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Literature / The Truth

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...Shall Make Ye Fret.
"A lie can run around the world before the truth has got its boots on."
William de Worde

The 25th Discworld novel and the first standalone since Small Gods.

Building on the themes of change started in the previous book The Fifth Elephant, another of the Disc's previous Medieval Stasis principles is broken: no movable type. There's a rumour that dwarfs can turn lead into gold - and they can, by making the lead into typeface and undercutting the engravers. William de Worde, a young scribe who makes his living writing for the illiterate and sending letters of news to distant nobles, encounters the dwarfs and ends up writing the first newspaper, The Ankh-Morpork Times for them, with the help of engraver's granddaughter Sacharissa Cripslock and the photography-obsessed vampire Otto Chriek.

Meanwhile, a plot against the Patrician takes shape. The shadowy organization from Feet of Clay returns, now named as the Committee to Unelect the Patrician. They've obtained a lookalike for Lord Vetinari from Pseudopolis, and hired Mr Pin and Mr Tulip, the "New Firm" of hired thugs, to help them achieve their devious ends. It's up to William de Worde, with the help of Gaspode the Wonder Dog, to get to the bottom of their nefarious plot.

Preceded by The Fifth Elephant, followed by Thief of Time.

The Tropes Shall Make Ye Fret

  • Addiction Displacement: Otto replaces drinking blood (and menacing well-endowed young women) with the capture of light, an odd choice for a vampire.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: The Ankh-Morpork Times takes a little while getting the hang of headlines. One reads, "Patrician Attacks Clerk With Knife! (He had the knife, not the clerk.)"
  • All of Them: A new correspondent at the end is a man from Fourecks, who claims that Bugarup University threw him out because of what he wrote in the student magazine. When questioned what that was, he says "Everything really."
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The running joke about William dismissing out of hand some of Ankh-Morpork's urban myths that the reader knows are true, like the one about the talking dog.
  • Arc Words:
    • "The Truth Shall Make Ye Free!" (from the King James Bible). Initially appears to be a simple Running Gag as the printers keep misspelling it - successive editions having "... Shall Make Ye Fret", "...Shall Make Ye Frep" and "... Shall Make Ye Fred", yet it turns ominous when the edition that melts over Tulip and Pin reads "The Truth Shall Make Ye Fere"...
    • Also "A lie can run around the world before the truth has got its boots on" (which in Real Life was coined by James Watt, and used by Mark Twain and Winston Churchill among others).
    • Dog Bites Man.
  • Archnemesis Dad: William and his father had a bad relationship from the beginning, even before William learned that Lord de Worde is behind the plot.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From the blurb - "William de Worde is the accidental editor of the Discworld's first newspaper. Now he must cope with the traditional perils of a journalists life - people who want him dead, a recovering vampire with a suicidal fascination for flash photography, some more people who want him dead in a different way and, worst of all, the man who keeps begging him to publish pictures of his humorously shaped potatoes."
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Subverted when William goes into the palace kitchen and asks a man handling a tray of bread loaves whether or not he's the baker.
    Man: What does it look like?
    William: I can see what it looks like. I'm still asking the question.
    Man: I'm the butcher, as it happens. Well done. The baker's off sick.
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: Various money-hungry Morporkians respond to the Times's offer of a reward for Wuffles by presenting any animal they can drag to the newspaper office, regardless of whether it's a terrier or even a dog. One hopeful reward-seeker shows up with a parrot that's been taught to bark and has "DoG" painted on its side.
    • In a within-species variant, Gaspode needs to appear in public, yet avoid being grabbed by the terrier-hunting New Firm. The Canting Crew get him a makeover as a poodle at a pet groomer's as a "Begone" Bribe.
  • Ass Shove: The Dragon of Unhappiness flies up people's bottoms if they leave the toilet seat up, according to Dibbler.
  • Author Catchphrase: The book has many a joke at the expense of the kind of language newspapers and their headlines use, like Sacharissa writing CITY BOSS in reference to Vetinari until William told her to stop, and the quote that "'Rumpus' and 'fracas' are found only in certain newspapers in much the same way that 'beverages' are found only on certain menus."
  • Bad Habits: Mr. Pin dresses as an Omnian priest as a disguise, while Mr. Tulip dons a "Vestigial" Virgin's habit.
  • "Begone" Bribe:
    • William pays his father a generous estimate of what it cost to raise him in order to sever any remaining ties between them. The money isn't the thing, as Lord de Worde has gold in his DNA, but instead is based on the Dwarfish tradition in which betrothed dwarves buy one another from their parents to symbolize their independence.
    • Foul Ole Ron and his crew are the masters of collecting Begone Bribes because if you don't pay them, they won't leave. Or, in this novel, if you don't give Ron's thinking-brain dog a makeover.
  • Beneath Notice:
    • Subverted with the gargoyles. It takes a moment, but William notices that the street the Times is on just got a lot more of the pigeon-loving creatures. And most work for the Watch on the side.
    • There are a group of people who collect everyone's garbage, rummaging through it for valuables and pack it away. William didn't even notice one until this one said his name. Then William remembers Harry King hires many to collect more trash for his business. This is King's way of keeping watch on him until William pays back the "bought" paper.
    • Foul Ole Ron and his comrades are generally and intentionally ignored. Meaning the hidden Wuffles is pretty safe in their care.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Hurting his people is still a big one for Vimes. When William drops a scent bomb in front of Angua to throw her off his trail, Gaspode informs him, "Vimes will go round the twist. He's going to go totally Librarian-poo.note  He's going to invent new ways of being angry and try them out on you." Later when the after-scene is shown, Vimes is very pissed off indeed.
    • William's father is his, in particular pointing out their similarities.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Otto spends most of the book speaking in a very thick Uberwaldian accent (even lampshades it by speaking Cockney for a sentence), reminisces about Uberwäld and complains about shirts being ruined as they're covered in blood. Even in his awesome moments, he's taking boxing stances and kissing people on the forehead. A later novel strongly suggests that this is a deliberate act on Otto's part. He's so silly and stereotypical that it's actually quite endearing and people forget that he's also got keen intelligence and supernatural powers. More importantly, they forget that vampires are threatening, and the accompanying ideas about wooden stakes.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Near the end of the novel William realizes that running off alone to confront the villain of the piece was maybe not his brightest move, even if the villain is his father. Fortunately for him, that's when Otto shows up.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Genre Savvy Mr. Tulip notices something is wrong when Mr. Pin fails to kill Mr. Slant (with fire, from which even a zombie would be hard-pressed to come back) and mutters something about "I think I shall let you live today."
  • Book Dumb: Harry King may be a lower class, illiterate man but is capable of outthinking the highly intelligent and well-read William three times over.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Wlliam had started out in charge of the Times in the hope that it would get peoples' attention about the truth and they could do something about it. Sacharissa points out to him that life doesn't work like that. However, William makes a pretty good counterpoint: someone has to be informed, because not knowing/caring won't save them if someone far worse than Vetinari (i.e. most of the likely candidates) ends up in charge.
    Sacharissa: What's true for most people is that they need money for food on the table at the end o the day. Look at Mr Ron and his friends, they live under a bridge, what's the truth worth to them? I get letters from a bird competition judge who complains that budgies and parrots aren't the same. It's dull, but it's important to him. He can't control what happens in the city, but he can make sure budgies and parrots aren't lumped together. It's not anyone's fault, it's just the way things are.
    William: Somebody has to care about the big truth. What's happening right now is wrong. Vetinari may not be the best man, but there are far worse than him around. As for your bird fans, if the wrong man comes to power then they won't be able to complain about budgies and parrots being lumped together!
  • Brains and Brawn: Pin is the brains, Tulip is the brawn (outside of his encyclopedic knowledge of art).
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Sacharissa has been holding the fort while William's out, and when he comes back she tells him, "There's a man who's lost his watch, there's a troll who wants a job, there's a zombie who wants...well, I can't make out what he wants, oh, and there's someone who doesn't like what you wrote and wants to behead you."
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: Otto, a "black ribboner" vampire, reminisces about his past experience doing this, preying on not-always-unwilling bosomy young ladies in negligees.
  • Brick Joke: DOG BITES MAN!
    • Also, the (alleged) rain of dogs in Treacle Mine Road. ("It was just one dog!")
    • Hughnon Ridcully's Sidetracked by the Analogy moment comes up later in passing, when he starts telling everyone about the Patrician's "plan" to send flying lobsters.
  • Bring Me My Brown Pants: Or in this case, my brown fire hydrant, as "Deep Bone" (Gaspode) is implied to piddle out of fear when William tells his mysterious informant that he's just incapacitated the Watch's werewolf with an extremely powerful stink bomb.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Sacharissa apparently has "a well-crafted supply of other features that never go out of fashion at all", and believes that a corset and a plain dress will tone those endowments down. They do not.
  • Bystander Syndrome: William is disappointed to learn that stories in "the public interest" (such as the plot against the Patrician) are not the same as stories the public is interested in (unlikely rumours, funny animals and such.)
  • Call-Back:
    • William's older brother Rupert was one of the few casualties of the war with Klatch which occurred in Jingo.
    • Vetinari is highly suspicious of moving type and other innovations, citing the events of Moving Pictures and Soul Music.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Eventually done by William to his father.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: William, by dint of his upbringing. He's good at twisting words, though.
  • Chalk Outline: Corporal Nobbs drew a chalk outline of a victim — in colored chalk, and he felt the need to add a pipe and draw some clouds and flowers.
  • Character Filibuster: As per usual with later Discworld books, and evident in the argument between Sacharissa and William before the climax (with William voicing the author's opinion).
  • Chekhov's Gag: The man who keeps begging William to publish pictures of his humorously shaped potatoes is by initial appearances just an ordinary Running Gag. Near the end of the book however, the man brings a potato that looks like Mr Pin, and is in fact his reincarnation, and the potato is going to fry for his misdeeds in defiance of Mr Pin's previous declaration that he won't.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Or rather, Chekhov's desk spike.
  • Child Hater: Towards the end, Mrs. Tilly applies for a job for The Times and we get this banter:
    William de Worde: Mrs. Tilly, I think you wrote a lovely, well spelled and grammatical letter to us suggesting how "everyone under the age of eighteen should be flogged once a week to stop them for being so noisy?"
    Tilly: "Once a day", Mr. de Worde. That’ll teach them going around being young.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe:
    • Mr. Tulip believes, but he doesn't believe in anything in particular, which causes something of a problem after he dies.
    • This is why C.M.O.T. Dibbler's Fung Shooey business fell apart: Along with the standard stuff about rearranging furniture for maximum cosmic harmony, he also convinced customers that the "Dragon of Unhappiness" would rise from their toilets if they didn't put the seats down. This being the disc, said dragon promptly materialized and bit somebody. Dibbler later bemoans that he was too good at selling ideas.
  • Cluster Bleep-Bomb: Played with. Somehow Mr. Tulip actually pronounces the dash.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • William's oafish brother managed to be one of the only casualties in the war with Klatch, which was the subject of Jingo.
    • Vetinari also mentions the events of Moving Pictures and Soul Music, comparing them with the introduction of the printing press.
    • Harry King grouses about how much golems are demanding to be paid these days. The golems' liberation from slavery first got started in Feet of Clay.
    • When his ominous statement is finally backed up by thunder, Otto yells "Music with rocks in!" which is the slightly mangled Discworld way of saying "Rock'n'roll!"
    • The Committee to Unelect the Patrician appears to be the same group ultimately behind the plot in Feet of Clay, judging by their Smoky Gentlemen's Club description.
    • Mr. Pin claims that he and "Sister Jennifer" work for the Bishop Horn Ministry to Animals. In The Fifth Elephant, Constable Visit preaches to the Watch's carrier pigeons, reasoning that the historical Bishop Horn had ministered to animals.
    • An incredibly subtle reference is Sacharissa Cripslock's father the engraver, who was referred to offhandedly back in Maskerade by the printer Mr Cropper (from Mr Goatberger's printing company), who in a Mythology Gag mentioned that he'd spelled "famine" with seven letters.
    • Gaspode demonstrates his negotiating talent for the first time since his Moving Pictures debut as Victor's Holy Wood agent. Putting words in Foul Ole Ron's mouth when William hires the beggars to hawk his papers, the Wonder Dog proves he hasn't lost his nose for hard bargaining.
    • The "Complaints, Beheadings, and Horsewhipping Editor" Rocky may be the troll originally known as Galena or Flint, and then Rock, from Moving Pictures.
    • While guarding the Patrician's Palace, Detritus is wearing the clockwork thinking Helmet that Cuddy made for him in Men at Arms and switches it into high gear when William tries to trick him. Notably it's about the only explicit reference to the thinking helmet after Men At Arms even though Detritus remains prominent in the City Watch books.
  • Convenient Coma: Vetinari is unconscious for a few days after getting a Tap on the Head. Igor describes it as just being asleep and suggests he might just be making up for all the sleep he usually doesn't get.
  • Corrective Lecture: After it's discovered that person producing the tabloid news is Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler, he gets a lecture from Sacharissa offscreen and we later see him looking tired and defeated.
  • Could Say It, But...: Harry King comes to respect William a bit after their meeting when the young man comes to purchase paper for the press. However, King's stock has been bought up by the Times' rival. King then mutters how his men were foolish enough to leave the last of the order, an entire cart full of the paper, by those gates over there and leave the gates unlocked where anyone could take it. William doesn't fully grasp the intent but Goodmountain does.
  • The Daily Misinformer: One of the Truth's rivals is a tabloid with zero journalistic integrity printing ludicrous events like women in Lancre giving birth to snakes. They turn out to be written by Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler (not out of malicious intent, the Engravers' Guild hired him to put the Truth out of business), who stops doing it after a thorough tongue-lashing from Sacharissa.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Mr. Tulip comes from a war-ravaged region. With a little prompting from Death, he later realizes that his pseudo-religous mantra about everything being alright if you have a potato was something that someone said in reference to food needed to avoid starvation while the people of his village were hiding in a basement from both armies (due to both being equally threatening to the common folk). His level of depravation and desperation later in life (before joining up with Mr. Pin) doesn't seem to have been any better. The first person he ever killed was a man whose coat he was trying to steal.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Boddony the dwarf. The vast majority of his dialogue consists of sarcastic remarks.
  • Death Equals Redemption: It helps if Death gives you a little post-mortem therapy to help with the redemption. However, as Mr. Pin finds out too late, redemption is only possible if you're sincere about your regret for your crimes...
  • Didn't See That Coming: In contrast to his usual borderline-omniscience, Vetinari suffers from this multiple times in this book.
    • First, he focuses on the potential disaster presented by the Times, thinking that it might be like the Moving Pictures incident. The danger actually comes from a completely mundane plot to overthrow him.
    • Second, he sees a perfect double for himself. It throws him off his game for just a second or two but that's enough for the New Firm.
    • Finally, he's completely nonplussed by William's inquiry as to whether he'll be attending Harry King's daughter's wedding, until Drumknott fills him in on some details. To be fair, he had been unconscious for several days before that.
  • Disability Alibi: Lord Vetinari gets framed for an apparent attempt to flee the city on horseback with seventy thousand dollars' worth of dollar coins, which Intrepid Reporter William de Worde realizes would weigh about a third of a ton. Since Vetinari uses a walking stick due to having been shot in the leg, de Worde realizes he'd have a pretty hard time doing all that on his own and runs an article pointing out the unlikelihood of this version of events.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: After William scent-bombs Angua, what's Mister Vimes' reaction? "His feet won't touch the ground." Fortunately, other members of the Watch get him to cool his temper before he really "goes spare".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The conspiracy led by Lord de Worde (coordinated by the Committee to Unelect the Patrician) is clearly modeled after the Watergate scandal (coordinated by the Committee to Re-Elect the President)—to the point that Pin and Tulip literally enter the city through the Water Gate. The unraveling of the plot begins with a botched burglary (the Patrician's Palace/the DNC Headquarters) that requires a coverup far larger than the initial crime, a pair of rookie reporters (William and Sacharissa/Woodward and Bernstein) uncover a money trail that implicates politicians at the highest levels (Lord de Worde/Richard Nixon), and the most damning/exculpating evidence comes first from an anonymous tipster (Deep Bone who meets William in a multi-story livery stable/Deep Throat who meets the reporters in a parking garage) and later from secret audio recordings (the Dis-Organizer/the Oval Office tapes).
  • Double Entendre:
    • When William is informed that the tea he's drinking was made with Ankh river water and a lemon retrieved from the muck:
      Spit or swallow, he thought, the eternal conundrum.
  • Dramatic Pause: When trash-removal and night-soil magnate Harry King lets William and Goodmountain have a shipment of paper, he warns them to pay him back in a timely manner or they'll be "in deep... trouble. Face downwards." Later William reminds Goodmountain that they want to avoid getting in "deep 'significant pause' trouble" with Mr. King.
  • The Dreaded: Burke, one of Altogether Andrews' eight personalities. Precisely how he's dreadful isn't specified, but evidently it's enough that the other seven keep him suppressed as best they can, and the rest of the Canting Crew freeze up in fright when it looks like Burke might possibly break through.
  • Empathic Environment: According to Otto, Uberwaldian weather is obliging enough to provide dramatic thunder after a portentous statement like "zer dark eyes of zer mind," so he's disappointed that Ankh-Morpork's environment doesn't care. It obliges at the climax, and once things are sorted, he invokes it joyfully.
  • Evil Duo: Mr Pin and Mr Tulip fit the trope to a tee, much like the duo which influenced them.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: William delivers one deadpan when attempting to prevent a fight between Goodmountain and his dwarfs and Mr. Slant and his troll heavies:
    William: Hold on, hold on, there must be a law against killing lawyers.
    Goodmountain: Are you sure?
    William: There're still some around, aren't there?
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Lord de Worde is horrified to learn that the New Firm tried to kill William. It doesn't stop him from trying to ship William to another continent to stop his interference, but it's the thought that counts.
  • Exact Words:
    • Tuttle Scrope, who was earmarked to replace Vetinari, is head of the Guild of Shoemakers, Cobblers and Leatherworkers. His shop sells what sounds very much like leather fetish wear.
    • William says to Nobby, "I've just spoken to Commander Vimes and now I would like to see the room where the crime was committed." This sentence "seems to contain the phrase 'and he gave me permission to' without actually doing so." (William refuses to tell lies, so he has to resort to this trope.) It works on Nobby, but Cheery notices that he didn't actually say the part where he has permission.
    • Immediately after, when Otto has freaked Cheery out by taking an obscurograph, William asks him why the dark light upset her and notices that Otto only says it has no physical effects.
  • Expy: Mr. Tulip and Mr. Pin are Expies of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar from Neverwhere. Even their name is a Shout-Out; Tulip and Pin refer to themselves as "The New Firm," an obvious contrast to Croup and Vandemar's Old Firm. The New Firm is certainly much less psychotic and frightening than the Old, though.
  • Fake High: Mr. Tulip never seems to get his hands on real drugs, but that doesn't stop him from claiming it keeps his mind sharp.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Committee to Unelect the Patrician wants to get rid of Vetinari because he dares to allow non-humans into the city, treats the lower classes as people, so on and so on. The fact that the city is prospering more than ever is irrelevant, in their eyes—obviously it would be even better without all the undesirables.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • While attending school and being forced to play rugby, William is remembered as always arriving at the ball immediately after all the bodies have collided... which is what a good newsman does.
    • After the scene where the New Firm notice the reward posted for finding Vetinari's missing terrier Wuffles, Foul Ole Ron is seen breaking a sausage into three pieces instead of the normal two for him and Gaspode, hinting as to where Wuffles went.
    • One of Otto's dark light photographs hints at the fire that burns down the original offices of the Times and melts the lead in the press.
    • In a conversation about their respective motives, Goodmountain explains to William that he and Boddony came to Ankh-Morpork to earn each other's marriage prices: dwarf custom requires a prospective spouse to compensate their intended's parents for care and education costs, so that the newlyweds owe nothing to their families but pure gratitude. note  William initially sees keeping track of familial obligations with literal debits and credits as overly cold and calculating. Later in the book, however, he indicates he'd be willing to buy himself free of his father's influences... to the tune of $20,000.
    • In one meeting of the Committee To Unelect The Patrician, the lead shadowy figure says the novel's Arc Words ("A lie can run around the world before the truth has got its boots on"). This is a major hint to his identity... William got that line from his father in the first place.
    • William is fond of obscure words, easily defining "tosheroon" to Harry King's astonishment. In future books, the Times will boast a Crossword Puzzle that regularly gives Vetinari a run for his money.
  • Flanderization: Discussed in-universe. Mr. Goodmountain notes that the malicious stereotypes about dwarves obsessing over gold tends to ignore the nuances, such as the dwarven marital tradition of "buying" a betrothed from their parent.
  • Freudian Excuse: Something very bad happened to Mr. Tulip as a child.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Otto, at least to his friends.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Gunilla Goodmountain is an interesting variation. The name Gunilla was traditionally used for women, but this one is a dwarf, and dwarfs come off as a One-Gender Race to humans despite having two biological sexes, because everyone has a beard, wears the same style of armor and does the same work. They also have a custom of not revealing their sex except to their prospective spouse—Cheery and other openly female dwarfs are a relatively new cultural movement, and not all dwarfs who might be classified as women are interested—so even if Goodmountain is female, only Boddony would ever know.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Otto gets decapitated, and it's only a minor inconvenience. His flash also reduces him to ashes several times; eventually he takes to carrying a vial of blood, which breaks on the ashes and revives him.
  • Gourmet Pet Food: Lord Vetinari feeds his dog Wuffles the finest steak; the man subsists on dry bread and water despite being the ruler of a major city.
  • Grew a Spine: William de Worde relative to his father. An example of the Coming of Age Story variant of the trope.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Mr. Tulip is described as "the sort of person who would main line bath salts". As the book was released in 2000, this is clearly meant to show how credulous and easy to dupe he was. After 2010 and the rise of drugs called bath salts, however, the line has lost some of its original meaning.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am a Dwarf Today?: One of the other residents opens his boiled egg... with a precise blow from a very small axe after hearing a racist remark from Mr. Windling. It illustrates how persistently foolish Mr. Windling must be, as there are mentions of the preparations for opening the boiled egg throughout the scene.
  • Hidden Depths: Due in part to his terrible childhood, where the only thing of any value in his village was the decorations in the church, Mr. Tulip has an excellent knowledge of art history and value. He can also gauge a gem's worth by sight.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Music with Rocks In = Rock and Roll.
  • Hollywood Density: Vetinari is accused of trying to abscond with a large part of the city treasury. William figures out that something is odd about the narrative when he works out precisely how much that much money would weigh, and comes to the conclusion that a single man with a bad leg and a single horse couldn't steal that much in one go.
  • Horrifying the Horror: A mutual version occurs when the New Firm visits Biers, the city's bar for the undead, in hopes of intimidating a werewolf into helping them track down Vetinari's terrier, Wuffles. Mr. Tulip's behavior has one of the residents asking if he's human, especially after he smashes a glass bottle against his head simply because he no longer needed it and putting it on a table was too much trouble. On the other side, when Mr. Pin asks the half-man, half-wolf to shift forms, the werewolf just gets bigger and hairier. The New Firm leave without their werewolf and feeling shook up — whilst the undead in Biers can be heard locking the door behind them, because they do not want Mr. Tulip coming back.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A subtle version, but when Vimes asks William who he's answerable to, William answers "The truth," and Vimes pointedly remarks on truth's lack of a fixed address/incentive to smack William in the face if he lies. Coming from Vimes, a man who gets on the nerves of Ankh-Morpork's upper crust mainly because, to paraphrase Rust in a previous book, he sees the law as "some sort of shining thing in the sky", that's pretty rich.
  • I Have No Son!: Inverted: William doesn't approve of anything about his father. In the denouement, he cuts himself off from the class-obsessed, racist old Knight Templar for good. Or at least makes a symbolic show of doing so. His father's final comment as he leaves the scene and the book: "You are most certainly a de Worde."
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: An angry barbarian who comes to see William isn't upset that he's been named in the Bar Brawl, only that he was described as hitting someone with a table, which he never did. "I knifed him! A table's a sissy weapon!"
  • Identical Stranger: The lynchpin of The Committee To Unelect The Patrician's plan to fulfill their name is a common shopkeeper called Charlie who inexplicably looks absolutely identical to Lord Vetinari. At the end of the book, Vetinari himself employs him as an occasional body double.
  • Impaled Palm: William nearly spears his hand on Sacharissa's desk spike when he makes an emphatic gesture before he sees it's there. He later falls onto it when Pin and Tulip attack, but it gets him through the fleshy part of his upper arm, and he tugs it out just in time for Pin to run onto it chest-first.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Subverted - the "jumper" was really just seeking attention, and has to save William when he faints from vertigo after climbing up to talk to him.
  • Intrepid Reporter: William is the Discworld's first, accompanied by a lot of shout-outs to classic newspaperman tales like The Front Page.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • When Goodmountain asks about the engraving proof William's carrying, William assumes that he, being a newcomer to the city, won't have heard of engraving and attempts to explain it, floundering his way to the description that it's "a sort of very nearly magical way of getting lots of copies of writing". Later, when William realizes that Goodmountain's printing press is a new innovation and asks what it is, Goodmountain quotes the description back at him.
    • Once William's got his hands on a recording of "A lie can run around the world before the truth has got its boots on," he replays it, slightly shorter each time until all it says is "the truth has got its boots on."
    • He later tells his father "The truth has got its boots on. It's going to start kicking."
    • "Let it fry!"
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Lord de Worde thinks of any race that isn't human as this, when he calls Otto the vampire "it", Otto loses his composure.
    Otto: You think I am an "it"? Vell, let me act like an "it".
  • Kill It with Fire: Mr. Slant is visibly worried when threatened by flames.
  • "Kiss the Cook" Apron: Mr. Tulip, after killing a thief who tried to rob him and his partner Mr. Pin, acquires a barbecue set with a "Kill the Cook!!!" apron which he promptly dons - this is remarked upon by two other characters later in the book.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: When Otto rescues William from Lord de Worde's thug, he's childishly excited to "put zem up in traditional Ankh-Morpork pugilism!" When they refuse and gang up on him with clubs, he expresses disappointment at their ungentlemanly behavior while One-Hit KOing them.
  • Like Father, Like Son: William doesn't appreciate the comparison. They're both arrogant, single-minded, stubborn jerks. But William tries not to be. Vocally. He's not always very good at it. Towards the end of the book William seems to have realized just how strongly he resembles his father and resolved to at least make constructive use of his arrogant single-minded stubbornness.
  • Literal Metaphor: One possible effect of Otto's dark light-using iconograph is to make metaphors real in the resulting pictures. When he takes a picture of William, it comes out as showing his father standing behind him looking over his shoulder.
  • London Gangster: Pin and Tulip. They fit the archetype, describe themselves as "the New Firm" and Ankh-Morpork is part London in its conception.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • William de Worde's name is a portmanteau of William Caxton and Wynkyn de Worde, two prominent early printers.
    • Goodmountain. It's a slightly altered English translation of Gutenberg, the real life inventor of movable type.
    • The dwarfs Boddony and Caslong are named after the historic designers of typefaces Giambattista Bodoni and William Caslon (or the famous fonts that bear their names).
  • Mental Picture Projector: With a side-helping of Spooky Photographs: Otto's dark light pictures have... strange results, at various points showing two Vetinaris, silver rain underground, and William's father proverbially "staring over" his shoulder.
  • Mercy Kill: While he's really motivated by pure selfishness, Mr. Pin points out that with nothing to stand on, there's no way Mr. Tulip can survive the molten lead flooding the cellar they're hiding in before shooting him in the head so he can use his larger friend's corpse as an island. He even says "I wouldn't want you to suffer".
  • Mistaken Identity: William believes Nobby Nobbs is the Watch's werewolf.
  • Mirror Character:
    • William and his father, as noted by more than one character, something that deeply infuriates William, who tries very hard to be as unlike his father as possible. Eventually he comes around to it and decides to use it to his advantage.
    William: Of all the bone-headed, stubborn, self-centered, arrogant—
    Otto: But you make up for it in other vays.
    William: I meant my father.
    • Otto also points out the similarities between himself and William:
    "I like Villiam. He was not brought up nice but he tries to be a nice person, vithout even cocoa and a singsong to help him. It is hard to go against your nature. Ve must... help him."
  • Moral Sociopathy: After being presented with proof of an afterlife, Mr. Pin becomes frightened enough to start acting in ways that conflict with his natural inclinations but conform with his "shaky grasp of how things were supposed to work in a moral universe" in the hopes it might keep him out of Hell. However, his lack of enthusiasm about this and attempts to employ ruthless loopholes end poorly for him.
  • Multi-Gendered Split Personalities: The novel introduces Altogether Andrews, a beggar with no less than 8 different personalities, one of which - named Lady Hermione - is female. They activate at random, and can apparently communicate with one another. And none of them respond to "Andrews".
  • Mundane Utility: Otto uses his vampiric "children of the night" ability to make a huge crowd of barking, fighting dogs sit down and howl in unison, so he and William can get past them and into the Times office.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Played with. At first it seems as though Mr Tulip's use of "——ing" is a 19th-century-style censoring of the F-word, but it turns out that what he's saying is actually just a glottal stop and then "Ing!" When Sacharissa decides to try out swearing, she clearly can't reproduce the glottal stop correctly.
  • New Tech Is Not Cheap: An aversion. When the Bursar is tasked with reducing Unseen University's expenses, he wanders into Mr. Goodmountain's new business, and while initially dismissive of the printing press, his attitude immediately changes when he mentally compares Mr. Goodmountain's rates versus the Guild of Engravers'. With this, and the promise of an invite for a future luncheon, the Bursar immediately offers Mr. Goodmountain Unseen University's business.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever Burke did that scared the Canting Crew and caused Altogether Andrews's other personalities to keep him buried.
  • Not So Invincible After All: Mr Slant is a zombie and already dead, and has also escaped being involved with other anti-Vetinari plots in the past, so he has previously been presented as having Joker Immunity. Then we have a slowly, lovingly described scene where Mr Pin ties a burning rag to his spring-gonne and the text talks about how dry Mr Slant is...
    • Slant still escapes, as William never actually turns in the recording to the police, so his only "punishment" is getting blackmailed into acting as the Times' lawyer. Possibly forever. For free, which must be agony for him.
  • Nuns Are Spooky: Mr Tulip briefly disguises himself as a Nun, and he's pretty spooky... but Sacharissa claims that the nuns who taught at her school were far worse.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: On the surface, Otto Chriek is a ridiculous Funny Foreigner who speaks in Vampire Vords. This is part of a deliberate effort to seem cartoonish and cute rather than threatening because he is a vampire.
  • Off on a Technicality: Technically, William did assault Angua with a scent bomb, but because she was in wolf-form, and thus unable to be properly identified as a watchman, and they don't want to officially confirm who is actually the werewolf on the watch, he's saved from the wrath of Vimes.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Committee to Unelect the Patrician (a reference to the Committee to Re-elect the President from the Watergate affair).
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Vimes points out that Vetinari being shocked and sorry for killing someone (much less when the person isn't even dead) is really incongruous, and William puts it together: Vetinari trained in the Assassin's Guild. The reaction is one of the "stupid facts" that lead William to pursue the real story.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The majority of the protagonists' successful denouement involves taking the New Firm's payment for themselves and using it to pay all necessary bills, breaking into a rival's pressroom and holding him at crossbow-point, and plenty of blackmail.
  • Perspective Flip: The Watch are portrayed in significantly grayer terms in this book than they are in the rest of the Discworld series, as William sees them more as a threat than anything else. Fittingly enough, William himself would get this treatment in turn in Going Postal, where Moist sees him as an idiot he can play like a fiddle.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The New Firm is much less effective than they should be because their employers neglected to mention a lot of things. They are not —ing happy about this.
  • Post-Mortem Possessions: Mr. Tulip places a lot of value on his potato because everything being fine if he has one is the main thing he remembers of his childhood religion and is upset that his partner Mr Pin betrayed him and took it. With some counselling from Death though and after he gives a sincere apology for his wrongdoings in life, he discovers to his great joy that he still has his potato in the afterlife.
  • Production Foreshadowing: Some of the first chapter's text (particularly the example of the fill-in-blanks letters home that William sells) was first published in The Discworld Companion nearly a decade earlier, ending in "it seems the future may hold great things for young de Worde". Evidently Terry Pratchett was planning this story for a long time.
    • That he was. The original working title for this book? Interesting Times, which ended up coming out as a vastly different book the same year as the first edition of the Companion.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: Interestingly, even though it's specifically said that Big Bad Lord de Worde never gets his hands dirty with violence — he has men for that — he seems to be pretty good with a sword in the final confrontation. Of course, facing a vampire, that doesn't help him very much... William does mention several times that the one thing the de Wordes are expected to excel at is charging into battle.
  • Red Herring: The story introduces a new member of the Canting Crew of beggars, the multiple-personality-bearing Altogether Andrews. On his first appearance his personalities are listed and one of them, Burke, is mentioned with trepidation (the beggars saw him once and never want to see him again), which makes the reader think he will be involved later on. In fact nothing comes of this apparent Foreshadowing.
  • Reincarnation: Pin and Tulip both get this after death. Mr Tulip note  comes back as a woodworm in William's antique desk, happily enjoying fine works as he did in his previous life. Mr Pinnote  is reincarnated as a potato in his former likeness that was destined to fry. To further add to the Disc's twist on this, both also happen to be reincarnated to a point in time before their deaths.
  • Reincarnated as a Non-Humanoid: Tulip at least gets a happy existence as a contented woodworm, Pin becomes a potato and gets fried.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: William with Mr Pin's Disorganizer.
  • Running Gag: Mr. Wintler and his humorously shaped vegetables, Sacharissa's chest size, typos of "The Truth Shall Make You Free", Mr. Tulip's abuse of the phrase "——ing" and bad habit of getting stuck with beat bags.
    • Also, someone in authority blithely remarking that such-and-such is an established right of Ankh-Morpork citizens, and the person to whom they say it reacting with disbelief.
    • Just appearing as a side character doesn't stop Vimes from being foisted with another title.
  • Sexily Modest: Sacharissa is described as dressing modestly, even old-fashionedly, as befitting a proper young lady. Unfortunately, all wearing a corset and a regular dress does is emphasize her chest, to the point where Vegetarian Vampire Otto von Chriek has trouble maintaining his attitude because of her "heaving bosom".
  • Secretly Wealthy: William, who's become estranged from his wealthy family.
  • Self-Made Man:
    • Harry King went from a poor kid who collected trash to sell to the owner of the largest waste processing center in the city.
    • William tries to be one, as he has renounced his father's wealth, but he still makes his living with the writing skills from his fancy expensive education.
  • Sewer Gator: Ace salesman CMOT Dibbler briefly peddles a kind of "Fung Shooey". He is so good at it that one buyer discovers the Dragon of Unhappiness literally comes up through a lavatory which has been celestially mis-aligned and bites the believer in the bum.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Vetinari at one point uses this phrase about William. Drumknott considers drafting a contract with the Guild of Assassins until he realizes Vetinari is using the phrase literally and isn't intending to cause any "something".
  • Shout-Out:
    • Mr. Pin has "'Not a Nice Person at All' done in pokerwork on his purse", Mr. Tulip at one point elaborates on "get medieval on his arse" at some length (see under Noodle Implements), and Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip discuss foreign food at one point, including "what they call sausage-in-a-bun in Quirm." When discussing whether or not people will take a dog's word as evidence, Mr. Slant points out "A dog has personality. Personality counts for a lot."
    • That Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip are the New Firm is possibly a Shout-Out to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, where Those Two Guys call themselves the Old Firm.
    • The troll Rocky puts up a boxing pose when fighting.
    • A possible one to The Hobbit, as one character mentions one winter so cold the river froze, allowing wolves into the city (swerving from the story when it turns out the wolves were quickly killed and eaten).
    • Harry King's name may be a reference to E.G. Kingsford, who made his eponymous charcoal out of scrap wood from Henry Ford's factories.
    • "A thousand years ago, we thought the world was a bowl. Five hundred years ago we knew it was a globe. Today we know it is flat and round and carried through space on the back of a turtle. Don't you wonder what shape it will turn out to be tomorrow?"
    • When the Times is burnt out after an attack, it has nowhere to print its findings. Compare this to one of the myriad sub-plots of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus!, where the radical magazine and thorn in the flesh of the Establishment, "Confrontation", is suddenly bombed, apparently to prevent it publishing further inconvenient truths. In fact, this bombing draws in the hard-bitten cynical street coppers Goodman and Muldoon as investigators, just as in Discworld Vimes and Carrot are among the first to the wreckage of the Times printworks. Another link: Confrontation's Arab-American editor Joseph Malik kept rare Egyptian tropical fish in the office to remind him of home. These died in the bombing. The Times' Überwaldean photographer Otto Chriek kept Überwaldean land-eels, another rare fish species from Home, which were lost in the bombing... And earlier in the book, Saharissa is asked, on a scale of one to ten, exactly how much trouble she estimates they're in. William thinks eight. Sacharissa reflects and says two thousand, three hundred and seventeen out of ten. 23 and 17 are the all-important continually repeating Arc Numbers of the Illuminatus! trilogy.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: Vetinari begins talking to high priest Hughnon Ridcully about what a wondrous thing the Clacks are for communication, using an example with a merchant being able to order a cargo of prawns from Genua via clacks. Ridcully, thinking in a way common to the family, spends the rest of the conversation trying to figure out how the prawns would travel from tower to tower and starts wondering if possibly the claws allow them to grab on to the towers as they're tossed.
  • Single-Precept Religion: The religion Mr. Tulip professes to follow appears to consist solely of carrying around a potato as a sort of spiritual anchor ("as long as you've got your potato, you'll be alright"), and in feeling remorse for any of your misdeeds. It's suggested, though, that Tulip is gravely misinformed about the religion, which he hasn't encountered since his childhood (not that it matters, as long as he believes in it).
    • However, in Monstrous Regiment, Vimes implies that the Unorthodox Potato Church is gaining popularity, despite (or because of) being "uncomplicated."
  • Sir Swearsalot: Subverted with Mr Tulip, who doesn't —ing swear. He just says "—ing" a —ing lot.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Mr. Tulip and Mr. Pin, big time. They believe they are absolutely the latest, greatest thing in crime and that Ankh-Morpork's underworld is full of lily-livered amateurs. They never catch on that Ankh-Morpork is to evil and corruption what guns are to bullets and the only reason the city's criminals no longer try to upset the status quo is that is they're up against two of the most fearsome forces on the Disc: Vetinari's intelligence and Sam Vimes's dedication to the law.
  • Stealth Insult: William saying, about Sacharissa's article on the flower-arranging competition, that it is "impossible to improve this piece in any way." It's clear that he means that it's so awful he couldn't begin to improve it, but he needs Sacharissa's help and isn't going to insult her article.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Sacharissa's "It gives me the humorous vegetables." (Read: the willies.)
    • Mr Tulip describes a musical instrument thusly: "It's not a —ing harpsichord, it's a —ing virginal. One —ing string to a note instead of two! So called because it was an instrument for —ing young ladies!" to which the response is "My word, was it? I thought it was just of sort of early piano!" (See also Verbal Tic below).
    • Otto's hometown is Bad Schüschein. Say it out loud—bad shoeshine.
  • Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee: Businessman Harry King decides that he likes William and his newspaper, but unfortunately the rival tabloid has bought up his entire stock of newsprint — the shipment is right there by the front gate, all loaded up on an unattended cart, and wasn't that careless of someone?
  • Stereotype Reaction Gag: Otto Chriek is an Uberwaldian stereotype who gets offended when de Worde assumes he's a vampire. Even though he is a vampire.
  • Stink Bomb: William deploys an epic one to incapacitate the Watch werewolf's nose.
  • Street Smart: Harry King raised himself up from the gutter to the powerful and rich composting man he is today. He knows the streets and how to survive on them. He can spot a good person and a con. He, however, cannot read. He doesn't see the point in learning how when he can hire someone to read for him.
  • Strongly Worded Letter: People start sending in letters to the Times voicing their opinions not only on the news stories themselves but on everything going on in the city. Particularly, one is complaining about dwarfs, but the dwarf editor says to print it anyway to take up space, and when people complain, to print their letters too. In fact they actually draft new correspondents from among the ranks of former letter-writers.
  • Suicide by Sunlight: More like suicidal behavior involving sunlight which gets Otto disintegrated twice while taking flash iconographs. Eventually he starts hanging a small vial of blood around his neck, so it'll smash and reconstitute him should the inevitable happen.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: In Mr. Tulip's opinion (and he's an expert on the subject), Futtock (the creator of the silver candlestick that he and Mr. Pin find in the Omnian temple) was actually a better silversmith than his master Sellini. It's just a pity he had such a ——ing stupid name.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.:
    • From William's point of view, Vimes and the Watch are antagonists obstructing free speech, whereas in most previous Ankh-Morpork novels they've been the protagonists.
    • This gets even funnier several books later, when Moist considers William "a pompous windbag with a bum stuffed full of tweed." He likes Sacharissa, though. Vimes himself has a rant in Thud! about how the Times seems to know about goings-on in the Watch almost before he does.
  • Theme Naming: Many of the dwarf printers (aside from the leader Goodmountain, which is an Anglicization of Gutenberg, the real life inventor of movable type) are named after fonts - Gowdie for Gaudy and Boddony for Bodoni, for instance.
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Parodied with William's ever-evolving take on the glass-half-full/half-empty metaphor.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: William notices that the watchmen call their boss "Mister Vimes", rather than using any of the honorifics associated with his titles of Knight, Duke of Ankh, or even Commander of the Watch.
    And it was Mister, too, the full two syllables, not the everyday unheeded "Mr"; it was the "mister" you used when you wanted to say things like "Put down that crossbow and turn around real slow, mister". He wondered why.
  • Toilet Humor: William is disquieted to learn that old copies of the Times are "low grade" paper waste, and what that gets used for. Sacharissa suggests that the words end up in people's heads, and he retorts that the rest of it ends up somewhere else entirely.
  • Tyop on the Cover: Some in-universe examples, like "56 People Hurt In Brawl" (it was meant to be "5-6" but the hyphen was omitted) and of course all the misspellings of "The Truth shall make ye free." Even the name of "The Ankh-Morpork Times" derived from a misprint; the dwarf turned "Ankh-Morpork Items" into "Times" and William decided he liked it that way.
  • Undiscriminating Addict: Mr. Tulip is very keen to take drugs. However, he never manages to get his hands on any genuine drugs, and ends up snorting everything from curry powder to cleaning products.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between William and Sacharissa. It remains unresolved in this book, but later books reveal that they did end up together.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Apart from the "—ing" Verbal Tic of Mr. Tulip, Sacharissa also uses one when she's very annoyed with William but too much of a Proper Lady to swear. "Some complete muffin offered a reward!"
  • Verbal Tic: Mr. Tulip's got a ——ing bad one. It's implied for most of the book that the word is censored, but it turns out he's actually pronouncing it that way.
  • Villain Has a Point: While it's framed as a Kick the Dog moment and motivated by pure selfishness, Mr. Pin justifies shooting Mr. Tulip dead so he can use his corpse as an island to survive the flood of molten lead flowing into the cellar they're trapped in by pointing out that there's no way Mr. Tulip could possibly stand on him to survive instead, and frying in boiling lead would be a horrible way to die compared to a crossbow bolt between the eyes. Given that he does actually manage to survive and that there was no other way Mr. Tulip could have, you can't really argue with him. Stealing Mr. Tulip's potato first was still a horrible thing to do, though, especially considering he was condemning his friend to die while intending to live on.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Mr. Pin. Big time.
  • Villainous BSoD: Mr. Tulip, after Death shows him his life "as it flashed before other people's eyes".
  • Weirder Than Usual: "Wizards doing strange things wasn't news. Wizards doing strange things was wizards."
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: William at first.
    Otto: You only have to talk to Villiam for any length of time to see that, in a vay, his father is alvays looking over his shoulder.
  • We Need a Distraction: As William notes, a vampire flailing in pain because of his own flashbulb is always the center of attention.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: William. That doesn't mean he's entirely honest, though; by the end he's a master of Exact Words.
  • A Wizard Did It: Played with when Vetinari wonders aloud what makes it so that frozen ink isn't as dark as unfrozen, Hughnon Ridcully waves it off with a vague "science, probably".
  • Word-Salad Humor: Foul Ole Ron can always be counted on to provide examples of this, like exclaiming “Thatch and trouser!” Or trying to advertise the newspapers by yelling “Squidaped-oyt!” Likely inspired by Evening Standard sellers in London slurring the name of the paper to things like "Eeninstanat" (Evening Standard).
  • The Worf Effect: Rocky is hired for stopping a barbarian tavern brawler attacking the staff. When Sacharissa goes to the de Worde estate, William tells her to bring Rocky for no particular reason. When they stumble upon the Vetinari double, Rocky gets punched unconscious by Tulip.
    • Rocky's lack of martial prowess is set up when he is first interviewed for a job. He tells William that he quit boxing because he kept getting knocked down.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Unusually, Vetinari. At the start (see Continuity Nod above) he confidently predicts that the printing press will have some sort of occult power behind it and will be a passing fad followed by Reset Button. But now the dynamic of the series has changed, and Medieval Stasis is slipping away, as noted by William de Worde at the end. Vetinari actually seems subtly disappointed when his predictions were dashed.
    • Given that the main question he asked was whether Dibbler had any part in the operation, it's likely that he wasn't so much Wrong Genre Savvy as Multiple Genre Savvy: he knows that if Dibbler gets involved, everything goes to hell. If an industry starts up without Dibbler's participation, as with the clacks, it's probably okay, so his questions about curses could've been asked merely to determine which genre applied.
    • There's also the fact that Dibbler is involved in the tabloid newspaper that is created to put the Times out of business, and that enterprise does indeed end with the Epic Fail for which Dibbler is famous (even if there is no Eldritch Abomination stalking the streets eating people), meaning Vetinari's predictions were somewhat accurate even if they were misplaced.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: How William handles Slant when he shows up to dismantle the press.
  • You Know What They Say About X...: Mr. Windling, one of the tenants at the boarding house where William lives, likes to use this phrase; William eventually gets fed up with it and angrily demands Windling tell him who "they" are and what it is "they" say.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: After he figures out the plot against the Patrician, William gives his father some of the jewels taken from Mr. Pin, essentially repaying the cost of raising him and buying himself out of the family, but Lord de Worde tells him to keep it because William is "most certainly a de Worde".