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The Wit of Terry Pratchett


Sir Terence David John Pratchett, OBE (1948 – 2015), English author of fantasy novels, is best known for his Discworld series of 41 novels, beginning with The Colour of Magic, published in 1983. An average of two books a year followed, with the 2011 Discworld novel Snuff selling 55,000 copies in the first three days. The Shepherd's Crown, the final Discworld novel, was published in August 2015, five months after his death. With more than 85 million books sold worldwide in 37 languages, Pratchett was the UK's best-selling author of the 1990s and won many wards and recognitions including being appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998, being knighted for services to literature in the 2009 New Year Honours, winning the annual Carnegie Medal for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents in 2001, and receiving the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2010.

In the course of writing so much comedy, many clever witticisms emerged with a wider application, a tiny selection of which appear here:

‘The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.'

'Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.'

'Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.'

'It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.'

'Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.'

'Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.'

'If cats looked like frogs we'd realise what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That's what people remember.'

'In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.'

'Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.'

'Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.'

'In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.'

'Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.'

'It's not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing it.'

'If you have enough book space, I don't want to talk to you.'

'Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.'

'God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.'

'I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it.'

'And what would humans be without love?’ ‘RARE, said Death.'

'Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.'

'Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.'

'A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.'

'I'd rather be a rising ape than a falling angel.'

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