"Run before you walk! Fly before you crawl! Keep moving forward! You think we should try to get a decent mail service in the city. I think we should try to send letters anywhere in the world! Because if we fail, I'd rather fail really hugely. All or nothing, Mr. Groat!"
Moist Von Lipwig
The 33rd Discworld book, Going Postal centers around the character Moist von Lipwig, a new main character for the Discworld. A self-admitted con man, the book opens with Lipwig (under the pseudonym Albert Spangler) awaiting execution, because he finally got caught. Albert Spangler is hanged, buried, and gets a nice little paragraph in the Tanty Bugle.Moist von Lipwig, however, wakes up in Lord Vetinari's office, receives a pleasant speech about the nature of angels, and is "offered" a job as the new Postmaster in charge of the now-defunct Ankh-Morpork Post Office. True to form, the first thing he does once he's loose is to run as far away as he can. The next morning, he wakes up when the golem Vetinari set as his parole officer crashes through the door, bodily picks him up along with the horse he acquired, and carries them both back to Ankh-Morpork.Despite the complete incompetence of the existing Post staff (Stanley Howler, a slightly deranged boy obsessed with pins, and Tolliver Groat, an old man who believes very strongly in his homemade medicines), Moist manages to begin rebuilding the Post Office via the application of a liberal helping of Refuge in Audacity. It helps that the Grand Trunk clacks system (a semaphore tower chain which allows messages to be transmitted great distances very quickly) is under new management, a gang of voracious corporate backstabbers who are running it into the ground. Moist's rivalry with Reacher Gilt, the leader of the corporate moneygrubbers, and his budding romance with Adora Belle Dearheart (a cynical, chain-smoking young woman who has been known to drive her spike-heeled shoes through people's feet when provoked) provide a bit of backdrop as Moist essentially invents a new system of currency (by introducing stamps, which people start to use instead of coins), single-handedly restores the Ankh-Morpork Post Office, rescues a cat (and two men) from a burning building, summons divine intervention, and exposes the crooked dealings of Gilt and his accomplices to the world.Did we mention that Moist is a really big believer in Refuge in Audacity? And that he saved a cat?An adaptation aired on Sky1 on May 30 2010.Preceded by Monstrous Regiment, followed by Thud!. The next book in the Moist von Lipwig series is Making Money.Not to be confused with Going Postal, which is a trope.
This book provides examples of:
Achievements in Ignorance: At the end of the initiation trial that the old postmen run for Moist, they sic several massive dogs upon him, whom he recognizes from their bark as Lipwigzer dogs — which his grandfather raised. He handles the challenge with perfect confidence by using the commands that all purebred Lipwigzers are trained ... only to learn afterwards that they were not Lipwigzers at all, but Ankh-Morpork junkyard dogs with no Lipwig training whatsoever who only obeyed out of sheer bafflement.
Actual Pacifist: Moist never, ever used violence in his criminal career. Though Mr. Pump deconstructs his assumption that this made him not such a bad person by pointing out that his actions had devastating effects on people despite his not physically harming anyone.
Addiction Displacement: Stanley is completely obsessed with collecting pins, to the point where even the owner of a pin store considers him to be weird. He eventually drops his pin obsession and starts up stamp collecting.
Against My Religion: Moist has a fear of his natural face appearing in the paper and thus claims that any photography of him is this trope. When pressed, he adlibs that he doesn't actually believe being photographed will remove a piece of his soul, but he doesn't think you should treat religion like a "buffet".
Alien Geometries: The Sorting Engine, designed by "Bloody Stupid" Johnson to have a wheel with a pi equal to exactly three, which bends reality to the point that it occasionally puts out letters from the past, the future, or even from alternate realities (ones where the check really was in the post, for example).
All-Natural Snake Oil: The logic, such as it is, behind Tolliver Groat's homemade medicines, which are made from all-natural ingredients such as sulfur, saltpetre, charcoal, arsenic, and dead voles. Amazingly, the doctor who examined him found him to be in remarkably good health—possibly indestructible. He was just absolutely disgusting (since he doesn't believe in bathing). And his hairpiece tried to make a break for it. They also had to surgically remove his pants, which were then field-detonated.
Arc Words: "You should've been there! You should've seen it!"
As the Good Book Says: The undelivered letters (almost) quote John 1:1 to Moist: "In the beginning there was a Word..."
Asshole Victim: Discussed; Moist believes himself to be a decent person because the only people he pulled his cons on were those who "deserved it". Mr. Pump, however, points out that assholes, when they lose something, tend to recover their losses by taking it from other people as well — and they usually aren't as fussy about whether the people they're taking it from deserve it or not:
Mr. Pump: When Banks Fail, It Is Seldom Bankers Who Starve.
Vetinari: Commander Vimes, I think it would be iniquitous to detain these men here any longer. (pause, wherein the board members have a Hope Spot) Vetinari: To the cells with them, commander.
Bar Brawl: Highly organized, with a scoring system and tactics that seem to be based on a combination of rugby and professional wrestling. People expect things of bar brawls after all.
ĎLook, Bob, what part of this donít you understand, eh? Itís a matter of style, okay? A proper brawl doesnít just happen. You donít just pile in, not any more. Now, Oyster Dave here — put your helmet back on, Dave — will be the enemy in front and Basalt who, as we know, donít need a helmet, heíll be the enemy coming up behind you. Okay, itís well past knuckles time, letís say Gravy there has done his thing with the Bench Swipe, thereís a bit of knifeplay, weíve done the whole Chandelier Swing number, blah blah blah, then Second Chair — thatís you, Bob — you step smartly between their Number Five man and a Bottler, swing the chair back over your head like this — sorry, Pointy — and then swing it right back on to Number Five, bang, crash, and thereís a cushy six points in your pocket. If theyíre playing a dwarf at Number Five then a chair wonít even slow him down but donít fret, hang on to the bits that stay in your hand, pause one moment as he comes at you and then belt him across both ears. They hate that, as Stronginthearm here will tell you. Another three points. Itís probably going to be freestyle after that but I want all of you, including Mucky Mick and Crispo, to try for a Double Andrew when it gets down to the fist-fighting again. Remember? You back into each other, turn round to give the other guy a thumping, cue moment of humorous recognition, then link left arms, swing round and see to the other fellowís attacker, foot or fist, itís your choice. Fifteen points right there if you get it to flow just right. Oh, and remember weíll have an Igor standing by, so if your arm gets taken off do pick it up and hit the other bugger with it — it gets a laugh and twenty points. On that subject, do remember what I said about getting everything tattooed with your name, all right? Igors do their best, but youíll be on your feet much quicker if you make life easier for him and, whatís more, itís your feet youíll be on. Okay, positions everyone, letís run through it again . . .í
The Barnum: Reacher Gilt. Moist has elements of this as well, though he does feel some guilt over his actions when directly confronted with the harm he's caused.
Battle of Wits: As Moist is a conman and dislikes physically fighting someone, he fights his battles with his mind and manipulates others. Recognizing Reacher Glit as a dangerous conman means he must up his game if he wants to survive.
Brick Joke: A truly astounding one following a tiny moment in Men at Arms written eleven years earlier, regarding the Post Office motto as displayed on the facade of the building.
The notion of collectors paying for used hangman's rope had previously appeared in The Last Continent, as one of Fair Go Dibbler's money-making scams.
Brotherhood of Funny Hats: The Order of the Post, a secret society of postmen. Moist has joined several of these groups before, and assumes that their initiation test won't be anything dangerous, only to realise they're taking it very seriously.
Call Back: All the way to Maskerade: In that book, Granny Weatherwax asks what Walter Plinge "If your house was on fire, what would you take out?" and he answers "The fire." When the Post Office is on fire, golems from all over the area come and do precisely that.
The dilapidated wizard's tower between Ankh-Morpork and Sto Lat. Unremarkable enough that it hasn't been described on that road in any book before or since, making its mention partway through the book significant.
There is a small part of the book showing clack tower 181 where a young girl named Alice is learning the trade and is able to receive and send messages at an expert rate. One message comes in with no original sender listed and she is told about the concept of those who died on the towers sending final messages back home. Moist's forged message at the end states it is this and Vetinari finds because of that the message is beyond repute and the accusations must be investigated.
Con Man: The way Albert Spangler, and several other aliases of Moist von Lipwig, made his living, which comes in handy when Moist runs rings around people.
Continuity Nod: The von Lipwig family are active in the (highly schismatic) Potato Church, implying that Mr Tulip may actually have been remembering his religion accurately.
Under the above mentioned "glo m of ni t" lettering on the post office is graffiti that says not to ask about, among other things, Mrs. Cake, who appeared in Reaper Man. (The post office sign and the rest were also pointed out by Vimes to Carrot in Men at Arms)
Mr. Pony's suspicions about University students tampering with the clacks system could be a nod to The Science of Discworld II, in which Hex gets hooked up to the network and begins using it to send messages without paying for them.
Possibly a coincidence, but when they examine B.S. Johnson's machine, the wizards declare that destroying it could destroy the entire universe in one go. After the post master takes a wrench to it, the wizards come back and declare the universe was destroyed in one go, but popped right back into existence immediately afterwards before anyone could notice. Looks like Lobsang had his eye on the situation.
Creature of Habit: Tiddles the cat is so set in his ways, moving the furniture into his daily path through the Post Office will leave him pathetically butting his head against the obstacle. Certainly a little thing like the building being on fire won't change his routine.
Critical Staffing Shortage: It is revealed that the Royal Post Office in Ankh-Morpork, formerly a city institution employing thousands, has atrophied with the years to a point where only two men remain - an elderly eccentric and a young boy who could be described as a little bit strange. The job of the new manager is to get it up and running again - with a staff of only two men and a cat.
Death Faked for You: Vetinari gives Moist a fresh start, but only if he's willing to do a little job.
December-December Romance: Moist delivers an old letter, which results in a pair of childhood sweethearts, now both elderly and widowed, hooking up again.
Deconstruction: Of the Lovable Rogue character type. Mr. Pump points out the ways in which even nonviolent criminals who feel they have standards because of it can cause suffering and evil all over the world:
"I have never laid a finger on anyone in my life, Mr. Pump. I may be... all those things you know I am, but I am not a killer! I have never so much as drawn a sword!"
"No, You Have Not. But You Have Stolen, Embezzled, Defrauded, And Swindled Without Discrimination, Mr. Lipwig. You Have Ruined Business And Destroyed Jobs. When Banks Fail, It Is Seldom Bankers Who Starve. Your Actions Have Taken Money From Those Who Had Little Enough To Begin With. In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Did Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Food From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs. For Sport, Mr. Lipwig. For Sport. For The Joy Of The Game."
Moist: If you stick a broom up my arse, I could probably sweep the floor, too.
Vetinari, true to form, takes him at his word and asks his secretary for a broom.
There's another more serious one where Moist accidentally blurts out the typical lines to the end of Adora Dearhearts enraptured description of when her family owned the Grand Trunk. It's a rather somber reminder of how the book presents the double-edged sword of being so taken with something.
Moist: You should have seen it! You should have been there!
Moist seems to have a problem with this; when he reads the letter Gilt had published in the Times (full of corporate doublespeak and Meaningless Meaningful Words), he discovers that he's been cursing at length the whole time in front of his employees. This apparently included a few words so vulgar that they don't even exist in our language.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: For many British readers, what Gilt does to the Grand Trunk had a great deal of resonance with what happened to Britain's railways after they were privatised in the 1990s. Especially since the real-world Grand Trunk was a British-owned Canadian railway company.
Emergency Stash: Moist keeps various tools of the trade — forgery supplies, make-up and a change of clothes, lockpicks, even safehouses — stashed all over the city. He also has amassed 150 thousand dollars in assorted currencies over the course of his career as a con man. He later digs it up, claims that it's a gift from the gods and uses it to rebuild the Post Office.
Even Evil Has Standards: Deconstructed; despite being an unashamed Con Man and criminal Moist believes himself to not be a particularly bad person because he has certain standards (never killing people, only pulling his cons on those who 'deserve' it, and so forth). During his "The Reason You Suck" Speech, however, Mr. Pump brutally informs him that his standards didn't stop him from ruining innocent lives, hastening deaths (he didn't need to actually hold the blade or even be aware they existed to kill people) and generally making the world a worse place; just because he didn't consider himself to be a particularly evil person doesn't mean that his actions weren't harmful and evil in their way, whether he was aware of it or not. It's especially visible when it turns out Adora Belle used to work for a bank that Moist had swindled, and his internal monologue is full of despairing protest that "this is not fair" (for him) and that "you're not supposed to meet these people afterwards" — thinking he is better than other criminals is only possible as long as he keeps a serious layer of denial.
And then played straight with the "Not a hammer" line.
Even Nerds Have Standards: Stanley is so obsessed with pins that even the other pin collectors in the city think he's "a bit weird about pins".
Gilt wants to corner the communications market by keeping the post office closed.
Played with in typical Pratchett style with Moist's own plan for defeating Gilt as Moist admits it is an Evil Plan too, just he is going to use it in the cause of good. And given that they're Evil Counterparts they could have switched places
The Face: Moist for the Post Office staff. It's what Vetinari hired him for. Stanely's thought as weird even by other pin collectors, and Groat doesn't have the skills either, but Moist knows how to connect with people and how to promote something and how to motivate people.
That's why [magic] was left to wizards, who knew how to handle it safely. Not doing any magic at all was the chief task of wizards — not "not doing magic" because they couldn't do magic, but not doing magic when they could do and didn't. Any ignorant fool can fail to turn someone else into a frog. You have to be clever to refrain from doing it when you knew how easy it was. There were places in the world commemorating those times when wizards hadn't been quite as clever as that, and on many of them the grass would never grow again.
Field Promotion: Ridicully is a fan of this to spite any citizen who criticizes his wizardsnote That's his job., thus promoting Mr. Collabone to Doctor and finally full Professor. Moist also does this with his staff at different points. He actually names Groat a Senior Postman in the middle of an argument to motivate Groat to be more cooperative and tell him the secrets of the post office. His promotions of Stanley and Miss Maccalariat are similar.
Reacher Gilt is amused by Igor's story of how an ex-employer died by thoughtlessly stepping into his own spike-lined pit. Presumably he ceased to find this so amusing by the end of the book, at least for a fraction of a second.
A long-ranged example: When he's wondering how Moist is going to win the great transcontinental race, Vetinari asks him if he might dig up some extremely fast magical horse buried nearby. Moist says of course not. But in the next Discworld book featuring Moist von Lipwig, this exact thing happens.
Moist von Lipwig secures an immediate reservation for himself and his girlfriend at the poshest and most expensive restaurant in Ankh-Morpork by forging a letter from financier Reacher Gilt. Gilt, a master con-man himself, recognises a worthy opponent by graciously offering to pay their bill...
As part of the framing the executives, Moist has the GNU create a message from those who died working under the harsh conditions of the Trunk, proclaiming how and why they died with information implicating the executives.
Freud Was Right: Invoked by Adora Belle as she looks over Moist's ideas for stamp pictures; she notes that the stamp with the highest value has a picture of the Tower of Art at Unseen University — tallest building in the city.
"Oh, the Tower of Art... How like a man."
Genre Savvy: Bookies give 1:8 odds for Moist to win the race, then stop taking bets when no-one will bet against him.
Groin Attack: Sustained over time from a bareback ride, but the aftermath is subtly played for laughs, what with Moist taking correspondence from within a tub of ice. It's also hinted at in the bar scene.
Hat of Authority: The wingťd gold hat that comes with being Postmaster. It also came with some winged sandals and a fig-leaf thong, which Moist wisely passes up.
In Which a Trope Is Described: The chapter headings use the Victorian-style synopsis in this vein. Apparently Pratchett adopted them not only because they're thematically appropriate, but as a Take That to a reviewer who accused him of being unable to write in chapters.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: If you read this book as one of your first Discworld books either because it was more recently published or because it's one of the most highly rated, you'll inadvertently have major spoilers from many books. First off from Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms because there are many guardsmen, you learn that Carrot is a Captain, Vimes is Commander and you see Angua as a werewolf, from Feet of Clay, as it is mentioned that a golem, Dorfl, is in the watch, as well as many speaking golems and the golem rights movement, and The Truth with the Times being a large and highly influential enterprise.
Moist: If you stick a broom up my arse I could sweep the floor, too! Vetinari: An excellent idea. Drumknott, do we have a broom closet on this floor?
Loophole Abuse: Ridcully displays this in fine form as he is the agreed to neutral party to the final race between Post and Clacks. He was asked to select something for them to deliver. He picks a thick textbook with lots of colored pictures and diagrams.
Though it could be also a dig at Galt, it's almost certainly a riff on "Long John" as someone with impressive, er, reach, and "Silver" versus Gilt. Plus it fits with all the other Dickens-style names.
Or, more basically. He is 'reaching' for your 'gilt' (gold).
Moist turns out to have a heart of gold whereas Reacher's friendly demeanor is only gild, "gilt" being the past participle of "gild".
Gilt mentions to a servant that he was a bit surprised he got away with that one. The pirate act is just flavor, but the name spells it out. See also the Stealth Pun below.
The name Lipwig could be based on Victor Lustig, a Con Man who sold the Eiffel Tower... twice.
Adora Belle Dearheart is supposed to call to mind Ada Lovelace, one of the pioneers of computing. The Smoking Gnu isn't just a punny misspelling, and the whole story calls to mind the fall of Ma Bell, and IBM's days as the Evil Empire. There are a lot of Meaningful Names.
The Smoking Gnu is also a Shout-Out to The Bromeliad in which the Nome confuses the words Gun and Gnu at one point (and confuses everyone he's talking to).
Stanley Howler recalls Stanley Gibbons, the London stamp dealers.
Merchant Prince: Reacher Gilt is a powerful merchant and conman who is attempting to use his wealth and power to displace the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork (though see below).
Mock Millionaire: Reacher Gilt is arguably an example of this trope. He conducts himself in a very lavish manner, but that may be part of his masquerade. He himself teaches that wealth is an illusion, and stole the Grand Trunk through embezzlement and accounting tricks. It's never clear how much actual liquidity he actually has; in the end, when he is caught by Vetinari after fleeing the city, he seems disheveled and impoverished, but that may just be a side-effect of spending an unspecified amount of time in the hands of Vetinari's Clerks before being brought before Vetinari and, quite literally, found himself "in for the long drop".
Moody Mount: Moist rides one of these to another city to help save the postal system.
Mythology Gag: In several earlier books, it is observed that using multiple exclamation marks is a sign of a deranged mind. In this book, Dave's Pin Exchange (the pin equivalent of a comic book store) styles itself as the "Home of Acuphilia!!!!!"
For bonus points, five exclamation points is the exact figure mentioned for being the sign of a deranged mind.
Not So Different: Towards the end, Moist fears that he is no better than Reacher Gilt. However — unbeknownst to Moist — the ending reveals that the Patrician caught Gilt, offered him the same chance for rehabilitation as Moist, and Gilt... refused.
Vetinari: You have to admire a man who really believes in freedom of choice. Sadly, he did not believe in angels.
Moist discovers that it is very important to him that he isn't just like Reacher. How much unlike Reacher he actually is depends on your point of view. The Golems see it as only a matter of degree, but that doesn't stop them from thinking he can make Adora Bell Dearheart happy.
The Not So Harmless Punishment: Moist Von Lipwig is offered (as an alternative to being hanged, again) the job of Postmaster General. It's a job for life, just quite possibly not for long as it's already claimed the lives of several other "volunteers."
Of course, Vetinari isn't going to be so crass as to force him to take the job, and tells Moist he can walk out of the room whenever he likes. Moist takes the time to confirm his suspicions that there is a long drop beyond the door, but the choice is still there.
Obviously Evil: Reacher Gilt virtually advertises the true nature of his business practices by dressing similarly to a pirate, complete with an eyepatch and a cockatoo on his shoulder.
Which, for bonus points is taught to say "Twelve-and-a half-percent!". Converted to fractions that's 1/8, or a "piece of eight".
"Gilt and Vetinari shared a look. It said: While I loathe you and every aspect of your personal philosophy to a depth unplumbable by any line, Iíll credit you at least with not being Crispin Horsefry."
Only Mostly Dead: How Moist was allowed to be hanged by the neck until dead, but still alive afterward. Lord Vetinari tells him that hanging is a very exact science, that the hangman he employs is a true master who could write a book, and he was hanged "to within half an inch of his life."
Opposites Attract: Moist von Lipwig: Conman, forced into public service, liar, and optimist with some cynic in. Adora Belle Dearheart: Golem trust chairwoman, chose her job voluntarily (more or less, after losing her last job thanks to Moist), incapable of lying (bar sarcasm), and cynic with some optimism deep inside.
Or So I Heard: Moist has to say this a few times when he realizes he's revealed more knowledge than he should have of criminal enterprise. "They're the devil to forge, I know that...well, that's what I've heard."
Otaku: Stanley is so obsessed with pins that even the other pin collectors in the city think he's "a bit weird about pins". After Lipwig invents the postage stamp, Stanley eventually transfers this obsession into stamps and stamp collecting. (Moist instantly recognizes this and makes him head of the division.) Although it's never spelled out, arguably the conceit behind Stanley's pin obsession is "what did stamp collectors do before stamps were invented?"
Our Monsters Are Different: Mr. Gryle gives the first (and probably last) good look at banshees in this setting. He's basically a predatory Winged Humanoid, very gaunt and light with wiry muscles to make flight possible, and an instinct for snapping at birds as they pass. By contrast, folkloric banshees are screaming, female specters.
Police Are Useless: Worse, they're quite competent and dangerously clever. Moist spends the novel obfuscating things for them so they'll not look too closely and realize Alfred Spangler didn't quite die.
Pony Express Rider: Moist's race against the clacks. Moist also ensures himself a little leeway in the final contest by ensuring that it truly is clacks vs. carriage, so that the Trunk cannot use their horses to ferry the message if a tower breaks down. (He notes that they could beat him without using a single tower by running a pony express.)
Prayer Is a Last Resort: Moist fakes this and goes to three different temples, asking for the rituals to find a large sum of money. After that, he fakes a vision and discovers a huge stash of gold and other currency. It is, in reality, his ill-gotten money from all his cons.
Public Execution: The book opens with a faked public execution. Moist (the accused, who doesn't know it's faked) is asked to sign the rope before hand, since it will then be worth more to collectors. He's also expected to come up with some Famous Last Words, that being traditional.
He goes with "I commend my soul to any god that can find it.", after being told that his first choice — "I wasn't actually expecting to die." — just won't do.
Reality-Breaking Paradox: The mail sorting engine in the basement of the post office was designed by Bloody Stupid Johnson, who built the wheels inside using measurements where pi equaled exactly 3 (thinking "three and a bit" was untidy). This is of course impossible, but he did it anyway, and so a small bit of the universe around the engine is twisted up, causing the machine to spit out letters that have yet to be written, or should have been written and weren't, or were written in a different reality even after it was turned off. The wizards of UU analyzed it and decided that trying to destroy it would also destroy the entire universe all in one go.
A desperate post office employee eventually decides to beat the thing with a crowbar until it stops spitting out letters. When he sees the wizards running away as fast as they can, he figures that, unless they've got another universe to run to, they aren't entirely sure that destroying the sorting engine will take the universe with it.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mr. Pump, demolishing Moist Von Lipwig's comforting vision of himself as a criminal with standards by pointing out that through his cons and scams he did not need to physically touch or even be aware of the existence of people to ruin their lives and hasten their deaths.
He scanned the rest of the crowd and spotted Reacher Gilt, standing off to one side and, surprisingly, not smiling. And Gilt saw him.
One look was enough. The man wasnít certain. Not totally certain.
Welcome to fear, said Moist to himself. Itís hope, turned inside out. You know it canít go wrong, youíre sure it canít go wrong . . .
But it might.
Iíve got you.
Refuge in Audacity/Devil in Plain Sight: Reacher Gilt is so obvious about being a scoundrel that people trust him. As noted above, this quality also defines Moist, although in a somewhat different way.
Reacher gives them something they hope isn't true, Moist gives them something they hope is true.
Also, one of the Smoking Gnu wears a horned helmet to be inconspicuous, because nobody who sees him in it would suspect he's trying to pass unnoticed.
Retcon: In Reaper Man, Mr. Ixolite is described as the "last living banshee". Guess nobody told the narrative about Mr. Gryle.
Mr Gryle is described as a wild banshee from a distant jungle, so it makes sense that nobody in the city would know about him.
Ridiculously Average Guy: Moist notes that he is almost never noticed precisely because his face is so average and unremarkable that no one can place him even if they've seen him.
When the Wizards are trying to tune their Omniscope, Ridcully continually complains that they keep getting "That damn enormous flaming eye again" ... which turns out to be the magnified eye of the student they're trying to contact, inflamed due to his allergies.
Stanley Howler, pin-fanatic-turned-stamps-guy, is named for Stanley Gibbons, a Real Life company that sells collectible postage stamps and stamp-collecting supplies.
One of the signs that Reacher Gilt is a semi-Expy of John Galt is the literal stating of the question "Who is Reacher Gilt?" Well, that and his hatred of government interference in (his) free enterprise.
His description during his introduction as a flashy unknown outsider who appeared out of nowhere and throws parties that is the stuff of legend brings to mind The Great Gatsby as well.
Descriptions of the decaying, pigeon-inhabited post office are reminiscent of scenes in Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan. In particular, the fact that Groat and Stanley never clean up the pigeon crap, because it's not specified in the regulations, is reminiscent of how Rottcodd keeps the sculptures in the Hall of the Bright Carvings dusted, yet allows the displaced dust to thickly coat the floor.
The three members of the Smoking Gnu are Al, Alex, and Adrian. Moist thinks that The Smoking Gnu is exactly the name he'd choose for a group whose members have names that all begin with the same letter.
Anghammarad says "So It Goes" after explaining that the land of Thut slid into the sea nine thousand years ago. "So it goes" is said literally every single time someone dies in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.
When accosted by a drunk, Adora Belle Dearheart gives a riff off Dirty Harry:
"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 on 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. The sole of your boot might give me a bit of trouble, but nothing else will. ..."
Shown Their Work: Moist's induction into the order of Postmen is very similar to a Masonic initiation.
The whole Grand Trunk/Ma Bell plot impressed Real Life telecommunications engineers with its resemblance to the actual events (fortunately, though, AT&T never killed anyone... as far as we know).
Signs of Disrepair: "GLO M OF NI T". The missing letters found their way onto a shop sign labeled HUGOS, without the apostrophe.
Slave to PR: A concept taken from several previews books (Witches Abroad, Jingo, Carpe Jugulum) but explained and taken to its logical breaking point. Everybody is governed by their appearances and expectatives (by the force of narrativium), from the Patrician down to bar brawlers. As explained by Moist.
People wanted to be fooled. They really believed that you found gold nuggets lying on the ground, that this time you could find the Lady, that just for once the glass ring might be real diamond. You had to give them a show.
Smart People Play Thud: Vetinari and Gilt assess each other with their Thud tactics. Also, Crispin Horsefry's dismissal of the game is an(other) indication of his low intellect.
Something Completely Different: This book introduced a new protagonist who proved very popular with fandom (somewhat revitalising the series) as well as being built around a serious point about privatisation — previous Discworld novels sometimes have serious points to make but they always took a back seat to the humour and never dominated the whole book (with the arguable exception of Equal Rites, Small Gods and Jingo). In addition, there is a style change to the layout of the novel, with Pratchett including chapters for the first time in the main series since The Light Fantastic.
Starting A New Life: Moist is forced to start over after supposedly being executed for his crimes. He's not entirely on his own, because Lord Vetinari has decided to make him the new Postmaster, which means that he's starting out with a job and a small apartment, but it's still an adjustment for him, because he's not used to making an honest living and has to get over his instinct for cheating other people.
"It's Gilt's, isn't it," said Miss Dearheart. "He's given you the bird?"
Also, see This Is My Side. For non-commonwealth readers, a Stanley Knife is a box cutter.
Stress Vomit: After Moist von Lipwig kills an assassin in self defense, the text notes that it would be the perfect time for a Bond One-Liner. Instead, Moist just becomes noisily sick.
Sympathetic P.O.V.: From Moist's point of view, The Ankh-Morpork Times is a useful tool, and Miss Cripslock makes for a great verbal whetstone (that is, she forces him to keep his wits sharp), but the editor-in-chief is an overly wordy, pompous stuffed shirt. Which makes for an interesting triangle of protagonists, since both Moist and de Worde are dismissive of Sam Vimes, and he's not so fond of them either.
This Is My Side: Groat and Stanley's living quarters are an example of this. Stanley maintains the border with a very sharp knife. The table is divided into two halves, but since they only have one salt cellar it gets its own little 'demilitarized zone', a white circle in the middle.
Too Dumb to Live: There are people in the story who mouth off to Vetinari. Twice. Incredibly, they live. Possibly.
There's also the man from the Grand Trunk who makes demands of Ridicully, while within Unseen University. He's lucky he left that room in the same shape he was in when he entered it.
To the Pain: Moist von Lipwig narrates one of these to himself about what he'll do to Reacher Gilt near the end.
I'll kill you, Mr. Gilt. I'll kill you in our own special way, the way of the weasel and cheat and liar. I'll take away everything but your life. I'll take away your money, your reputation, and your friends. I'll spin words around you until you're cocooned in them. I'll leave you with nothing, not even hope...
Treacherous Spirit Chase: The Ankh-Morpork Post Office wraps unsuspecting postmasters entirely in a beguiling vision of the building's opulent past. Unfortunately for them, this includes images of floors and walkways that have long since rotted away. Moist von Lipwig nearly takes a very long tumble by almost stepping onto a balcony that had long ago ceased to be.
Under New Management: Moist Von Lipwig as the new management of the post office, and Gilt and his cronies at the Grand Trunk.
Unfortunate Names: Moist von Lipwig and Adora Belle Dearheart. No wonder they end up together.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Moist eventually decides not to go with the Smoking GNU's plan, which was described in detail. The message he sends instead, for maximum dramatic effect, is hidden from the reader until after it's been received.
"You wouldn't like to give me some little clue?" said the Patrician. "Best all round if I don't, sir," said Moist.
Violin Scam: One of Moist's most common tricks back when he was a crook. At the start of the book he has several glass rings and a very nearly gold coin on hand that he plans to use to make enough money to get out of town.
Walk, Don't Swim: Vetinari explains to Moist that even fleeing to a different continent would not help him to escape his Golem parole officer. It knows where he is, all the time, without having to observe him, regardless of how far away he is or how he masks himself; it does not tire, eat, drink, sleep, breathe or stop at all on any account, and would thus be able to walk any body of water eventually. Four miles an hour without stopping is six hundred and seventy-two miles in a week note While there are eight days in a week, Mr. Pump does have a day off where he won't have to pursue Moist. But there's no need to tell Moist this. It adds up. Eventually the officer would catch him by sheer implacability.
The Window or the Stairs: Moist von Lipwig is given a choice by Vetinari, who presents himself as an "angel" to Moist: He can take over the job of Postmaster General, or walk out a door in Vetinari's office, and Vetinari would never bother him again. Being a Genre Savvy sort of chap, Moist goes to the door, carefully peeks through it, and finds a deep pit where the floor should be. He drops a spoon into the pit, and it doesn't make a sound for a rather long time. He takes the job. At the end of the book, Reacher Gilt is offered the same choice with a job at the Mint. It isn't stated whether he walks straight out the door without pausing to look or purposefully did not consent to Vetinari's bargain, but it seems we will not be hearing from him again.
Vetinari:You have to admire a man who really believes in freedom of choice. Sadly, he did not believe in angels.
Yank the Dog's Chain: At the beginning, just as Moist is beginning to hope that Drumknott's arriving with a stay of execution. He instead tells the executioner to get on with it; it's getting late.
The filmmakers are deadly determined to give Adora Belle a larger part in the story, with varied results. Adora trying to get the golems to strike is silly, as it requires Ankh-Morpork's leading golem expert failing to understand the nature of golems. Adora devising the Woodpecker herself, though, is so brilliant it makes the viewer regret the author hadn't thought to put it in the book.
The filmmakers also chose to have Moist become more unambiguously repentant, rather than retaining the original idea that, whatever else Moist von Lipwig is, he is still a con artist. (This does gradually happen in the books but isn't solidified until Raising Steam).
Since the ultimate con he runs (that he can give up everything and go back to being an itinerant con man, which allows him to not do so) is on himself and entirely in his head, it would be hard to do.
Adaptational Heroism: Mr. Pony, whose saving ledgers and giving them to Adora helped to bring down Reacher Gilt.
Adapted Out: Miss Maccalariat, Anghammarad, and the Grand Trunk board members are not in the film.
Almost Kiss: Happened thrice, between Moist and Adora. She deliberately stopped the first and third ones, a concurrence of circumstances interrupted the second one.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The flashbacks show how Lipwig's cons drove a farmer to suicide, sent a bank clerk to prison, destroyed the bank and ruined the Dearheart family... and drove Adora to start smoking cigarettes.
Beyond the Impossible: Deconstructed. Moist knows it's impossible for the postal service to beat the clacks in a long distance race, so instead of trying to beat the laws of physics he works with them to win the race. He implants an Engineered Public Confession into the Clacks message that gets Gilt arrested.
Bizarrchitecture: The Ankh-Morpork Post Office is quite a large building, but it seems to contain corridors that run for miles in every direction. This may have something to do with the power of words to warp space.
Broken Bird: Adora, who was always pretty tsundere in the novel (her brother nicknamed her "Killer" after all).
Continuity Cameo: Otto von Chriek, the Ankh-Morpork Times' vampire iconographer from The Truth, silently accompanies reporter Sacharissa Crisplock in a couple of scenes.
Create Your Own Villain: Adora explains that her father lost his business, the original Clacks system, because the bank he loaned money from was victim to fake bond fraud, that Moist started. Guess who took over the Clacks system and is trying to kill Moist?
Creator Cameo: Terry Pratchett shows up as an unnamed postman at the end.
Forced to Watch: Lipwig's dreams involve the letters forcing him to watch the consequences of his actions portrayed as silent movies, complete in some cases with dialogue cards.
Good Feels Good: Played straight (in Lipwig's part) for most of the time, but subverted in a dialogue of Moist and Mr. Pump.
Pump: How does it feel to make someone's life better, Mr. Lipwig? Moist: Unusual.
Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The adaptation makers couldn't erase Adora's cigarette addiction, but they did give it a backstory: she took up the habit because of the stress brought on by losing her job and seeing her family ruined. This is a touch Anvilicious, as there weren't any Drugs Are Bad implications attached to Adora's smoking in the original book.
Out-of-Character Moment: Seeing Angua referring to anyone as "lunch" and changing in public (as she's seen doing in the trailer) is very jarring compared to her representation in the books, where she's an vegetarian who hates the impulses brought on by being a werewolf, and the only time she makes a corny joke about it was Self-Deprecation.
Also Mustrum Ridcully talking about the nature of words. The Ridcully seen in the books and, indeed, the other adaptations, is a big, hearty man who bellows in almost every situation and uses phrases like "damn silly fool". The Ridcully in this version stays soft-spoken and talks like a professor.
Lipwig: The man who has never known love has never really lived. But worst is the man who avoids love. Because the man who runs from love and all its trials and tribulations, that man is just conning himself, swindling himself out of true... happiness.
Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Gryle (and Lipwig in return) tried to make this, but it didn't work for either of them.
Gryle: You know what they say?.. Hear the cry of a banshee... and die! (attacks Moist)
Smug Snake: In contrast to the book's polished Magnificent Bastard, the Reacher Gilt of the adaptation is pale, greasy and charisma-free (as well as losing his "con artist with vision" angle for a straight Corrupt Corporate Executive role). This has the side effect of making him a much less intelligent villain; in the original he knew full well his policies would drive the business into the ground and stood to make a fortune by doing so, but in this version it would ruin him.
Spared by the Adaptation: Subverted: Horsefry lasts longer than he does in the book, outliving Mr Gryle, who killed him in the original. Then, Reacher Gilt realises that Horsefry has recorded all the assassinations in his accounts books (since Gilt had to pay Mr Gryle for each assassination). Gilt then beats Horsefry to death with his cane and disposes of the body.
The Stinger: After the long end-credits have rolled. Groat and Stanley return sore and exhausted after their round-trip to Uberwald in the mail coach, but elated because they bet all their money on Moist to win the race at 50-1. Then they suddenly realise they've left the betting slip back in Uberwald...
Too Dumb to Live: Gilt accuses Horsefry of being this before beating him to death for recording the assassinations in his ledger.
Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: When Moist introduces himself, Adora remarks that his name is unusual and asks if his parents were "Stupid" or "Cruel."
You Have Failed Me: Inverted. Horsefry is beaten to death by his boss for doing his job too well, in a rare moment of competence.