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Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

I doubt it’ll come as a surprise to anyone (what with the title of the post an’ all), but I’m a fairly massive Terry Pratchett fan- in fact, for those of you who have been paying attention these last few years, there’s at least three Pratchett quotes littered through Being Brunel. So as the author of the books I have read more times (by a significant factor) than any other, I was sorry to hear that he had passed away last Thursday.

While those of you who are of a more technical persuasion might note that Being Brunel is one of the many sites keeping his name alive in the overhead; I thought a more obvious tribute would be in order. I’ll make the confession now; I had initially aimed to come up with my top ten Pratchett quotes who’s sentiment should be all too familiar to practising engineers- but despite a good few hours of whittling, I’ve only managed to get it down to 21.

Pratchett Quotes for Engineers

Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on. (Hogfather)

Although his body had been around quite a lot, his mind had never gone further than the inside of his own head. (Equal Rites)

“We’ve got a lot of experience of not having any experience” “But the point is… the point is… the point is we’ve not been experienced for a lot longer than you.” (Witches Abroad)

Around the Godde there forms a Shelle of prayers and Ceremonies and Buildings and Priestes and Authority, until at Laste the Godde Dies. Ande this maye notte be noticed. (Small Gods)

His progress through life was hampered by his tremendous sense of his own ignorance, a disability which affects all too few people. (Maskerade)

Anything anyone is still trying to explain to you after two minutes is probably important and anything they give up after a mere minute or so is almost certainly something they shouldn’t have been bothering you with in the first place. (Reaper Man)

Of course, Ankh-Morpork’s citizens had always claimed that the river water was incredibly pure in any case. Any water that had passed through so many kidneys, they reasoned, had to be very pure indeed. (Sourcery)

‘No one knows how to do officering, Fred. That’s why they’re officers. If they’d knew anything, they’d be sergeants.’ (Guards! Guards!)

“As simple as that? You didn’t use magic?” “Only common sense. It’s a lot more reliable in the long run.” (Maskerade)

You had to admire the way perfectly innocent words were mugged, ravished, stripped of all true meaning and decency, and then sent to walk the gutter for Reacher Gilt, although “synergistically” had probably been a whore from the start (Going Postal)

A hint was to Esk what a mosquito bite was to the average rhino because she was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you. (Equal Rites)

Demons were like genies or philosophy professors — if you didn’t word things exactly right, they delighted in giving you absolutely accurate and completely misleading answers. (Wyrd Sisters)

It wasn’t that he was unhelpful, but he had the kind of vague, cheerful helpfulness that serious men soon learn to dread. (Mort)

‘The great General Tacticus says that in dangerous times the commander must be like the eagle and see the whole, and yet still be like the hawk and see every detail.’ ‘Yessir,’ said Jackrum, gliding the razor down a cheek. ‘And if he acts like a common tit, sir, he can hang upside down all day and eat fat bacon.’ ‘Er…well said, sergeant.’ (Monstrous Regiment)

Putting up a statue to someone who tried to stop a war is not very, um, statuesque. Of course, if you had butchered five hundred of your own men out of arrogant carelessness, we’d be melting the bronze already. (Jingo)

Every single one of them wanted to be involved in the decision-making process without necessarily going through the intelligence-using process first. (The Last Hero)

Albert grunted. “Do you know what happens to lads who ask too many questions?” Mort thought for a moment. “No,” he said eventually, “what?” There was silence. Then Albert straightened up and said, “Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.” (Mort)

You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage. (Witches Abroad)

You did something because it had always been done, and the explanation was “but we’ve always done it this way.” A million dead people can’t have been wrong, can they? (The Fifth Elephant)

Asking someone to repeat a phrase you’d not only heard very clearly but were also exceedingly angry about was around Defcon II in the lexicon of squabble. (Witches Abroad)

One of the universal rules of happiness is: always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual. (Jingo)

If you’ve never picked up a Pratchett book; I’d highly recommend it. It’s all a matter of preference, but I’d say start with a mid-series book (they’re only loosely dependent on each other) like Witches Abroad or Soul Music. They’re all great, but the first ones are in a slightly different style, and the later ones aren’t always as strong…

What can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?  (Reaper Man)

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  1. Ben

    Legend. Bunch of grapes was a pub in the village near to me that pratchett based it on, my use of the word et instead of eat can be laid at his door and I still get looked at in blank manner when I talk about crazy bids “cutting there own throat”….good call Mr Wallace.

    • That’s fantastic; didn’t realise it was based on a real pub. My favourite is still the mended drum (nay broken drum – “you can’t beat it”).

  2. I have never read any but I will now start with Witches Abroad & Soul Music. I’ll let you know how I get on 🙂

    • Haha- that’s a lot of pressure; but I think they’re good picks for ‘first ones’; although I reckon you’d get a different answer out of every Pratchett fan!


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