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Terry Pratchett's "The Last Continent"

Some annotations to get more enjoyment out of the book

To those of you not fortunate enough to be Australians, a great deal of the humour might well be lost in the Terry Pratchett book "The Last Continent", so we have mirrored this modest page (from elsewhere) and enhanced it in the hopes that it may be some use. Some of the references here do not explain humour, but are actually gratuitous advertising for Australia, for which we make no apology. If you have anything that doesn't appear in this list, the Dean O' BU and we'll include it.

Page numbers are for the UK/AUS hardback edition.

"Discworld is a world and a mirror of worlds.
    This is not a book about Australia. No, it's about somewhere entirely different which just happens to be, here and there, a bit... Australian.
    Still... no worries, right?"
Acknowledgement in Last Continent

p 16 "Grubs! That's what we're going to eat" - the native people of Australia, the Aboriginals, traditionally eat many natural foods including a small, white grub called a 'witchetty grub'. 'Grub' is also Australian slang for 'food'.

p 17 "Strewth" - In this instance may be a persons name but it is actually an Australian exclamation of surprise, derived from an older English "(God)'s truth".

p 17 "opal miner" - Opals are quite beautiful gems most with a rainbow of colours to them. They mined in quite large quantities in Australia, in places like Lightening Ridge, NSW. A good site to view these gems is Australian Opals.com

p 28 "EcksEcksEcksEcks" - more correctly pronounced "four X" (as DEATH does) is a brand of beer brewed by Castlemaine breweries (In Milton, Brisbane). We understand it is quite famous overseas as one of THE Australian beers, but nobody with any sanity in Australia will drink the stuff, with the exception of Queenslanders. As we said, no one with any sanity drinks the stuff.

p 34 "Little is known about it save that it is girt by sea" - The Australian national anthem, "Advance Australia Fair" includes the line "our home is girt by sea", which actually means surrounded. Don't worry, very few Australians know what the word means either.

p.35 "According to this note in Wasports Lives of the Very Dull People...who said that "the bark fell off the trees in the winter, and the leaves stayed on." - We would suggest that this could refer to Eucalyptus trees that are, in a sense, evergreens i.e. they don't drop their leaves although they do shed bark - but mostly all year (mutter mutter, rake, rake).

p.35/36 'There's a mention of EcksEcksEcksEcks in Wrencher's Snakes of All Nations," said the chair of Indefinite Studies. "It says the continent has very few poisonous snakes"... Oh, there's a foot note, "Most of them have been killed by the spiders."' Australia has the rather dubious distinction of having some of the most venomous snakes and spiders in the world, the Redback and Funnel Web spiders being two and the King Brown and Taipan snakes being two others

p.37 "...pale white lines began to form a picture...." - Australian Aboriginals, while not having an extensive literate culture, do have highly developed art forms, one of which is rock painting. Fine examples of this kind of art can be seen in many places in Australia, including Uluru (Ayers Rock).

p.38 (diary entry) ".....pissed on by small grey incontinent teddy bear..." - A reference to a to a well known symbol of Australia, the Koala. Koala's are notorious for urinating on visiting dignitaries; they often are given a tame one to hold (for a photo opportunity) when they tour a wildlife park. (The dignitaries that is...)

p 48 "You could laugh at the idea of wooden weapons until you saw the kind of wood that grew here." - It seems to come as a surprise to many people that boomerangs are, traditionally, a highly effective hunting weapon and not a child's toy (Ed. notes: Unless given to a politician.)

p 55 "Oh that means 'Come quick, someone's fallen down a deep hole'" - The kangaroo, Scrappy, seems to be based on the character of 'Skippy', a kangaroo from the TV series of the same name. Skippy was a semi-tamed kangaroo that had adventures with a group of children and, when crisis struck, invariably saved the day in a way reminiscent of Lassie or Brain from "Inspector Gadget". This tended to involve taking messages to a park ranger who spoke amazing kangaroo. This is especially amazing as kangaroos don't tend to make any kind of noise at all but things like the wrinkled nose or scratching behind the ears was helpfully repeated in English by the park ranger for the non-kangaroo speaking audience.

p 60 "Here, they'd covered the rock walls with drawings in white, red and black" - Another reference to Australian aboriginal art.

p 75 "Are you coming the raw prawn?" - An Australianism meaning "Are you lying to me?" or "Are you trying to deceive me?". Prawns are sometimes called shrimp by Americans.

p 87 "Most people call me Mad." - Quite clearly 'Mad Max' (or in the US, The Road Warrior.), the character played by Mel Gibson in the 1980's movies of the same name.

p 91 "Mental as anything" - Is the name of an Australian rock band but also implies stupidity..

p 95 "Aw, strain the flaming cows" - This is an expression that is used in a couple of incorrect forms in the book. The correct form is "stone the crows".

p 103 "That's the Lassitude River, that is!" - Australia is a big, beautiful and extremely dry place. Many rivers and lakes in central Australia are dry beds for long periods of times. Rivers and lakes on maps are often just the dry beds in reality. There is actually a regatta in Alice Springs each year, "Henley on the Todd" which is held in the dry riverbed of the Todd River.

- A quick note: The Henley on the Todd was cancelled one year due to the fact that the river actually had water in  it. The only time that a "boat" race has been called off because of water in the river!

The Lassitude River could also be a cross over of the Todd River and Lasseter's Reef. Harold Bell Lasseter claimed that in about 1911 he discovered a reef of gold which he estimated was about 11 kilometres long and about 3.5 metres wide, somewhere near the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. He was lost when he went trying to find it again.

p 104 "How did the camels get here?" - Camels were actually brought to Australia to help with exploring after it was settled by Europeans in 1788. Some went wild after that and now herds of wild camel can be found in the deserts of Australia.

p 104 "You said this was a big town" - This scene is highly reminiscent of one of the opening scenes of "Crocodile Dundee", the 1980's movie that made the outback of Australia famous.

p 107 "If there was, people would definitely have found out by now, especially in the more isolated rural districts" - The implications here would be resented by most Australians who know for a fact that that kind of thing only goes on in New Zealand and vice versa for New Zealanders.

p 108 "Wagga Hay" - are actually two towns in New South Wales. The first is pronounced 'Wog ah', and its name in full is 'Wagga Wagga' meaning "a place of many crows" in the local Aboriginal language. Hay

p 109 "we happen to produce some partic'ly fine wines" - Australia does indeed produce some particularly fine wines in such areas as the Barossa Valley of South Australia. Recently, much to the chagrin of the French and British, we have been beating them in international wine competitions (and cheese competitions).

p 109 "are you takin' the piss?" - Another Australian idiom meaning "Are you sending me up?" or "Are you making a fool of me?".

p 109 "You call that a knife ?" - Another 'Crocodile Dundee' reference.

p 112 "there's a great big spider on the toilet seat" - Australia does have many kinds of poisonous spiders. In this case there is a reference to the Australian comic song "A Redback on the toilet seat". A Redback is a small, black spider with a large red streak on its back it is deadly and quite poisonous attacking the nervous system, an anti-venom has been developed. No one has died from a redback bite in about forty years but it is very nasty to be bitten by one.

p 128 "What's the cure? More beer." - A reference to the idiom, popular in Australia, "The hair of the dog that bit you" as a cure for ailments as in this case using beer to cure a hangover.

p 129 "Tie my kangaroo up" - A comic song by Australian singer Rolf Harris (famous in the UK in recent years for his version of Led Zepplin's 'Stairway to Heaven') called "Tie me kangaroo down".

p 130 "Squids" - Prior to 1966 the unit of currency in Australia was a pound, the slang for which was 'quid'.

p 130 "It'd be better with just the corks" - This kind of hat with the dangling corks seems to be something of an icon of Australia with foreigners but we can honestly say that we have never seen any Australian wearing one.

p 131 "Petunia: The Desert Princess" - Quite obviously based on the Australian film, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert".

p 136 "You're not going to say anything about woolly jumpers, are you?" - A reference to the now very tired Australian joke:

"What do you get if you cross a kangaroo with a sheep?
"A woolly jumper". A jumper is what Americans call a sweater/pullover.

p 137 "the dole" - Unemployment benefits. This may also be a reference to the dispute in the 1980's among shearers about the use of new and faster shears that, it was claimed, may have cost many jobs.

Added info from: Carl: There is also an 1980s Australian film on this theme, about the Champion Sheep Shearer. I might confuse it with a similar film about Champion Cane Cutters (maybe it was the same film?) but I think it was with Bryan Brown. (Ed. notes: Don't most Australian films have Byran Brown in them or is that Bill Hunter?)

p 140 "Who's a pretty boy, then?" - Some Australian birds can be trained to mimic human sounds. The most famous of these is the sulfur crested cockatoo, a large white bird with a yellow comb. 'Who's a pretty boy then' - seems to be the cliche to teach these birds.

p 142 "A windmill was spinning in the breeze" - Australian windmills, unlike their European counterparts, are not whole buildings with enormous blades but tall, slender metal towers with a small, circular windmill at the top. They are indeed used to pump water out of the ground.

p 144 "A mob of riderless horses appeared round the bend at full gallop" - The story of these horses and the role of the small horse called 'Snowy' in their recapture is that of the popular Australian poem "The Man from Snowy River" written by A B Patterson in 1890. The text of this poem can be found here. The character of Old Remorse is Patterson's 'Old Regret' and Clancy not only appears in "The Man from Snowy River" but also in his own poem Clancy of the Overflow.

Added info from Carl: There is also a 1982 film based on the poem strangely enough called The Man From Snowy River, where there is a lot of riding and chasing of horses taking place as it is in the poem. This spawned a television series called Banjo Paterson's The Man From Snowy River aka Snowy River: The McGregor Saga.

p 147 "I think I'm about to have a technicolour snake!" - Here Rincewind is confusing two things. A 'technicolour yawn' is one of the many pieces of Australian slang for vomiting while a 'rainbow snake' or more properly 'serpent' is a character out of Aboriginal mythology whose passage over the land carved out many of the natural land formations such as riverbeds.

p 150 "Someone must've seen you coming, mate!" - An Australian idiom meaning "Someone has deceived you."

p 170 "Once a moderately jolly wizard camped by a dried up waterhole ..." - The first line of A B Patterson's popular poem "Waltzing Matilda" goes "Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong". This poem goes on to describe the scene that ensues with Rincewind, in that sheep theft goes on which is interrupted by the owner and three police. The full text can be found here. Note the last verse which talks about the haunting by ghosts.

p 173 "Yeasty, vegetable soup, what a wonderful idea." - The substance Rincewind has invented here is Vegemite. It is a black spread which is spread with the consistency (by some people) of peanut butter. It is very popular in Australia (again, by some people...)

p 184 "How many of them have put 'too-ra-la, too-ra-la addity' in the chorus ?" - From a song supposedly sung by British convicts sent to Australia called "Botany Bay".

p 184 "The best Famous Last Words are the shortest" - The character of Tinhead Ned refers to the bushranger (British would say 'highwayman') Ned Kelly who was famous for wearing an improvised helmet that looked like a tin with a slit cut out for the eyes. He is supposed to have said "Such is life" as his last words.

p 185 "Yeah. They used to lock him up... And he always escaped." - This seems to refer to Moondyne Joe, Western Australia's only bushranger, actually he was a cattle thief, who was famous for breaking out of jail most notably. He then broke out of the State prison in Fremantle.

p198 "Hill's Clothesline Co." - An Australian company founded by a man who invented the Hills Hoist, a kind of washing line to be seen in most backyards in Australia.

p 199 "'cos Duncan's me mate." - From an Australian drinking song, "I'd love to have a beer with Duncan".

p 199 "and some of the blokes down at the fish and chip shop" - Fair Go Dibbler's socio-political analysis may be compared with that of Pauline Hanson, independent Member of Parliament in the Australian Federal Parliament. She was at one point the head of the "Ignorant Rednecks of Australia Party" (otherwise known as "One Nation"). The training and background she draws on for her well informed opinions was that, prior to her entrance into politics, she owned a fish and chip shop.

p 215 "I give you ... the Peach Nellie." - The dessert in question is the Peach Melba, named for the opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. The other popular dessert in Australia, similarly named is the Pavlova.

p 219 "This is the Galah they keep talking about" - A reference to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, an enormously popular street parade the party help annually to celebrate gay and lesbian culture.

p 230 "back to life in the banana-bending factory" - A popular Australian joke is to convince people that bananas are bent by hand rather than growing that way. The Australian sense of humour does improve from this level... from time to time.

p 247 "he wouldn't have included corrugated iron sheets" - Possibly a reference to a building at Sydney University which, due to material shortages associated with WWII, was built out of corrugated iron, and due to God knows what reason has never been demolished.

First year student at Sydney Uni, Jen mailed us saying: I found this rather odd. The building is called the Transient Building. Anyway, I asked my mother (who works for the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning and tends to be good with odd buildings in this town) and she tells me that apparently it's been classed as a Heritage Building. So they can't knock it down. Even though it's hideous. Great stuff, eh?

p 274 "'Can you hear that thunder?' said Ridcully ... 'We'd better take cover'" - This comes from an Australian rock group, Men at Work's song "Land Down Under". You can find the lyrics here. Note the reference to the Vegemite sandwich in verse three.

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