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Literature / Going Postal

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Neither rain nor snow nor glo m of ni t can stay these mes engers abo t their duty.

"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,note  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 note  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 note  provide a bit of backdrop as Moist essentially invents a new system of currency,note  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 Sky One 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 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.
  • Aerith and Bob: The main characters in this book are Moist von Lipvig, Adora Belle Dearheart, Reacher Gilt, Tolliver Groat and... Stanley.
  • 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 sulphur, 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…"
  • Asymmetric Multiplayer: Discussed. Thud has one player controlling a few slow but powerful trolls and the other controlling multiple fast but independently weak dwarfs (which Thud later established also have combo abilities). Vetinari and Gilt size each other up (and foreshadow much of the plot) by talking about their preferred sides.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment:
    • Vetinari does this to the Grand Trunk board members.
      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.
    • When the wizard expert on the Post Office tells Moist that the two Post Office chandeliers have ended up in the Assassin's Guild and one in the Opera House, Moist wisely decides to hold off on getting them back, as it might be dangerous. The wizard expert agrees, since some of those sopranos have a kick like a mule.
  • 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.
    "Look, Bob, what part of this don't you understand, eh? It's a matter of style, okay? A proper brawl doesn't just happen. You don't 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, don't need a helmet, he'll be the enemy coming up behind you. Okay, it's well past knuckles time, let's say Gravy there has done his thing with the Bench Swipe, there's a bit of knifeplay, we've done the whole Chandelier Swing number, blah blah blah, then Second Chair — that's 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 there's a cushy six points in your pocket. If they're playing a dwarf at Number Five then a chair won't even slow him down but don't 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. It's 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 fellow's attacker, foot or fist, it's your choice. Fifteen points right there if you get it to flow just right. Oh, and remember we'll 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 you'll be on your feet much quicker if you make life easier for him and, what's more, it's your feet you'll be on. Okay, positions everyone, let's run through it again..."
  • 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.
  • Batman Gambit: Moist tricks Gilt into engineering his own downfall with a gaudy and entirely nonmagical broom.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: The matron Moist encounters when trying to get Groat out of hospital. She even says she refuses to release him and Moist has to point out that patients are not "released" from hospital, they are "discharged." Even Dr. Lawn's method of dealing with the nursing staff is to give them chocolate and run in the opposite direction.
  • 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 Gilt as a dangerous conman means he must up his game if he wants to survive.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Moist pulls off one or two during the course of the book.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: One of the bankers threatens to sue Unseen University in the heat of the moment. Archchancellor Ridcully's reply?
    Ridcully: Oh, please sue the University! We've got a pond full of people who tried to sue the University!
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: The Board just won't use the word "embezzlement" and continually refer to it with bland euphemisms and double-meanings, much to Reacher Gilt's amusement, as his thoughts are word-for-word this trope.
  • Blatant Lies: Not wanting the Watch to pry into his dispute with Reacher Gilt or into his own background, Moist tells them — in a bright, over-innocent voice — that, my goodness, he thought the corpse of Mr. Gryle the banshee was just "a big pigeon", even though Captain Carrot has already told him it was a banshee. Seeing the Watch werewolf wink at him as it pads away seals the deal.
  • Bond One-Liner: Parodied; After killing a would-be assassin with the mail sorter, the narration observes that this would have been a perfect time to say something clever like "That's what I call 'sorted'!". But since Moist isn't the heroic type, he just gets noisily sick instead.
  • Bookends: At the end of the book, Vetinari offers a job to Reacher Gilt, just like he offered one to Moist von Lipwig at the start of the book. Though Gilt ends up taking Vetinari's offer to "walk right out that door, and I won't bother you again" and unlike Moist he didn't stop to check for the bottomless pit first.
  • Boxed Crook: Moist is a confidence artist forced into a government job, because his cunning criminal mind is exactly what Vetinari needs to both sell people on the idea of the post office and take down Reacher Gilt.
  • 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. One of the first things Moist does is find out where the missing letters went to.
    • 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.note 
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: The Order of the Post, a secret society of postmen. Moist has joined several of these groups before (he even created a few himself), and assumes that their initiation test won't be anything dangerous, only to realise they're taking it very seriously.
    Moist: [thinking] A secret society of postmen. I mean, why?
  • Butlerspace: Igors again. Reacher Gilt's Igor does this several times, and Reacher puts a bear trap behind him as a test. The Igor, however, being no stranger to "masters of an inquiring mind", gets around it.
  • 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.
    • In Carpe Jugulum, a troll carves a stamp for passports out of half a potato. Here, Moist points out that any kid could forge a stamp with half a potato.
    • Moist comes across what may be Carrot's first letter home from Guards! Guards! (although the Discworld Companion entry for William de Worde points out that all letters home from young dwarfs seeking their fortune in Ankh-Morpork sound much the same).
  • The Cameo: There's a very good chance the little old man idly sweeping the floor in the temple of Offler is Lu-Tze from Small Gods and Thief of Time.
  • Chalk Outline: One of the previous postmasters spied into the sorting machine, and his outline was all over the sorting office.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Early on, Moist notes how people assume someone with a firm handshake and a steady gaze is honest, and how easy those are to fake. When Moist meets Reacher Gilt, he sees right through Gilt's facade by recognizing the man as having the firm handshake and steady gaze of a Consummate Liar who's practiced for years.
    • 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 scene involving clacks tower 181 where a young girl named Alice is learning the trade, receiving and sending 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 exposes the Gilt's corrupt business by forging one such message. Vetinari uses this piece of clacks lore to declare the message trustworthy and its accusations worth investigating.
    • Stanley's obsession with pins, which gives Moist the idea of using many pins on sheets of paper to create easily-cut stamps.
  • The Chosen One: Subverted, in that the neglected Mail is so desperate that they'll Choose anyone who happens to be available.
  • 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.
    • Reacher Gilt takes it to another level; Moist compares the con he's running with the Grand Trunk to Three Card Monty played with entire banks. By the time the Board realizes they're actually the marks and the City has legally arrested them, he's fled town after skimming most of the money and reducing their banks into "a shell of paper".
  • Contempt Crossfire: Gilt and Vetinari exchange a look after Upper-Class Twit Horsefry (one of the clacks executives) demonstrates his crass ignorance of Thud (used to demonstrate that Smart People Play Chess):
    "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, I'll credit you at least with not being Crispin Horsefry."
  • 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.
    • The chapter between 7 and 9 is numbered 7a.
  • Cool Old Guy: Subverted with "Grandad", the tower-master of clacks tower 181, who supposedly "had been everywhere and knew everything", watching over all the younger staff, including the thirteen-year old girl prodigy, Princess. It's easy to miss the offhand mention that, despite his nickname, he's only twenty-six.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Board of the Grand Trunk.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: Watching outside the burning post office, Adora Belle Dearheart catches a burning piece of paper that flutters past and uses it to light a cigarette.
  • Could Say It, But...: The Bond One Liners Moist could have said are mentioned, but not used, which actually meant that Pratchett got to include more than one.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: Due to the imp-based technology used to print the stamps, around one in five has a small deviation from the original image. For instance, the one depicting the Tower of Art has a man throwing himself from the tower.
  • 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.
  • Cutlery Escape Aid: Moist von Lipwig manages to secret a spoon in his cell, which he uses to gradually chip away at the ancient mortar around one of the blocks in the wall. He finishes on the night before he's due to be hanged, only to find a freshly mortared block right behind it, with a shiny new spoon in the gap. Lord Vetinari regards false hope as a healthy prisoner activity.
  • Death Trap: When Vetinari is meeting his new Boxed Crook Moist von Lipwig, he tells Moist that if he doesn't like the offer he can simply walk out that door. When Moist goes to check, the door has nothing behind it - and that includes a floor.
  • Death Faked for You: Vetinari gives Moist a fresh start, but only if he's willing to do a little job.
  • Death from Above: A favored tactic of wild banshees like Mr. Gryle.
  • 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:
      Moist: 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!
      Pump: 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.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen/Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Adora Belle Dearheart. Or "Spike", as Moist affectionately calls her.
  • Determinator:
    • All golems fall into this, as they will obey their orders and continue working at a single job for thousands of years or until those orders are rescinded. Mr Pump is chosen as Moist's parole officer for this very reason. Pump walks all day and all night to a far-off town, just to catch Moist, then carries both Moist and his horse back to Ankh Morporkh, without stopping to rest. Vetinari states that Pump will do the same, no matter where Moist runs, even if Moist flees overseas, as the "abyssal plain" won't hinder a golem at all.
    • Anghammarad in particular. He's nineteen thousand years old and is waiting for all of history to repeat itself over millions of years just so he can deliver a message for an empire that was destroyed over a millennia ago.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?
    • Vetinari, true to form, takes him at his word and asks his secretary for a broom.
      Moist: If you stick a broom up my arse, I could probably sweep the floor, too.
    • There's another more serious one where Moist accidentally blurts out the typical lines to the end of Adora Dearheart's 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, and to his horror, he finds his very proper secretary glaring at him...until it's clarified he's talking about Gilt.
      'Oh.' Miss Maccalariat hesitated, and then remembered herself. 'Er, in that case . . . perhaps a teensy bit quieter, then?'
      'Certainly, Miss Maccalariat,' said Moist obediently.
      'And perhaps not the K-word?'
      'No, Miss Maccalariat.'
      'And also not the L-word, the T-word, both of the S-words, the V-word and the Y-word.'
      'Just as you say, Miss Maccalariat.'
      '“Murdering conniving bastard of a weasel” was acceptable, however.'
      'I shall remember that, Miss Maccalariat.'
  • Disturbing Statistic: Mr. Pump calculates the damage Moist has done to peoples' lives with his cons. In total, he's effectively killed 2.338 people. It merges with "The Reason You Suck" Speech since Moist thinks of his cons as never having hurt anyone — or at least no one who didn't deserve it.
  • 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.
  • The Dragon: Gryle to Gilt.
  • Dramatic Pause: One is required to pause before saying ... The Woodpecker.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Vetinari is repeatedly seen playing Thud! throughout the book.
  • Elder Employee:
    • Junior Postman Groat is, in fact, the oldest employee still serving at the Ankh-Morpork Post Office, but the Post Office has been without a Postmaster for so long that there was nobody to promote him.
    • Also are the other, even older postmen who induct Moist as Postmaster General, and later still Anghammarad, a golem several thousand years old whose last job was delivering a message to an island that sank into the sea (and is waiting for it to come back up, carving the message into a new clay tablet when the old one crumbles) and who gets given the rank of Extremely Senior Postman.
  • 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.
  • Eternal Recurrence: This appears to be an article of faith with the golems, or at least the oldest golem, Anghammarad. He failed in his mission to deliver a message several thousand years ago. Being immortal and nigh-indestructible, he resolves to wait for the universe to reboot and do it right the second time around.
  • 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.
    • And Vetinari and Gilt share a moment of this regarding blithering idiot Horsefry.
  • 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". To put it in perspective, the person who says this owns a hobby shop that deals exclusively in pins, and has a tattoo which reads "Death or Pins!"
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: During the epilogue, Vetinari gives Reacher Gilt the same "angel" speech that he gave Moist at the beginning of the book and that Reacher's reaction is one of "increased puzzlement". It's implied he is simply too crooked to understand the concept of redemption, underlining how he and Moist are very different after all.
  • Evil Counterpart: Reacher Gilt, to Moist von Lipwig. Vetinari knows this. This may be the reason why he tries to recruit Moist von Lipwig. And may also be the reason why he tries to recruit Reacher Gilt...and also why Reacher Gilt fails the test that Moist had passed.
  • Evil Plan:
    • Gilt wants to corner the communications market by keeping the Post Office closed. This is actually just a side goal for his real plan, which is to drive the Trunk into the ground, embezzling all the way, and then make a killing from the eventual sale.
    • 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.
  • Exact Words: The offer that Ventinari makes to certain people regarding employment options.
    Ventinari: ...behind you there is a door. If at any time in this interview you feel you wish to leave, you have only to step through it and you will never hear from me again.
  • Exposition of Immortality: The golem Anghammarad, built over 20,000 years ago and still functioning, remembers times, events, places, and languages that nothing else on the Disc does.
  • Eyes Never Lie: Although supernatural entities in other books play this straight (as the eyes of even gods can't be cloaked with illusion magic), this is subverted and lampshaded when it comes to ordinary dishonest humans. A "firm handshake and a steady gaze" are the most basic tools in Moist's kit to the point where he does it instinctively. Both men he gives the treatment to confidently say that he's clearly an honest man. On the other hand, getting this from Reacher Gilt is what makes Moist recognize him as a con artist on a level he could only dream of.
  • The Face: Moist for the Post Office staff. It's what Vetinari hired him for. Stanley's thought to be weird even by other pin collectors, and Groat doesn't have the skills either, but Moist knows how to connect with people, motivate them, and how to promote something.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Once Moist finally accepts that no, he's not going to receive a miraculous last-second reprieve from the gallows, he becomes surprisingly calm and actually manages some dignified, memorable Famous Last Words. Fortunately for him, he received a post-death reprieve instead.
  • Fantastic Nuke: In a Continuity Nod to earlier accounts of the Mage Wars, such as Sourcery:
    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.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • 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.
  • Forged Message:
    • 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...
    • For his plan to win the clacks race, Moist has the GNU forge a message from those who died working under the harsh conditions of the Trunk, proclaiming how and why they died while implicating the Board and Reacher Gilt in their deaths.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Moist enables Vetinari to investigate the Grand Trunk by forging a message from "the dead" that blames the Trunk's Board for fraud, embezzlement, and murder, and then using the Smoking Gnu's expertise to hack the message in place of the Trunk's code, so that the fake message will be read in front of Vetinari and the Watch.
  • Freud Was Right: As Adora Belle looks over Moist's ideas for stamp pictures, she notes that the stamp with the highest value has a picture of the tallest building in the city.
    Miss Dearheart: Oh, the Tower of Art... How like a man.
  • Genre Savvy: Moist Von Lipwig knows very well how things are supposed to go... and plays the part of the hero, because he is a con artist, and taking advantage of what people expect to see is his major skill. So when he hears that the cat is stuck in the burning building after getting everyone else out safely, he knows that there's only one choice. If he wants to continue this story, he must run back in to save the cat "because that's what the hero does".
  • Graceful Loser: Gilt, eventually, when he realises that Moist has absolutely destroyed him. He leaves once it becomes clear that everything's going wrong, vanishing (only to eventually be caught by Mr Pump). Before he does, though, he sends Moist his pirate-like parrot, as recognition that he's been beaten by the better conman.
  • Gonky Femme: They put a golem into a dress and rename it "Gladys", in order to make it proper for "her" to clean the ladies' bathroom. The golem promptly starts to act very stereotypically girly, which actually makes a degree of sense, given that it's essentially a matter of programming.
  • 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, where Adora pins down a drunken lech's foot with one of her high heels, then points out to the man that she's sitting across from him, she has another shoe in waiting, that "in pounds per square inch, it's like being stepped on by a very pointy elephant", and thanks to unwanted childhood ballet lessons, she can kick like a mule. The man gets the hint and leaves.
  • Ground by Gears: Mr. Gryle is quite thoroughly done in by an experimental mail-sorting engine, thanks to a central flywheel so poorly designed that it rotates through its own space-time frame. Alien Geometries plus an off-balanced banshee equals a [Gloop] and a sticky smear.
  • Hat of Authority: The wingéd gold hat that comes with being Postmaster. It also came with some winged sandals and a fig-leaf thong, which Moist wisely passes up.
  • Heel Realization: Moist, following Mr. Pump's "The Reason You Suck" Speech and a long look in the mirror.
  • Hellish Horse: Boris, an extremely ornery stallion that hasn't been broken yet and which the stable master provides for Moist. It was meant to be a bluff, but Moist called it and used Boris anyway.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: After rescuing everyone else who was in the burning building, Moist has to run back in to rescue the stupid cat.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy: A desperate Moist goes to Adora, the only person in the city who will realize he's being entirely serious when he says he's unable to think of any way to actually win the race with the Grand Trunk, and fully confesses to the role he played in the loss of her earlier job. While irritated, she keeps her promise to keep level-headed and actually gives Moist a possibility that winds up being critical in his plan.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Vetinari believes that providing people with these is healthy. Sometimes he does it just to twist the knife, as when he asks Vimes to escort some people out... and into some cells.
    • And this is part of Moist's conning stock in trade. He makes people want to believe that what he's selling is real.
  • I Die Free:
    • Anghammarad. In his death, he finds himself free of all orders, commands, and duties. He can simply sit and do nothing if it is his choice...and he chooses to do just that, sitting on the sand in the black desert.
    • Later, Reacher Gilt takes this trope to its logical conclusion by choosing death over a government job. Vetinari comments afterwards that he admires a man who believes so strongly in freedom. Although given the kind of man Gilt was, the implication is more that he was in such a rush to accept Vetinari's offer of being allowed to walk out the door, no questions asked that, unlike Moist, he didn't check to see if there was a deep pit on the other side of the door first.
  • Ignored Expert: Pony has been telling the Board about what effect their cuts to maintenance are going to have from the very beginning. He was savvy enough to cover himself from the inevitable fallout by documenting everything. Played with in that the Board actually agreed to his proposed overhaul of the system once problems started piling up; Gilt, acting as the middle man, stole most of the money (it's in his interest to make the business fail).
  • Incredibly Obvious Tail: Used to great effect by Vetinari. If you see his spy, it's a spy he wants you to see.
  • Indy Ploy: Almost anything Moist does.
  • Instant Expert: Subverted; Moist has carefully honed the skill of very rapidly learning just enough about a topic to fake being an expert to non-experts and pass as a less-knowledgeable enthusiast to experts who don't ask too many questions.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Name: Adora Belle Dearheart is anything but adorable. Her late brother (affectionately) called her "Killer". Her love interest, Moist von Lipwig, calls her "Spike". Mind you, she's a wonderful person, just not a very likable one (in contrast to Moist, who is, at least pre-character development, not a good person, but incredibly likable).
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Moist explains to Miss Maccalariat that this is the main reason they use honorifics like "Mister" with the golems.
  • Just Smile and Nod: A clacks worker tries to explain the technicals to Moist. Occasionally, as technical polysyllabic words fly past him, he catches one or two he recognizes. Like "the".
  • Kansas City Shuffle:
    • Moist tricks Gilt into thinking he was planning to use a flying broomstick to cheat at the race, and Gilt leaps to prevent it. Not only was the real plan unrelated, but the concession Gilt made to get flying banned made it pretty much impossible to counter.
    • The Board thinks that Gilt is a shady corporate raider who helped them steal the trunk for a share of the profits. This blinds him to his skimming money, deliberately running the company into the ground so he can make even more money selling it, and using the connection to steal from their other business interests as well.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Prominently, Ridcully's attempt to remember a particular wizard — "Thingummy, got a funny name." Like that'll help narrow it down...
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Gilt, having to explain his pun on "prophet" and "profit":
    Gilt: Prophets, I said, not profits. Don't worry yourselves, it will look better written down.
  • Liberty Over Prosperity: Reacher vs Vetinari. Reacher does whatever he can get away with regardless of the law, advertises himself as a modern-day pirate, and justifies his business practices by claiming his customers always have a choice, even if it's between him and just sending a slow letter. Vetinari gears all of his resources towards ensuring the city runs smoothly, and believes the most important aspect of freedom is to take the consequences of your actions.
  • Literalist Snarking: Vetinari does this to Moist.
    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, which requires tedious encoding to be sent on the Clacks.
  • Lovable Rogue: As a Con Man, Moist only committed totally non-violent crimes. Deconstructed by Pump calculating (to three decimal points) the number of people he had indirectly killed.
    Moist: What? I do not! Who told you that?

    Pump: I Worked It Out. You Have Killed Two Point Three Three Eight People.
  • Lucky Translation: The French version of this book was titled "Timbré", which means "stamped", but is also a colloquial word for "crazy".
  • Lying Finger Cross: Moist makes Adora swear to keep her cool and to avoid violence just before dropping a bomb on her. She agrees, and he confesses he's the forger whose checks cost her her earlier job. She takes a moment to reflect, and asks whether she was crossing her fingers. Unfortunately for her, Moist was very deliberately looking at her hands just to avoid this specific trope, and she swallows her wrath for a second until he explains himself.
  • Malaproper: Vetinari tells Moist he's danced "the sisal two-step" instead of "the hemp fandango". He then goes on to confuse "the Agatean Wall" with "the glass ceiling" when talking to the board members. (That one is very deliberate.)
  • Man Versus Machine: Snail Mail versus the Telegram, although it's more a case of upholding a competitive market than proving that Ludd Was Right.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • There's some competing Epileptic Trees regarding Moist and Reacher's names. Pratchett, as a master of multilevel wordplay, probably intended more than one or even all of them.
    • Reacher Gilt:
      • Aside from the obvious meaning—he's "reaching" for your "gilt" (i.e. gold; 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—there are two main competing theories. It's either a reference to Long John Silver, or a Take That! against John Galt. There is, given that it's Pratchett, known for layering his wordplay, the very real possibility that it's both.
      • In favor of Long John: the character's appearance (he deliberately looks like a Pirate), he's someone with an impressively long, er, reach, and "silver" vs. "gilt" (gold). It also fits in with the other Dickens-style names in the book.
      • In favor of John Galt: aside from his ruthlessly rules-free capitalist approach to business and the similarity of their last names, the air of mystery he cultivates around himself prompts some to ask "Who is Reacher Gilt?"
      • More obviously, given how brazen Reacher is about his crimes, his name literally proclaims his "gilt".
      • Moist turns out to have a heart of gold whereas Reacher's friendly demeanor is only gild (i.e. gold painted or plated), "gilt" being the past participle of "gild".
    • Lipwig implies a false mustache, indicating that Moist is a Master of Disguise. Another theory has it that the name Moist is intended to call to mind "Slippery Jim", the hero of The Stainless Steel Rat series, who is another Boxed Crook.
      • It could also 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 in this book, even for a Pratchett work.
    • 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, "howler" and "gibbons" both being kinds of primates.
  • Merchant Prince: Reacher Gilt is a powerful swindler and conman who is attempting to use his wealth (assuming he actually has any...) and power to displace the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork (though see below).
  • Mercury's Wings: The Spirit of the Post is a golden statue with a winged helmet, winged sandals and a winged fig leaf. Moist, as Postmaster and possible avatar, gets a gold postman's hat with real pigeon wings attached to it, and a matching pair of boots. (There's also some kind of elasticated arrangement, but he decides to forgo this.)
  • 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 believes 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 dishevelled and impoverished. That may be disguise, or just 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, finding himself "in for the long drop".
  • Moody Mount: Moist rides one of these to another city to help save the postal system. He is given one because he asked the stable to not bring him an old decrepit horse, so the workers bring him one which has actually bitten people. Sensing a chance for flair, Moist accepts with gusto to improve his appearance to the crowd. After he arrives, the horse escapes its new handlers and is roaming the plains now.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: 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 many bankers, when they lose something, tend to recover their losses by taking from other people — and these morally bankrupt people aren't usually fussy about whether the people they're taking it from deserve it.
    Mr. Pump: When Banks Fail, It Is Seldom Bankers Who Starve.
  • 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.
  • Names to Trust Immediately: Parodied with Adora Belle Dearheart, who grew up to a be a cynical chain-smoker with, in her own words, no sense of humour whatsoever.
  • Neat Freak: Stanley Howler. You might say he's as neat as a pin.
  • Noodle Incident: Stanley's upbringing: All we know is he was raised by peas. Not on, by. (We do learn that peas are noted for their thoroughness, but that's about it.)
  • Not Good with People: Adora Belle Dearheart, who likes golems rather more than she likes humans.
  • 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, 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 Belle 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.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Vetinari does this when meeting with the Grand Trunk board, acting as if he knows nothing of how their business dealings work, and then describing a hypothetical situation that just happens to be exactly how they illegally swindled the Dearhearts and their partners out of the company. Later on he shows understanding of how the technology and culture of the Clacks works as well, knowing how the drums can be disassembled to figure out where a message originated, and about the "sending home" tradition. It's clear he understands the Trunk better than the people who own it.
    • Moist does a fair amount of this, especially when he acts as if he thinks painting some stars on a broomstick will make it capable of flight. Ridcully pulls him aside to correct this misapprehension, and it's implied he's doing it too and playing along by pretending to believe Moist could possibly be that stupid.
    • Captain Carrot, as usual. In his one scene it's obvious from anyone familiar with him that he knows Moist is full of shit about the "extra large pigeon". Like everyone, however, Moist can't tell just how much of Carrot's behavior is an act.
  • 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".
  • Odd Couple: Groat and Stanley.
  • Odd Job Gods:
    • Anoia, goddess of Things That Get Stuck In Kitchen Drawers.
    • Also, the statues of Bissonomy and Tubso, two Virtues honored by so few people that no one even knows what they're supposed to represent anymore. (There is presumably no Genius Bonus here; these are just funny-sounding words Pratchett made up with no meaning.)
  • Offerings to the Gods: Parodied with the Church of Offler, said to pay special attention to any prayers that come with sausages. It's a good deal for the priests too (depending on seniority - the most junior priest is noted to get about as much of the sausage as Offler Himself).
  • Oh, Crap!: Moist's reaction when he sees the cartoon in the Times about his new penny stamp. "Maybe Mr. Trooper can squeeze me in." For reference: The penny stamp has a profile picture of Lord Vetinari; the cartoon shows two wags discussing "licking the Patrician's backside"; Mr. Trooper is Lord Vetinari's executioner.
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: Vetinari and Gilt share a mutual one of these after a third character shows his profound ignorance about the game "Thud".
    "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, I’ll 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.
  • Orphaned Etymology: A rather jarring example from Pterry, who is usually very on the ball with words and their origins; when Moist first tries on the golden suit Mr Pump had made for him and looks at himself in the mirror, he comments "Wow, El Dorado or what?"
  • ...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, devoting all his time to categorizing and detailing everything about the stamps, which leads to Moist making him head of the division.
  • Out-Gambitted: Gilt is a Magnificent Bastard, no doubt about it. Unfortunately for him, he's still not as good as Vetinari.
  • 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. It's noted that the scream of the banshee, according to folklore, signals that whoever hears it shall soon die an untimely death. While civilized banshees do indeed follow the folklore, even if they have a speech impediment and have to write it down, wild banshees cut out the middleman.
  • Playful Hacker: The Smoking GNU, at first.
  • Police Are Useless: Worse: they're quite competent and dangerously clever. This annoys Moist, as he is used to dealing with cops in other cities, who are taking the lead from but haven't quite got a handle on Sam Vimes's style of policing. 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: Played with and subverted. After Reacher Gilt has the Post Office burned down and Vetinari will not provide the funds needed for restoration, Moist fakes this trope, hard. With smartly-written and stamped letters to the gods in hand, Moist goes to three different temples, praying to various gods for a large sum of money to help rebuild the Post Office. After that, he fakes a vision, falls to his knees screaming and praying to "give thanks" for the phony revelation, and "discovers" the huge stash of gold and other currency that he'd buried in the fields before the book begins: his ill-gotten money from all his cons.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: Albert/Moist is captured for fraud and hanged... to within half an inch of his life. Vetinari then offers him the position of Postmaster, knowing that his specific skills are what is needed to get the Post Office up and running again.
  • 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."—is acceptable but not memorable.
  • 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 because he's BS Johnson 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 Post Office employee eventually decides to beat the thing with a crowbar until it stops spitting out letters. When called out for his actions, he explains that after he hit it the first time, he saw the wizards running away as fast as they could; thus, he figured that, unless the wizards had another universe to run to, they weren't entirely sure that destroying the sorting engine would 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.
  • 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. Moist is less impressed with that particular display of the trope.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: Morporkia is wearing one (a Vermine cape) on some of the stamp illustrations in the book (at least the hardcover versions).
  • 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. Then again, he's very much a mundane creature (the reason hearing the scream of a banshee meant you were going to die was because the banshee was hunting you), while Mr. Ixolite was a more traditional supernatural creature.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: When Moist wonders "What's the worst that could happen" if he goes through the Postman's Walk, Mr. Groat helpfully replies "The worst that could happen is you lose all your fingers on one hand, are crippled for life, and break half the bones in your body. Oh, and then they don't let you join."
  • 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.
  • Running Gag: Hope, the greatest of life's treasures.
  • Second Face Smoke: Adora, occasionally.
  • Severely Specialized Store: Dave's Pin Exchange sells pins, with the owner being very adamant that he doesn't sell nails.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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 (Pratchett seemed very fond of this, as he'd done it before in earlier Discworld books):
      Miss Dearheart: 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. ...
    • Mr Pump attracts several references to the Terminator series. When Vetinari is outlining his job as Moist's parole officer he explains that "Mr Pump does not eat. Mr Pump does not sleep. And Mr Pump, Postmaster General, does not stop." Later after Mr Pump almost crushes Stanley's skull when it looks like he's about to attack Moist with the tea kettle, Moist berates him with "You can't just go around killing people!" only for Mr Pump to ask "Why Not?"note 
  • 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 previous 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 Chess: Vetinari and Gilt assess each other with their Thud tactics. Also, Crispin Horsefry's dismissal of the game (not that he didn't play it, but that he couldn't see past the obvious to the intricacies) 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, Jingo, and Night Watch Discworld). 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 (partly in response to a critic who mocked his work for lacking chapters).
  • 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.
  • Stealth Pun:
  • Strawman Political: When Gilt is introduced, he speaks the language of a self-made, freedom-loving, tyranny-fighting libertarian who could have been the hero in an Ayn Rand novel. Later, it turns out he only cares about his own freedom, though he is a true believer at least that far.
  • Stress Vomit: After Moist von Lipwig kills an assassin in self defence, 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.
  • That Man Is Dead:
    Vetinari: It occurs to me that this is exactly the sum of money thought to have been stolen by a recently notorious con man.
    Moist: Albert Spangler? He's dead.
    Vetinari: Are you sure?
    Moist: Yes, sir. I was there when they hanged him.
  • That's What I Would Do: Moist about Reacher Gilt's plans for the Grand Trunk.
    'I'd suspect him of anything,' said Miss Dearheart. 'But you sound very certain.'
    'That's what I'd do,' said Moist, 'er... if I was that kind of person. It's the oldest trick in the book.'
  • 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.
  • This Is Not a Floor: The fate of a previous Postmaster, and nearly Moist himself.
  • Time Abyss: The golem Anghammarad, built over 20,000 years ago and still functioning, remembers times, events, places, and languages that nothing else on the Disc does. He's carrying a message on a tablet strapped to his arm. He intends to deliver it. To do so, he has to wait for time to start over. To quote Ms. Dearheart: "Golems aren't afraid of forever. They aren't afraid of anything."
  • Title Drop: Notably, this is the only book in the main Discworld series to avert this.
  • 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.
      Ridcully: Oh, please sue the University! We've got a whole pond full of people who have tried to sue the University!
  • 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...
  • Trash Landing: Moist jumps from the window of the hotel when Mr. Pump is chasing him, only to realize that he's landed in manure.
  • 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.
  • T-Word Euphemism: Moist's rant when he realizes what Gilt is doing apparently includes the K-word, the L-word, the T-word, two different S-words, the V-word and the Y-word.
  • 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.
  • Unfulfilled Purpose Misery: Anghammarad is a nineteen-thousand-year-old golem who was supposed to deliver a warning that the sea goddess was angry to a city, but the city was underwater by the time he got there. Fortunately, golems believe time is cyclical, so he only needs to wait until the universe resets and he can finally deliver his message (which he has repeatedly retranscribed over the millenia). When he dies in the Post Office fire, he tells Death he is perfectly happy waiting where he is, as not having to do anything is the golems' definition of freedom.
  • 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. (This is entirely in character with Moist, who is the consummate showman.)
    "You wouldn't like to give me some little clue?" said the Patrician.
    "Best all round if I don't, sir," said Moist.
  • Unstoppable Mailman: Anghammarad. He gets through The Postman's Walk — an obstacle course including roller skates, stray bottles and a letterbox laced with razor blades, done with a hood over one's head — by crushing everything in his path and punching a hole in the door. The other, human postmen find the display gratifying.
  • Verbal Tic: Groat has a tendency to repeat, sir, repeat his words.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Gilt, to the point where even he is incredulous about it.
  • 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 under any body of water eventually. Four miles an hour without stopping is six hundred and seventy-two miles in a week note . 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 (given the kind of man he was, the former is more likely), 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.
  • Worthy Opponent: Speaking relatively, Vetinari and Reacher Gilt "loathe...every aspect of [each other]'s personal philosophy to a depth unplumbable by any line", each also grant the other that they are not Crispin Horsefry.
    • More classically, Gilt and Moist recognise each other for what they truly are more or less at first sight, when they meet at Le Foie Heureux. Moist is left in stunned awe, tempted to offer himself as an apprentice to learn how to do things like the three card trick with entire banks. Gilt, off-balance by the fact that Moist isn't in the Post Office (where Mr Gryle is looking for him) and - it is implied - impressed by the gall and skill it took to successfully forge an invite from Gilt to the extremely posh restaurant they're at, graciously offers to pay their bill. At the end, recognising that he has been beaten by the better con-man, Gilt sends Moist his intentionally pirate-like parrot.
  • 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.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are:
    Dearheart: You're fooling no one but yourself.
    He let the golden glow rise. He'd fooled them all, even her. But the good bit was that he could go on doing it, he didn't have to stop.
  • "You!" Squared: The bar brawl version is known as the "Double Andrew", and is worth quite a lot of points. Bar brawls in Ankh-Morpork have become somewhat formalized. There are scoring rules, judging, official teams, and extensive brawl planning. They even have an Igor on standby to stitch back on anything that happens to get cut off (and they recommended having your name tattooed on extremities to make sure he stitches the right bits back on you). The impression is more of sport or folk dancing, or particularly stylised martial arts. Of course, any resemblence to the choreographed and pre-arranged outcome of a typical Professional Wrestling bout, possibly of the cheap-and-cheerful old-school British style, is all in the mind of the beholder.

The TV adaptation contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: With Moist and Adora, to the extent we see her crying and him saying: "I deserve to die!"
  • Adaptation Distillation: Unlike with the Colour of Magic adaptation, a lot of things were implemented in a different way to the book rather than simply left out.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Or adaptation lack of a dye job. Charles Dance plays a blonde Vetinari, which is a shame, since he's otherwise pretty perfect in the role. Amusingly, in the book Adora actually says "They say he dyes his hair, you know".
    • The creators seemed to go Color-Coded for Your Convenience-route, fearing that a dark-haired, more menacing Vetinari could be mistaken for the villain by a casual viewer.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • 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.
    • Tying in with the above point, in this film Moist's fake bonds con is shown to have caused the economic crisis, closing several banks and giving Gilt the opportunity to buy the Trunk, so he has a lot more reason to be repentant. On top of that, the letters, rather than hallucinating the glorious past of the post office, directly show Moist the harm his schemes caused.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Mr. Pony, whose saving ledgers and giving them to Adora helped to bring down Reacher Gilt. In the book, he did something similar by keeping detailed records about how the board constantly refused his recommendations for needed maintenance, but that subplot (and the board itself) was mostly cut.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Although he was a straight villain anyway, Mr. Gryle's set of victims has been expanded to include all of the previous postmasters, because the original explanation that they were killed by the hallucinatory post office was changed. Since they died by falling or fright, and Gryle is a scary flying banshee, it works rather neatly.
    • Vetinari goes from being simply unconcerned whether Moist lives or dies (it's why he sent Moist after a few postmen and clerks died in the position, because Moist is expendable) to condemning him to death a second time for outliving his usefulness. It's not only unnecessarily harsh, it's not exactly putting in the level of thought that Vetinari is known for. For one thing, he could always find more uses for Moist; for another, getting the Watch and the hangman involved might reveal to the city that the postmaster was a criminal...Then again, he probably knew all along that Mr. Pump would save Moist.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Horsefry in the book was so stupid that in the Smart People Play Chess scene his only contribution was that as a child he got a piece stuck up his nose and seemed to think this meaningful commentary. In the special he's completely competent, just not Genre Savvy enough not to keep a second set of books with accurate records.
  • 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.
  • And a Diet Coke: Well, in Sacharissa's case, two figgins and a skinny Klatchian coffee. Given the properties of Klatchian Coffee (it makes you so sober some Go Mad from the Revelation), the figgins aren't going to help.
  • 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.
    • Also, the movie's tagline is "A Tale of Love and Revenge...And Stamps."
  • 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.
  • Big "NO!" (and Little "No"): Lipwig's reactions at his "dreams".
  • 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.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word:
    Adora: If you want to manipulate him, you might as well give up now.
    Lipwig: M-m-manipulate. Such an ugly word.
  • 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.
  • Dead End Job: The position of Postmaster General. Vetinari gives the job to Moist Von Lipwig as an alternative to being hanged, on the off-chance that he might actually succeed in reviving the Post Office, but generally expecting him to be killed, as the job had already claimed the lives of some of Vetinari's clerks.
  • Death Seeker: The weight of his sins thrown in his face pushes Moist into this. Mr.Pump tells him to become The Atoner instead. Unconvinced at first, Moist later goes for Must Make Amends, with a bit of Reformed, but Rejected from Adora.
  • Evil Is Hammy:
    • Gilt. "I haven't finished... SOARING!" He even stands up and spreads his cape. His minion laughs in a lampshade.
    • Mr. Gryle, when gloating to Lipwig. Right before his comeuppance.
  • Evil Gloating: Mr. Gryle, along with "Time to shut up shop, Postmaster!" and "The Dearheart boy screamed like a pig! SCREAMED LIKE A PIG!!"
  • 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.
  • Hot Scoop: Sacharissa, very much so.
  • I Can Explain: But Adora didn't give him a chance.
  • It's Not You, It's Me: Moist to Adora. Quite appropriately, she replies, "Oh! Cliches, as well, now I really am insulted."
  • Kill It with Fire: How Mr. Gryle dies, combined with the power of letters from the post office.
  • Large Ham:
    • Gilt. Boy howdy, Reacher Gilt. Not that we expected anything else. And he's played by David Suchet!
    • Also, in a very sharp change from the tight-lipped version in the novel, Mr. Gryle.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The fact that Lipwig had to face the consequences of his own crime which indirectly had caused ruining Adora's family and the death of her father is quite a sharp example.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Mr. Gryle.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Mr. Pony turns over the evidence to bring down Reacher Gilt after the latter almost throws his niece off a clacks tower.
  • 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 a 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. The books also state that changing in public is considered highly impolite in were society, to the point where she doesn't even let her lover Carrot see her while she's changing shapes. And that while the watch having a werewolf is common knowledge, the fact that the werewolf is Angua (and not Nobby) is not.
    • 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.
  • The Power of Love: In his second last words, Moist preaches about it. And about Love Redeems, too.
    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.
  • Paperworkaholic: Crispin Horsefry in the Sky adaptation of Going Postal. In the book, he's just a somewhat dim member of Gilt's club of rich hangers-on, who tries to soothe his conscience about the whole "embezzling money and running the company into the ground" thing by keeping records of what money they stole, so that once they have enough they can put it back and it'd be like there wasn't any crime at all. In the TV film he's obsessed with balancing numbers, to the point that he keeps detailed notes of his company's illegal deals. When Gilt finds out about this, he's so incensed he kills him and tries to burn the records. Nevertheless, the books are rescued and used to oust the corrupt board members.
  • 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)
    Lipwig: Actually, it's "banshee cries, somebody dies". (stabs him) Today, it's you!
  • Prophet Eyes: Turtle egg shells.
  • Rule of Three: Lipwig has three "dreams" about the effects of his past crime deeds, not only because it is a magic number, but as a Shout-Out to A Christmas Carol (stated by the director's commentary).
  • Shout-Out: As the director's commentary says, the nice old lady with a clackgram in the beginning of the film is an allusion to The Ladykillers.
  • Shoot Kiss Slap Slap Stab Knee: Adora Belle and Lipwig have a bit more of a... combative relationship in this adaptation.
  • Slasher Smile: Stanley, at the beginning.
  • 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.
  • Too Unhappy to Be Hungry: In the miniseries based on the book, Moist discovers that one of his large-scale cons caused the ruin of his beloved Adora's family. He is so struck with guilt and remorse that, when he meets Adora in a restaurant, he admits he can't think about food.
  • Tricked to Death: Lord Vetinari offers (at different times) to let both Moist Von Lipwig and Reacher Gilt the opportunity to leave through a specific door, promising them "freedom" if they do. Moist is genre-savvy enough to suspect a trap and refuse, but Reacher does go through the door and falls into the pit just beyond it.
  • 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.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Vetinari says this to Moist before the big race. That's why he added the 'if you lose then you will be hanged' condition.


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