Quotations by Pratchett, Terry


Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
(Attributed)
Added on 8-Jul-15 | Last updated 8-Jul-15
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There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
(Attributed)
Added on 15-Jul-15 | Last updated 15-Jul-15
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There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
A Hat Full of Sky (2004)
Added on 20-May-15 | Last updated 20-May-15
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There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
A Hat Full of Sky (2004)
Added on 23-Sep-15 | Last updated 23-Sep-15
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The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Diggers (1990)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Equal Rites (1987)
Added on 29-Apr-15 | Last updated 29-Apr-15
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“Perhaps this isn’t just a test of the world,” said Crowley. “It might be a test of you people, too. Hmm?”
“God does not play games with His loyal servants,” said the Metatron, but in a worried tone of voice.
“Whooo-eee,” said Crowley. “Where have you been?”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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“From what I remember,” replied Crowley, thoughtfully, “– and we were never actually on what you might call speaking terms — He wasn’t exactly one for a straight answer. In fact, in fact, he’d never answer at all. He’d just smile, as if He knew something that you didn’t.”
“And of course that’s true,” said the angel. “Otherwise, what’d be the point?”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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In the end, as every human being who has ever breakfasted on their own in someone else’s kitchen has done since nearly the dawn of time, he made do with unsweetened instant black coffee.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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“I mean, maybe you just want to see how it all turns out. Maybe it’s all part of a great big ineffable plan. All of it. You, me, him, everything. Some great big test to see if what you’ve built all works properly, eh? You start thinking: it can’t be a great cosmic game of chess, it has to be just very complicated Solitaire. And don’t bother to answer. If we could understand, we wouldn’t be us. Because it’s all — all –”
INEFFABLE, said the figure feeding the ducks.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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… God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. 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 version 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.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Sep-10
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Kids! Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your home.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Hastur was paranoid, which was simply a sensible and well-adjusted reaction to living in Hell, where they really were all out to get you.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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If you take the long view, the universe is just something small and round, like those water-filled balls which produce a miniature snowstorm when you shake them. (Although, unless the ineffable plan is a lot more ineffable than it’s given credit for, it does not have a giant plastic snowman at the bottom.)

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. (This is not actually true. The road to Hell is paved with frozen door-to-door salesmen. On weekends many of the younger demons go ice-skating down it.)

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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“But the Great Plan can only be a tiny part of the overall ineffability,” said Crowley. “You can’t be certain that what’s happening right now isn’t exactly right, from an ineffable point of view.”
“It izz written!” bellowed Beelzebub.
“But it might be written differently somewhere else,” said Crowley. “Where you can’t read it.”
“In bigger letters,” said Aziraphale.
“Underlined,” Crowley added.
“Twice,” suggested Aziraphale.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990)

(with Neil Gaiman)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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It was a five hundred mile journey and, surprisingly, quite uneventful. People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, “Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Guards! Guards! (1989)
Added on 14-Oct-05 | Last updated 14-Oct-05
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Never build a dungeon you wouldn’t be happy to spend the night in yourself. The world would be a happier place if more people remembered that.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Guards! Guards! [Vetinari] (1989)
Added on 14-Oct-05 | Last updated 14-Oct-05
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Whatever happens, they say afterwards, it must have been fate. People are always a little confused about this, as they are in the case of miracles. When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say that’s a miracle. But of course if someone is killed by a freak chain of events — the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there — that must also be a miracle. Just because it’s not nice doesn’t mean it’s not miraculous.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Interesting Times (1994)
Added on 2-Sep-15 | Last updated 2-Sep-15
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The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Jingo (1997)
Added on 26-Aug-15 | Last updated 26-Aug-15
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Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Jingo (1999)
Added on 26-Jul-07 | Last updated 26-Jul-07
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Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvelous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Lords and Ladies (1992)
Added on 29-Jul-15 | Last updated 29-Jul-15
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In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Lords and Ladies (1992)
Added on 12-Aug-15 | Last updated 12-Aug-15
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The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Monstrous Regiment (2003)
Added on 6-May-15 | Last updated 6-May-15
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Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have failed. Perhaps it’s the sheer zestful vitality of the place, or maybe it’s just that a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no wonder. So let’s just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colorful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
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Added on 13-Apr-18 | Last updated 13-Apr-18
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Albert grunted. “Do you know what happens to lads who ask too many questions?”

Mort thought for a moment. “No,” he said eventually, “what?”

There was silence.

Then Albert straightened up and said, “Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
Added on 22-Jul-15 | Last updated 22-Jul-15
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Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one. But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
Added on 19-Aug-15 | Last updated 19-Aug-15
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In short, Mort was one of those people who are more dangerous than a bag full of rattlesnakes. He was determined to discover the underlying logic behind the universe. Which was going to be hard, because there wasn’t one.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
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Added on 23-Feb-18 | Last updated 23-Feb-18
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The Creator had a lot of remarkably good ideas when he put the world together, but making it understandable hadn’t been one of them.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
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Added on 6-Apr-18 | Last updated 6-Apr-18
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It was crowded in the Curry Gardens on the corner of God Street and Blood Alley, but only with the cream of society — at least, with those people who are found floating on the top and who, therefore, it’s wisest to call the cream.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
    (Source)
Added on 3-Aug-18 | Last updated 3-Aug-18
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A faint smile hovered around the man’s lips. It was the sort of smile that lies on sandbanks waiting for incautious swimmers.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
    (Source)
Added on 15-Oct-18 | Last updated 15-Oct-18
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People don’t alter history any more than birds alter the sky, they just make brief patterns in it.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
    (Source)
Added on 28-Dec-18 | Last updated 28-Dec-18
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People who used magic without knowing what they were doing usually came to a sticky end. All over the entire room, sometimes.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Moving Pictures (1990)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Moving Pictures (1990)
Added on 19-Mar-08 | Last updated 4-Sep-16
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Because inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Moving Pictures (1990)
Added on 5-Aug-15 | Last updated 5-Aug-15
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His movements could be called cat-like, except that he did not stop to spray urine up against things.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Night Watch (2002)
Added on 24-Oct-05 | Last updated 24-Oct-05
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We who think we are about to die will laugh at anything.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Night Watch (2002)
Added on 1-Jul-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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Here’s some advice boy. Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That’s why they’re called revolutions.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Night Watch (2002)
Added on 9-Sep-15 | Last updated 9-Sep-15
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“Huh! Priests!” said Mr. Shoe. “They’re all the same. Always telling you that you’re going to live again after you’re dead, but you just try it and see the look on their faces!”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Reaper Man (1991)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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It was later that the story of Windle Poons really came to an end, if “story” means all that he did and caused and set in motion. In the Ramtop village where they dance the real Morris dance, for example, they believe that no one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away — until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Reaper Man (1991)
Added on 29-May-17 | Last updated 29-May-17
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“Yo!” said the Dean.

“Yo what?” said Ridcully.

“It’s not a yo what, it’s just a yo,” said the Senior Wrangler, behind him. “It’s a general street greeting and affirmative with convivial military ingroup and masculine bonding-ritual overtones.”

“What? What? Like ‘jolly good’?” said Ridcully.

“I suppose so,” said the Senior Wrangler, reluctantly.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Reaper Man (1991)
Added on 18-Jan-19 | Last updated 18-Jan-19
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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.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Reaper Man (1991)
Added on 31-May-19 | Last updated 31-May-19
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“They thought they were doing it for the best,” said Windle. “People often do. It’s amazing, the things that seem a good idea at the time.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Reaper Man, ch. 16 (1991)
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Added on 24-Mar-19 | Last updated 24-Mar-19
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A lot of this was beyond him, but to people like Ridcully this didn’t matter for very long. Ridcully was simple-minded. This doesn’t mean stupid. It just meant that he could only think properly about things if he cut away all the complicated bits around the edges.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Reaper Man, ch. 17 (1991)
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Added on 5-May-19 | Last updated 5-May-19
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“You’re not one of us.”

“I don’t think I’m one of them, either,” said Brutha. “I’m one of mine.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Small Gods (1992)
Added on 27-Jul-09 | Last updated 27-Jul-09
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Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Small Gods (1992)
Added on 13-May-15 | Last updated 13-May-15
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If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001)
Added on 16-Sep-15 | Last updated 16-Sep-15
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But still, one of the most basic rules for survival on any planet is never to upset someone wearing black leather.*
*This is why protesters against the wearing of animal skins by humans unaccountably fail to throw their paint over Hell’s Angels.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Last Continent (1998)
Added on 17-Oct-05 | Last updated 17-Oct-05
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A Thaum is the basic unit of magical strength. It has been universally established as the amount of magic needed to create one small white pigeon or three normal sized billiard balls.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Light Fantastic (1986)
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Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things … well, new things aren’t what they expect. They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don’t want to know that man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds … Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Truth (2000) [Lord Vetinari]
Added on 6-Jul-10 | Last updated 6-Jul-10
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“Now … if you trust in yourself …”
“Yes?”
“… and believe in your dreams …”
“Yes?”
“… and follow your star …” Miss Tick went on.
“Yes?”
“… you’ll still be beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Wee Free Men (2003)
Added on 13-Mar-15 | Last updated 13-Mar-15
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Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Wee Free Men (2003)
Added on 3-Jun-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-15
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“I can see we’re going to get along like a house on fire,” said Miss Tick. “There may be no survivors.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Wee Free Men (2003)
Added on 10-Jun-15 | Last updated 10-Jun-15
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Genius is always allowed some leeway, once the hammer has been pried from its hands and the blood has been cleaned up.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Thief of Time (2001)
Added on 14-Oct-05 | Last updated 14-Oct-05
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Susan stopped. Of course someone would be that stupid. 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.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Thief of Time (2001)
Added on 14-Oct-05 | Last updated 14-Oct-05
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“The female mind is certainly a devious one, my lord.”

Vetinari looked at his secretary in surprise. “Well, of course it is. It has to deal with the male one.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Unseen Academicals (2009)
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Eight years involved with the nuclear industry have taught me that when nothing can possible go wrong and every avenue has been covered, then is the time to buy a house on the next continent.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
alt.fan.pratchett Usenet Group (26 Aug 1998)
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Added on 16-Feb-18 | Last updated 16-Feb-18
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A European says: I can’t understand this, what’s wrong with me? An American says: I can’t understand this, what’s wrong with him? I make no suggestion that one side or other is right, but observation over many years leads me to believe it is true.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Interview
Added on 3-Apr-08 | Last updated 3-Apr-08
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The thing about Tom Clancy is that you can start reading a Tom Clancy book when the plane takes off in London and you’re still reading it when the plane lands in Sydney. And then you can use it to beat snakes to death.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Interview, Science Fiction Book Club (1999)
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Mind you, the Elizabethans had so many words for the female genitals that it is quite hard to speak a sentence of modern English without inadvertently mentioning at least three of them.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett
Added on 24-Apr-08 | Last updated 24-Apr-08
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Too many people want to have written.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett
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Over the centuries, mankind has tried many ways of combating the forces of evil … prayer, fasting, good works and so on. Up until Doom, no one seemed to have thought about the double-barrel shotgun. Eat leaden death, demon …

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett (30 May 1998)

Full post.
Added on 17-Apr-08 | Last updated 17-Apr-08
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This isn’t life in the fast lane, it’s life in the oncoming traffic.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Usenet (alt.fan.pratchett)
Added on 27-May-15 | Last updated 27-May-15
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The way of the portable computer user is as a stony path strewn with plugs and sockets, all the wrong size

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Usenet Post, alt.fan.pratchett
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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