This assessment is very familiar to Pratchett readers and could be describing "The Auditors."
When Vimes is looking for a weapon on the barge he looks in the tool kit and says, "Mallets, hammers and saws! Oh my!" This line is a paraphrase of the line "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" from The Wizard of Oz which Pratchett has used before (Carpe Jugulum for one).
The line about the "Parcel of rogues" comes from a 1791 Robert Burns poem called "Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation" in which he decried those members of the Parliament of Scotland who signed the Act of Union with England in 1707. The poem was revived by Ewan MacColl and then popularized by the English folk rock group Steeleye Span in 1973. Steeleye Span was Terry Pratchett's favourite group.
The jokes about port and starboard are old ones - Vimes says "I don't drink starboard" which is an obvious reference to 'port' the fortified wine. An old maritime mnemonic for remembering which colour the navigation lights are on the side of a vessel is "red, port wine".
Stinky tells Vimes the hero to get up and says "Upsee-daisy! Save goblins! Big hero! Hooray! Everyone get clap!" This is another of Pratchett's puns that are easy to miss. Stinky clearly means to clap for the big hero not 'get a sexually transmitted disease.'
Stinky follows this up with "Hurray, no flattery for Mister Vimes" when the elephant almost steps on Vimes and flattens him.
Quirm and Ankh-Morpork bear a striking resemblance to France and Britain. The Quirm jails are reminiscent of the Bastille as depicted in Alexandre Dumas' novels with its thick impregnable walls and unbreakable locks. The Quirm 'gendarme' helmets are like the French police and firemen helmets of the early1900s known as Adrian helmets. Vimes says, "Ou''r relationship with Commandant Fournier is cordial at the moment, is it not?" which is a reference to the 'The Entente Cordiale' which was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and the French Republic . Similarly, the cuisine of Quirm includes snails and 50 plus types of mayonaise while Ankh-Morpork has 'brown sauce' very reminiscent of Lee and Perrins or Worcestershire sauce and bacon sandwiches.
The street named 'Rue de Wakening' is one of those Pratchett puns that are easy to miss. Rue is French for street and is a play on the English 'Rude Awakening" (if it needs explaining to anyone).
According to the Omnians (and Christians) murder was the third crime committed in human history after theft of the apple in the Garden of Eden and common indecency (nakedness). The murder occurred later when their son Cain murdered his brother Abel.
Fred Colon comments on the goblin cave that it is nice 'far from the maddening crowd'. Given what has gone on in the novel, 'maddening' is an appropriate malapropism (and an error commonly made in Roundworld). The real expression is 'far from the madding crowd'. Madding means 'frenzied' so the expression means 'in a quiet place away from frenzy and bustle. The expression comes from Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard which was used as the title of one of Thomas Hardy's most famous novels:
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.'
The rock with the name 'Quirm' on it is a takeoff on such hard rock candies as are popular in British seaside resorts such as 'Brighton Rock' made famous in a Graham Greene novel.
Towards the end of the book, Sam takes Young Sam to the Quirm zoo, where his incessant plea to "see the elephant" is finally answered. This resonates with the end of Witches Abroad, where the Lancre witches return home the long way round, "seeing the Elephant" and inadvertently precipitating the events of Lords and Ladies; or to Sam and Sybil deliberately taking the long way home at the end of The Fifth Elephant, also explicitly described as "seeing the Elephant"? The expression was a popular one in the USA in the 19th century and referred to gaining experience of the world at a significant cost, often a negative experience. It arose after the immense popularity of the first elephant from India's arrival and display when people came from across the country to 'see the elephant'. A similar expression arose in Britain with people going "to see the lions" that were kept at the Tower of London zoo by the king. In addition to these usages of the term, the phrase is also an obvious sexual reference and is also an old joke from a less enlightened age where the prankster says, "Do you want to see my elephant' and then pulls his (it is always a male) pockets out of his pants to make ears and then pretends to expose himself (probably not advisable nowadays).
Because goblins are 'unofficially' not tolerated within the city walls, the goblin district of the city, near to Harry King's premises in New Ankh, is a ramshackle shanty town where goblin homes are built out of materials recycled from the waste being processed by Harry. This image of the goblins and their shanty town resonates strongly with apartheid era South Africa, and the fact that the black labour necessary to do the dirty jobs the whites didn't want to do could not live inside the city limits of cities like Johannesburg because of apartheid law but had to live somewhere nearby. Therefore townships like Soweto grew up, tacitly accepted but without official approval, which could be demolished if the white authorities deemed this necessary for public order. Clearly this is Ankh-Morpork's Soweto.