Terry Pratchett

This British writer is one of my favorite, and here are quotes from some of his books. I have slightly modified some of them to prevent them from being context-specific.

Links to other Pratchett Quotes sites:


Her attitude to music was purely ballistic - just point your voice at the end of the verse and go for it.

he'd twice failed to become Village Idiot through being overqualified.

Her forehead wrinkled, as it tended to whenever she considered a question more complex than "What's your name?"

There was a crash from the direction of the kitchen, although it was more of a crescendo - the long-drawn-out clatter that begins when a pile of plates begins to slip, continues when someone tries to grab at them, develops a desperate counter-theme when the person realizes they don't have three hands, and ends with the roinroinroin of the one miraculously intact plate spinning round and round on the floor.

"They said we should mount guards and they'd take steps."
"To the nearest place of safety, no doubt."

It's easy to hold everything in common when no-one's got anything.

He counted to one on his fingers. Then he counted to two.

"We're witches and we will pay our way by curing you of any irritating ailments you have."
"I don't have any."
"How many would you like?"


He was considered by Ankh-Morpork's professional underclass to be something of an intellectual because some of his tattoos were spelt right.

The Quirmian philosopher Ventre put forward the suggestion that "Possibly the gods exist, and possibly they do not. So why not believe in them in any case? If it's all true you'll go to a lovely place when you die, and if it isn't then you've lost nothing, right?" When he died he woke up in a circle of gods holding nasty-looking sticks and one of them said "We're going to show you what we think of Mr Clever Dick in these parts..."

To him breathing was an intellectual exercise that had to be concentrated on. He could just manage one nostril at a time at the moment.

Cats that had mastered every detail of feline existence except the location of the dirtbox.

That statement is either so deep that it would take a lifetime to fully comprehend, or it is a load of absolute tosh.

Drinks like this tend to get called Traffic Lights or Rainbow's Revenge or, in places where truth is more highly valued, Hello and Goodbye Mr Brain Cell.

"Divide by cucumber error. Please reinstall universe and reboot."

"What do you call that warm feeling you get inside?"

"I could certainly run a marvellous university here if only we didn't have to have all these damn students underfoot all the time."

"I am sure he wouldn't keep eating them if they were addictive."

"I really should talk to him. He's had a near-death experience!"
"We all have. It's called living."

Equal rites

...although his body had been around quite a lot his mind had never gone further than the inside of his head.

He had that kind of real deep tan that rich people spend ages trying to achieve with expensive holidays and bits of tinfoil, when all you really need to do to obtain one is work your arse off in the open every day.

Granny knew all about bad fortune telling. It was harder than the real thing. You needed a good imagination.

"That new lad. You know, the one they say has got a whole head full of brains?"

They both savoured the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were ignorant of only ordinary things.

Cutangle stood with legs planted wide apart, arms akimbo and stomach giving an expression of a beginners' ski slope, the whole of him therefore adopting a pose usually associated with Henry VIII but with an option on Henry IX and X as well.

Reaper Man

"It's not that I don't want (to die)...it's just that life is a habit that's hard to break."

While wizards don't believe in gods they know for a fact that gods believe in gods.

In the distance a couple were having the kind of quarrel that causes most of the surrounding streets to open their windows and listen in and make notes.

Ankh-Morpork has always had a fine tradition of welcoming people of all races, colours and shapes, if they have money to spend and a return ticket.

"It's called a shovel... I've seen gardeners use them. You stick the sharp end in the ground. Then it gets a bit technical.

autocondimentor - someone who will put salt and probably pepper on any mean you put in front of them regardless of how much it's got already and regardless of how it tastes.

The patrician (tax-collector) said...it was two hundred dollars per capita; if per capita was a problem, decapita could be arranged.

"She's a (spirit) medium. Well, more a small."

"Why does everyone run towards a blood-curdling scream?...It's contrary to all sense."

"We'll strategically withdraw to previously prepared position."
"Who prepared them?"
"we'll prepare them when we get there..."

"Have you any last words?"
"Yes. I dont want to go."

"Why are you called One-man-bucket?"
"...In my tribe we're traditionally named after the first thing my mother sees when she looks out of the tepee after the birth. It's short for one-man-pouring-a-bucket-of-water-over-two-dogs."
"That's pretty unfortunate."
"It's not too bad. It was my twin brother you had to feel sorry for. She looked out ten seconds before me to give him his name."
"don't tell me, let me guess. Two-dogs-fighting?"
"Two-dogs-fighting? Two-dogs-fighting? Wow, he would have given his right arm to be called Two-dogs-fighting."


He (the librarian) had a face that only a lorry tyre could love...

He (the bursar, Spelter)was tall and wiry and looked as if he had been a horse in previous lives and had only just avoided it in this one.

...the complete carcass of a whole roast pig looked extremely aanoyed at the fact that someone had killed it without waiting for it to finish its apple...

One of Rincewind's tutors said that 'to call his understanding of magical theory absymal is to leave no suitable world to describe his grasp of its practice.'

No wizard would normally dream of giving a colleague a leg up unless it was in order to catch them on the hop.

They looked at each other with mutual. grudging admiration and unlimited mistrust, but at least it was a mistrust each of them felt he could rely on.

"Quick, you must come with me, you're in great danger!"
"Because I'll kill you if you dont."

"my mother ran away before I was born".

He (the Patrician) is unfair and unjust to everybody, without fear or exception.

"Why me?"
"For the good of the university. For the honour of wizardry. For the sake of the world. For your heart's desire. And I'll freeze you alive if you don't."
Rincewind breathed a sigh almost of relief. He wasnt good on bribes, or cajolery, or appeals to his better nature. But threats, now threats were familiar. He knew where he was with threats.

"What did it feel like?"
"Have you ever been bitten by a viper?"
"In that case you'll understand exactly what it felt like."
"It wasnt like a snake bite at all."

"I cant swim."
"Not a stroke?"
"About how deep is the sea here, would you say?"
"About a dozen fathoms I believe."
"Then I could probably swim about a dozen fathoms, whatever they are."

River water is incredibly pure - anything that has passed through so many kidneys must be.

"Today the city, tomorrow the world."
"Tomorrow the world, and - " he calculated quickly, "on Friday the universe! Good, that leaves the weekend free..."

The shape of DNA, it is popularly said, owes its discovery to the chance sight of a spiral staircase when the scientist's mind was just at the right receptive temperature. Had he used the lift, the whole science of genetics might have been a good deal different. Although, possibly, quicker. And only licensed to carry fourteen people.

He was staring fixedly at his finger, holding it out at arm's length in a manner that suggested he was very sorry he hadnt got longer arms.

...stones that were missing him by inches and in some cases, hitting him by kilograms.

...where his fall was broken by the floor.

It wasnt lost. It always knew exactly where it was. It was always HERE. It was just that everything else seemed to have been temporarily mislaid.

"Now hold on a minute."
They held on a minute.
They held on a further seventeen seconds.

Rincewind's mind was operating at the speed of continental drift.

Rincewind rather enjoyed times like these. They convinced him that he wasn't mad, because if he was mad, there was no word to describe some of the people he met.

The truth isnt easily pinned to a page. In the bathtub of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap and much more difficult to find...

They (Rincewind's companions) suffered from the terrible delusion that someting could be done. They seemed prepared to make the world a better place or die in the attempt, and the problem with dying in the attempt was that you died in the attempt.

Carpes Jugulum

He was trying to find some help in the ancient military journals of General Tacitus, ... and had actually found a section headed What to Do If One Army Occupies a Well-fortified and Superior Ground and the Other Does Not, but since the first sentence read ``Endeavour to be the one inside'' he'd rather lost heart.

Lancre operated on the feudal system, which was to say, everyone feuded all the time and handed the fight on to their descendants. Granny Weatherwax had a primal snore... It had had years in a lonely bedroom to perfect the knark, the graaah and the gnoc, gnoc, gnoc, unimpeded by the nudges, jabs and occasional attempts at murder that usually moderate the snore impulse over time.

"You are a natural disputant!"
"No I aint!"

Witches Abroad

It was a place where witches met.
Tonight a fire gleamed on the very crest of the hill. Dark figures moved in the flickering light.
The moon coasted across a lacework of clouds.
Finally a tall, pointy-hatted figure said, `You mean everyone brought potato salad?

... always wear completely clean underwear every day because you never knew when you were going to be knocked down and killed by a runaway horse and if people found you had unsatisfactory underwear on, you'd die of shame.

... several miles over the madness horizon and accelerating.

Most witches don't believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don't believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.

`I said to her, "You don't want to go climbing mountains at your age" but she wouldn't listen... I actually heard her very last words ``oh bugger''.

You can be as self-assertive as you like... just so long as you do what you're told."

"... you ain't experienced at fairy godmothering."...
"Well, nor are you."...
"That's true... the point is we've not been experienced for a lot longer than you"... "We've got a lot of experience of not having any experience"

"You can't trust folk songs. They always sneak up on you."

"It's far too early in the morning for it to be early in the morning" -- Nanny Ogg, on being woken up

"This place we're going to... it's decadent."... Granny Weathwewax... wasn't at all certain about the meaning of the word 'decadent'. She'd dismissed the possibility that it meant 'having ten teeth' in the same sense that Nanny Ogg, for example, was unident.

"...Esme alweys falls on her feet or at any rate on someones feet..." (sic) -- Nanny Ogg writes a letter home.

The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays.

"Progress just means bad things happen faster." -- Granny Weatherwax

Humanity's a nice place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there.

"Good and bad is tricky. I ain't too certain about where people stand. P'raps what matters is which way you face." -- Granny Weatherwax

Small Gods

The trouble with being a god is that you've got no-one to pray to.

When the Omnian Church found out about Koomi [a heretic in their opinion], they displayed him in every town within the Church's empire to demonstrate the essential flaws in his argument.
There were a lot of towns, so they had to cut him up quite small.

The merest accident of microgeography had meant that the first man to hear the voice of Om, and who gave Om his view of humans, was a shepherd and not a goatherd. They have quite different ways of looking at the world, and the whole of history might have been different. For sheep are stupid, and have to be driven. But goats are intelligent, and need to be led.

Brutha had never been any good at lying. The truth itself had always seemed so incomprehensible that complicating things even further had always been beyond him.

"Where there is punishement, thereis always a crime," said Vorbis. "Sometimes the crime follows the punishment, which only serves to prove the foresight of the Great God."
"That's what my grandmother used to say," said Brutha automatically... "She used to give me a thrashing every morning because I would certainly do something to deserve it during the day."
"A most complete understanding of the nature of mankind..."

"What's a philosopher?"
"Someone who's bright enough to find a job with no heavy lifting."

"Very fashionable, living in a barrel... Most of the philosophers do it. It shows contempt and disdain for worldly things. Mind you, Legibus has a sauna in his. It's amazing the kinds of things you can think of in it, he says."

"...old Prince Lasgere of Tsort asked me how he could become learned, especially since he hadn't got any time for this reading business. I said to him `There is no royal road to learning, sire' and he said to me `Bloody well build one or I shall have your legs chopped off. Use as many slaves as you like.' A refreshingly direct approach, I always thought. Not a man to mince words. People, yes. But not words."

"There's bones everywhere!"
"Well? What did you expect? This is a desert! People die here! It's a very popular occupation in this vicinity!"

"You can't believe in Great A'Tuin... Great A'Tuin exists. There's no point in believing in things that exist. .. If they exist, you don't have to believe in them... [they will go on existing] whether you believe it or not."

"You can't inspire people with facts. They need a cause. They need a symbol."

"Last night there seemed to be a chance. Anything was possible last night. That was the trouble with last nights. They were always followed by this mornings."

He looked nervous, like an atheist in a thunderstorm.

Cuius testiculus habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum. When you have their full attention in your grip, their hearts and minds will follow."

"Men should die for lies. But the truth is too precious to die for."

"Just trying to make both ends hummus."

Vorbus changed people. Sometimes he changed them into dead people. But he always changed them. That was his triumph.

Monstrous Regiment

For a change, Terry's put more work into the plot than the language... not too many sound bites off this one, but it's a great story. Some of the revelations near the end we could have done without, but at least there's none of the usual reliance on deus ex machina or whatever that's called -- Dinoj

There have been better attempts at marching [this one is by a group of raw army recruits], and they have been made by penguins.

And if you couldn't trust the government, who could you trust? Very nearly everyone, come to think of it...

... [a] face that could only be called homely*.
* And even then it was the kind of home that has a burned-out vehicle on the lawn.

There was a bird whistle as Polly neared the hiding place. She identified this one as the sound of the Very Bad Bird Impersonator, and made a note to teach the girls some bird calls that at least sounded real.

The change in the man [on being shot by an arrow] was a whole-body event. He seemed to get smaller, as if every cell had said "oh, dear" very quietly to itself.

The Truth

The rumor spread through the city like wildfire (which had spread quite often through Ankh-Morpork since its citizens had learned the words 'fire insurance'.)

Ankh-Morpork people considered that spelling was sort of an optional extra. They believed in it in the same way that they believed in punctuation; it didn't matter where you put it, so long as it was there.

...the kind of enterprising manufacturer who believed that what the world really, really needed today was an inflatable dartboard.

"...You know I've always wanted a paperless office."
"Yes, Archchancellor, that's why you hide it all in cupboards and throw it out of the window at night."
"Clean desk, clean mind."
[Of course, the phrase you should be thinking of when you read that is "Empty desk, empty mind."]

"My motives, as ever, are entirely transparent."
Hughnon reflected that 'entirely transparent' meant either that you could see right through them or that you couldn't see them at all.

Lord Vetinari: "...if we do not grab events by the collar, they will have us by the throat."

He was all in favor of the countryside, provided that it was on the other side of a window.

It was a puzzle why things were always dragged kicking and screaming. No one seemed to want to, for example, lead them gently by the hand.

Small shopkeepers... were usually smart as knives when it came to making just the right amount of wrong change.

"Special rate for government jobs," the dwarf muttered.
"Oh, but I wouldn't dream of paying any less than other customers," said the Patrician.
"I wasn't going to charge you less than..."

"We could live like kings on a dollar a day, Arnold."
"What, you mean someone'd chop our heads off?"...
"No, that's dying like kings, Arnold."

...if he watched what he ate, it was only to see it wriggle.

"Good morning, sergeant," said William.
A nod from the troll indicated that he was prepared to accept, on available evidence, that it was morning and, in certain circumstances, by some people, might be considered good.

Mr Vimes: "Find out who's running the book, and when you have found out that it is Nobby, take it off him."

Otto: "Zere has been a minor pothole on the road to progress."

[Dwarf:] "My grandfather used to think humans were sort of hairless bears. He doesn't any more."
[Human:] "What changed his mind?"
[Dwarf:] "I reckon it was the dying that did it."

"Are you... all right, Otto?" said William, realizing that this was a winning entrant in the Really Stupid Things to Say contest. [Otto has just been beheaded.]

Newspaper people thought the floor was a big filing cabinet.

"Mister Vimes is going to go round the twist. He's going to go totally Librarian-poo. He's going to invent new ways of being angry just so that he can try them on you."

It was a traditional swarf ax. One side was a pickax, for the extraction of interesting minerals, and other side was a war ax, because the people who own the land with the valuable minerals in it can be so unreasonable sometimes.

"We're on the same side here!"
"No. We're just on two different sides that happen to be side-by-side."

Thief of Time

The apprentice gave him a bleary look. It was too early in the morning for it to be early in the morning. That was the only thing that he currently knew for sure.

[Pratchett's Theory of Dark Matter] For something to exist, it has to be observed. For something to exist, it has to have a position in time and space. And this explains why nine-tenths of the mass of the universe is unaccounted for. Nine-tenths of the universe is the knowledge of the position and direction of everything in the other tenth... Nine-tenths of the universe, in fact, is the paperwork.

Suppose an emperor was persuaded to wear a new suit of clothes whose material was so fine that, to the common eye, the clothes weren't there. And suppose a little boy pointed out this fact in a loud clear voice... Then you have The Story Of The Emperor Who Had No Clothes.
But if you knew a bit more, it would be The Story of The Boy Who Got A Well-Deserved Thrashing From His Dad For Being Rude To Royalty, And Was Locked Up.
Or the Story Of The Whole Crowed That Was Rounded Up By The Guards And Told "This Didn't Happen, Okay? Does Anyone Want To Argue?"

Suppose... you watched an iceberg drift through the chilly waters, and you got to know its cargo of happy polar bears and seals as they looked forward to a brave new life in the other hemisphere where they say the ice floes are lined with crunchy penguins, and then wham - tragedy loomed in the shape of ten thousand tons of unaccountably floating iron and an exciting soundtrack...

Humanity practically was things that didn't have a position in time and space, such as imagination, pity, hope, history, and belief. Take those away and all you had was an ape that fell out of trees a lot.

Jeremy tried to be an interesting person. The trouble was that he was the kind of person who, having decided to be an interesting person, would first of all try to find a book called How to Be an Interesting Person and then see whether there were any courses available.

No dog ever ate the homework of one of Miss Susan's students... the dog brought them a pen and watched imploringly while they finished it...

She tossed the vall into the wastepaper basket. She never missed. Sometimes the basket moved in order to ensure that this was the case.

Lu-Tze had no time at all. Time was something that largely happened to other people.

"Nice try, but no cylindrical smoking thing." said Lu-Tze.

If children were weapons, Jason would have been banned by international treaty. Jason had doting parents and an attention span of minus several seconds, except when it came to inventive cruelty to small furry animals, when he could be quite patient. Jason kicked, punched, bit, and spat. His artwork had even frightened the life out of Miss Smith, who could generally find something nice to say about any child. He was definitely a boy with special needs. In the view of the staff, they began with an exorcism.

Listening was an art he [Lu-Tze] had developed over the years, having learned that if you listened hard and long enough people would tell you more than they thought they knew.

"Yeah, I know all about practicing procedures for emergencies," said Lu-Tze. "And there's always something missing. You always leave out the damn emergency."

Perhaps it was boredom, not intelligence, that had propelled them [humans] up the evolutionary ladder... [Boredom was] that strange ability to look at the universe and think "oh, the same as yesterday, how dull. I wonder what happens if I bang this rock on that head?"

Some people fade into the background. Miss Susan faded into the foreground.\

... an exquisite mask of a face that had nevertheless been made up by a clown. Probably a blind clown. And one who was wearing boxing gloves. In a fog.

Hippos only look big and cuddly from a distance. Close up, they just look big.

"There is no doubt that being human is incredibly difficult and cannot be mastered in one lifetime,", said Unity.

Maybe, she [Susan] thought, thiat was a normal family state in any case. When push came to shove,... they'd rely on each other automatically, without a thought. Apart from that, they kept out of one another's way.

... she would be immortal for as long as she lived.


It had been a fine sunny morning up until then. Now it was still sunny, but nothing like as fine.

"You wanted me, sir?" he said, turning to Vetinari again. "There's a ... march in Water Street, and I've got traffic backed up all the way to Least Gate--"
"I'm sure it can wait, Commander."
"Yes, sir. That's the trouble, sir. That's what it's doing."

It looked like something knitted as a present by a colorblind aunt, the sort of thing you wouldn't dare throw away in case the garbage collectors laughed at you and kicked your trash cans over.

"Don't keep valuables in it [the locker], this place is full of coppers." -- Captain Angua, speaking to a new Guard.

"What do your friends call you?"
A.E.Pessimal [the auditor] looked as though there was one major assumption in that sentence that he did not understand, so Vimes took a small amount of pity on him.

"... drop like a ton of rectangular building things..." - Vimes

... somewhere inside that stupid, fat head was something very smart that sniffed the wind and heard the buzz and read the writing on the wall, admittedly doing the last bit with its lips moving... to look at him, you'd see a man who might well, if he fell over a cliff, have to stop and ask directions on the way down.

Vimes had got around the problem by giving him the post of custody officer , to the amusement of all [footnote: As in "Ol' Fred thought he said custard officer and volunteered!" Since this is an example of office humour, it doesn't actually have to be funny.]

When the dwarf bars and the troll bars emptied out in the evening, hell went for a stroll with its sleeves rolled up... in the bad old days.. they'd bring out the hurry-up wagon and arrest every troll and dwarf too drunk, dazed, or dead to move.

Dwarfs and trolls as races would never be chums, but the city stirred them together, and it had seemed to Vimes that they had managed to get along with no more than surface abrasians.
Now the melting pot was full of lumps again.

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