APF Chapter 3: Discworld Annotations [Prev Page] [Index] [Next Page]

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Monstrous Regiment

Annotations | Information | Quotes

- [title] Monstrous Regiment

The title of this book is a reference to the pamphlet The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, written by John Knox in 1558, complaining about the sudden appearance of female monarchs such as Elizabeth of England and Mary of Scotland pre-empting the natural position and authority of men.

- [p. 9] "In Borogravia, [...]"

The name 'Borogravia' invokes the made-up word 'borogove' (often misprinted as 'borogrove') from the poem Jabberwocky in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass:

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Carroll described borogoves as an extinct variety of wingless parrot with an upturned beak, which nested on sundials and lived on veal. Terry's dislike of the Alice books has been previously noted (see the Words From The Master section).

- [p. 13] "[...] if you had a billygoat."

A reference to the "The Three Billygoats Gruff" fairy tale. See also the annotation for p. 140 of Lords and Ladies .

- [p. 14] "The songs had been part of her childhood."

Many, if not all, of the songs listed here are actual folk songs. You can find the full lyrics using on-line resources such as the Digital Tradition Archive, but I will reproduce a couple of verses here to give an indication of the flavour.

Tradition has it that 'The World Turned Upside Down' was played at Cornwallis' surrender to Washington during the American Revolution:

If buttercups buzz'd after the bee,
If boats were on land, churches on sea,
If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows,
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse,

If the mamas sold their babies
To the gypsies for half a crown;
If summer were spring and the other way round,
Then all the world would be upside down.

'The Devil Shall Be My Sergeant' (known as 'Rogue's March'):

I left my home and I left my job
Went and joined the army
If I knew then what I know now
I wouldn't have been so barmy.

Poor old soldier, poor old soldier
If I knew then what I know now
I wouldn't have been so barmy.


Fifty I got for selling me coat
Fifty for me blankets
If ever I 'list for a soldier again
The devil shall be me sergeant.

'Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier' (also known as 'Shule Agra', which is badly anglicised Irish for "Walk, My Love"):

With fife and drum he marched away
He would not heed what I did say
He'll not come back for many a day
Johnny has gone for a soldier

Shule shule shule shule agra
Sure a sure and he loves me
When he comes back he'll marry me
Johnny has gone for a soldier

'The Girl I Left Behind Me' (many versions exist):

I'm lonesome since I cross'd the hills,
And o'er the moor that's sedgy;
With heavy thoughts my mind is fill'd,
Since I parted with my Naggy
When e'er I return to view the place,
The tears doth fall and blind me,
When I think on the charming grace
Of the girl I left behind me.

And finally, 'Sweet Polly Oliver' tells the story of a woman who dresses as a male soldier in order to follow her true love into the army:

As sweet Polly Oliver lay musing in bed,
A sudden strange fancy came into her head.
'Nor father nor mother shall make me false prove,
I'll 'list as a soldier, and follow my love.'

So early next morning she softly arose,
And dressed herself up in her dead brother's clothes.
She cut her hair close, and she stained her face brown,
And went for a soldier to fair London Town.

I've not been able to find real-world equivalents yet for 'Colonel Crapski' and 'I Wish I'd Never Kissed Her' -- any pointers will be most welcome.

- [p. 15] "[...] the spanking red uniform [...]"

The entire Borogravian army wears a standard red uniform. Both the uniform and its standardisation point to the Borogravian army being modelled on the English (later British) army, whose soldiers were clad in red for nearly 250 years from 1645 onward. Among many other armies, even those of major military powers, uniforms didn't truly become 'uniform' until as late as the First World War.

- [p. 16] "'Give him the shilling, corporal.'"

In the English army, taking the King's or Queen's Shilling was a ritual of induction; upon taking a shilling coin as enlistment bounty, the inductee was legally considered a soldier.

- [p. 17] "Awake!"

The Borogravian national anthem does not seem to parody any specific national anthem. However, the line "Awake, ye sons of the Motherland" echoes France's "Allons, enfants de la Patrie" ("come, children of the Fatherland"); while "Frustrate the endless wiles of our enemies" echoes the second verse of Britain's "God Save the Queen":

O Lord our God, arise,
Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks;
On thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.

- [p. 21] "'[...] the Book of Nuggan.'"

We have seen Nuggan before, in The Last Hero. He is therein depicted as short and irritable; perhaps his stature indicates his demise is already underway.

- [p. 25] "They're cutting the continent in half"

The Discworld Mapp shows that the location of Borogravia indeed falls neatly across Clacks lines between Ankh-Morpork and Genua.

- [p. 28] "you can call me Maladict"

The name is both a play on the name 'Benedict' and on the word 'maledict', which Webster's defines as accursedness or the act of bringing a curse.

- [p. 30] "'I, of course, don't drink... horse piss, [...]'"

Terry loves to play with Dracula's famous "I don't drink... wine" line. See also the annotation for p. 54 of Carpe Jugulum .

- [p. 32] "'Don't ask, don't tell.'"

During the early 1990s, the United States military reexamined its long-standing prohibition on homosexuals serving in the armed forces. Social conservatives strongly opposed the change in policy; the compromise eventually reached, which persists to this writing (2008), was labelled "don't ask, don't tell"; the administration of the military was not allowed to ask a recruit or soldier his or her sexual orientation, but revealing it to be homosexual (or bisexual) was still grounds for discharge. The compromise was widely ridiculed by all sides, but has been upheld five times in federal court.

- [p. 34] "'[...] orders an Electrick Floorbanger, [...]'"

Carborundum's drink contains silver and copper metal in some kind of acidic electrolyte. In such conditions, an electric current can be established between the silver and copper, acting as a primitive battery.

The name 'Electric Floorbanger' also resonates with the Harvey Wallbanger, a classic 1970s cocktail made of vodka, Galliano and orange.

- [p. 37] "[...] according to Father Jupe [...]"

A running gag is that famous officers lend their names to articles of clothing. 'Jupe' is French for 'skirt'; possibly Father Jupe is a former military hero?

- [p. 39] "'Well, it won't be in front of me for long.'"

A quotation often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, although it may have originated with composer Max Reger: "I am in the smallest room of the house. I have your review in front of me. Soon it will be behind me."

- [p. 39] "'Hands off -- well, you lot wouldn't be able to find 'em...'"

"Hands off cocks, on with socks!" is the traditional military wake-up shout (see also the annotation for p. 241 of Men At Arms ). Does it need pointing out that in this particular case, unbeknownst to Strappi, there are very good reasons why these soldiers wouldn't be able to "find 'em"...?

- [p. 50] "[...] Strappi had written WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR and down the side he had written 1, 2, 3."

From the Vietnam-era protest song 'I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die-Rag', by Country Joe & The Fish (famously performed at Woodstock):

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

- [p. 68] "most of you will almost certainly be pikemen"

Pikes are used defensively against cavalry charges, or offensively against infantry in the following fashion: a rank of pikemen advances on a rank of enemy infantry, pikes extended forward, and attempts to jab the enemy with their pikes; then draws swords and engages as standard infantry while the rank behind them advances with their pikes. The Borogravian pike may be the "tool formerly used for lifting beets" referred to in the National Anthem.

- [p. 76] "The Craft of War"

Sun Tzu's The Art Of War is the standard text of military philosophy. See also the annotation for p. 63 of Interesting Times .

- [p. 85] "[...] a banknote [...]"

Borogravia uses paper currency, while Ankh-Morpork still uses precious-metal coins. In a world where coin is the standard of exchange, a country operating on paper currency not backed by precious metal ("fiat money", in economic parlance) might see its economy become isolated from the rest of the world. The very fact that paper money is being issued indicates that Borogravia may have been strapped for hard cash for some time.

- [p. 86] "One shilling extra 'per Diem'"

Using this information and UK army pay scales, one can estimate that a second lieutenant in the Borogravian army receives approximately 1807 shillings per year as payment, compared to 2012 shillings per year for a first lieutenant; and that there are approximately 11.16 Borogravian shillings to one UK pound.

As my original alt.fan.pratchett source for this annotation puts it: "Working this out may be the single geekiest thing I have ever done."

- [p. 90] "They wore dark-blue uniforms, [...]"

The Zlobenian cavalry uniforms hearken to those of Prussia and of the United States during the late 19th century.

- [p. 92] "We have met the enemy and he is nice?"

The original quote is: "We have met the enemy and they are ours -- two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop", written by Oliver Hazard Perry in a Letter to General Harrison. after defeating the British at the battle of Lake Erie in a decisive victory.

These days, however, the better known version is probably Walt Kelly's "We have met the enemy, and they are us", used in his classic comic strip Pogo, during the Vietnam years.

- [p. 101] "'[...] temporary feelings of shock and awe, sir.'"

"Shock and Awe" is the name of a military doctrine first coined by the USA in its 2003 invasion of Iraq, and immediately became a household phrase all over the world.

- [p. 103] "'Oh damn', said Maladict"

Maladict curses; a rather clever Tom Swiftie. (See the annotation for p. 26 of The Light Fantastic .)

- [p. 108] "Road to perdition"

Albert Einstein: "The road to perdition has ever been accompanied by lip service to an ideal."

- [p. 112] "'So you're not actually waylaying field reports from the Times, then, sir?' [...]"

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, both sides relied on television news for information; private journalists were often better-informed than military intelligence.

- [p. 136] "I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill"

From the folk song 'The Girl I Left Behind Me'; see the annotation for p. 14.

- [p. 143] "'[...] nothing I do in pursuit of my quest will be held Abominable.'"

Soldiers who went on the Crusades were told that in undertaking the Crusade they would be absolved of all sins.

- [p. 144] "'I am to take command of the Army,' said Wazzer."

Jeanne d'Arc, a.k.a. Joan of Arc or St Joan, led the French army against the English while dressed as a man, and believed she heard the voice of God.

- [p. 151] "Jolly Sailor"

The same tobacco seen in The Wee Free Men.

- [p. 165] "Lord Rust's regiment"

Lord Rust's style of command is described thoroughly in Jingo and Night Watch.

- [p. 166] "One, Two, Three! What We Are Fighting For!"

Another reference to the 'I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag' by Country Joe and the Fish (see the annotation for p. 50). Maladict, in her coffee withdrawal hallucinations, is apparently starting to channel Apocalypse Now-type Vietnam scenes.

- [p. 177] "'Our cartoonist Fizz drew this for the special edition.'"

The cartoonist Hablot Knight Browne used the pseudonym 'Phiz', and drew copperplate illustrations for many Victorian works, especially those of Charles Dickens.

- [p. 177] "there was a beet stuck on the end of it"

See the annotation for p. 68.

- [p. 178] "Morporkia"

Compare Victorian-era illustrations of Britannia and Columbia, depictions of state-gods for the United Kingdom and United States, respectively.

- [p. 176] "'Civis Morporkias sum, sir.'"

It is said that, at the time of the Roman Empire, a person could walk anywhere in the Empire protected only by the words "Civis Romanus sum" or "I am a Roman citizen", knowing that the Empire would bring down a terrible wrath on anyone who dared harm just one of its people.

- [p. 180] "'Have you considered a squeezing algorithm?'"

Blouse is describing an existing data compression technique known as Run-length Encoding (RLE). RLE is a simple algorithm that is well-suited to compressing graphic images containing limited amounts of (colour) information (such as the military maps containing mostly white space Blouse mentions).

- [p. 191] "'Charlie's tracking us!'"

Another Vietnam reference from Maladict's parallel universe: during the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong were referred to by the abbreviation "VC", or in radio phonetic alphabet "Victor Charlie". This was shortened to 'Charlie' and the name became a common slang term for the enemy during the war.

- [p. 192] "She'd roasted some acorns."

During the American Civil War, the Confederacy was blockaded by the Union and coffee became almost unobtainable. Soldiers and citizens of the Confederacy experimented with, among other things, roasted acorns and roasted chicory as substitutes for the beverage.

- [p. 222] "Except my Auntie Parthenope, as I recall."

From 'parthenos', Greek for 'virgin'; Auntie Parthenope is a genuine maiden aunt.

- [p. 222] "'Tis Pity She's A Tree"

From John Ford's 1633 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, a play with an important, sexually-based female role played by a man.

- [p. 223] "[...] a stick thicker than the regulation one inch"

Popular knowledge has it that the expression "rule of thumb" comes from English common law regarding the diameter of a stick with which one's wife could legally be beaten, but this is now generally accepted to be a complete myth.

- [p. 235] "[...] the job is making some other poor devil die for his."

General George S. Patton quote. See the annotation for p. 142 of Jingo .

- [p. 240] "'The SoLid DoVes,' Polly read."

"Soiled Doves" is a euphemism for prostitutes originating in the American west during the 19th century.

- [p. 284] "'In Klatch, I think, it means "I hope your donkey explodes".'"

In Arabia, the thumbs-up gesture does mean something like "up yours". On occupying Iraq, many American and British soldiers were greeted with crowds flashing thumbs-up symbols, and mistakenly believed them to be showing approval.

- [p. 303] "Let's see how that one plays in Plün!"

From the Americanism "Let's see how that one plays in Peoria", meaning: how will it fare when presented to the sensibilities of the rural population?

- [p. 309] "'[...] the Ins-and-Outs, the Side-to-Sides and the Backwards-and-Forwards, [...]'"

Before the 1881 reforms, there was a British Army regiment, the 69th Foot, who were known as the "Ups-and-Downs" (because it mostly consisted of old veterans and raw recruits).

Terry says:

"Yep. And they -- or in fact, one of them -- is the subject of a folksong of a fairly generic kind in which (as an English folk singer once observed) a young lady is en route to Maidenhead when she loses her Aylesbury."

There is for instance the song called 'The Ups and Downs', recorded by Steeleye Span:

As I was going to Aylesbury all on a market day
A pretty little Aylesbury girl I met upon the way
Her business was to market with butter, cheese and whey
And we both jogged on together my boys fol-der-o diddle-o-day
And we both jogged on together my boys fol-der-o diddle-o-day

As we jogged on together my boys together side by side
By chance this fair maid's garter it came untied
For fear that she might lose it I unto her did say
Your garter's come untied my love fol-der-o diddle-o-day
Your garter's come untied my love fol-der-o diddle-o-day

As we rode on together my boys to the outskirts of the town
At length this fair young damsel she stopped and looked around
O since you've been so venturesome pray tie it up for me
O I will if you go to the apple grove fol-der-o diddle-o-day
O I will if you go to the apple grove fol-der-o diddle-o-day

And when we got to the apple grove the grass was growing high
I laid this girl upon her back her garter for to tie
While tying of her garter such sights I never did see
And we both jogged on together my boys fol-der-o diddle-o-day
And we both jogged on together my boys fol-der-o diddle-o-day

Etcetera. Note that this is very likely also the same cheese-and-garters song that Polly and the others have been discussing earlier.

- [p. 312] "'[...] that detachment of Kopelies.'"

'Kopelies' is Greek for 'girls'.

- [p. 314] "'Much ado, in fact, about nothing.'"

Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing is a play that includes a character named Benedick. See the annotation for p. 28.

- [p. 326] "'[...] like an ambassador but without the little gold chocolates.'"

Refers to a well-known television advert for Ferrero Rocher chocolates (which come individually wrapped in gold foil), which were served at the Ambassador's balls.

- [p. 328] "'But why did you say you were a cherry pancake?' said Polly."

John F. Kennedy, speaking in West Berlin in 1963, famously declared: "Ich bin ein Berliner" -- "I am a citizen of Berlin".

As a 'Berliner' is also a kind of jam-filled pastry, Kennedy's words have been interpreted by some people as a language blunder, similar to the one Vimes makes here. This is, however, simply nonsense: the meaning Kennedy intended is a correct one as well, and was absolutely clear from context.

- [p. 341] "I was part of the Thin Red Line [...]"

The generally-accepted first use of "Thin Red Line" was when William Russell described in the London Times the 93rd Highlanders at the Battle of Balaclava in October 1854. This was then probably picked up by Rudyard Kipling for use in his poem Tommy:

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

The phrase was also used as the title of James Jones' novel (and the 1998 movie based on it) telling the story of the United States capture of Guadalcanal during World War II.

- [p. 348] "Generals and majors and captains, oh my."

Echoes Dorothy's "Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!" in The Wizard of Oz.

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