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That's Sir Pratchett to You.
December 31, 2008 1:41 AM   Subscribe

Terry Pratchett, a man renowned for his staggering sales figures from his renowned Discworld series has been knighted.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice (112 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Phew. For a second there I thought we'd be having another obit thread. Seems like so many great ones are trying to get out before 2009 even begins.
posted by bardic at 1:44 AM on December 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


I thought the same thing. This is such a relief. And a celebratory occasion to boot!
posted by iamkimiam at 2:07 AM on December 31, 2008


I've actually never read his books (my family members are all big fans tho), but those computer/Playstation games...super duper happy memories there. Wish I could find some way to play those games again, and on a Mac.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:11 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The full honours list is here (490kb PDF).
posted by mattn at 2:12 AM on December 31, 2008


As an American, I've never understood the fascination that Brits have about knighthood. I'm sure you get a medal for this, but is there more?

As an American, I have to ask: do knights get discounts at the shopping malls? Do they pay less for gasoline? Is there a special fast-lane on the highway for knighted people?

Your culture is strange and fascinating to me. I hope it means something (to you, if not me).
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:12 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's only fitting for a man who's first book (discworld series anyways) managed to make fun of Harry Potter almost 30 years before it was even written.

Excerpt from the Color of Magic. paraphrased because I can't find the quote on L-space

"Ordinarily, when there's a door with a sign labeled 'danger, do not enter' at a school of magic someone opens it and fantastical adventure ensues. At the Unseen University of Wizardry whenever a student opened one of these doors usually their remains were sent home to their grieving family in a very small brown paper bag."
posted by Pseudology at 2:18 AM on December 31, 2008 [26 favorites]


MetaFilter: As an American, I've never understood.
cheap shot, but there for the taking, m'lud
posted by Abiezer at 2:19 AM on December 31, 2008 [13 favorites]


Obligatory most shoplifted author in the UK reference.
posted by qvantamon at 2:19 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's also a good thing this happened before his Alzheimer's advanced any further.
posted by Pseudology at 2:26 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: As an American, I've never understood.

Make of it what you will, but here in the Land of the Free we have no fucking idea what knighthood means.

Friggin' Brits.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:29 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


:D Not aimed at you, twoleftfeet, honest. Just over the years watching threads on anywhere from Botswana to Bulgaria end up as discussions about the U.S.
posted by Abiezer at 2:37 AM on December 31, 2008


That's Sir Pratchett to You.

Sir Terry, actually.
posted by atrazine at 2:39 AM on December 31, 2008


twoleftfeet, do people who receive the congressional medal of "honor" (God how it irks me to spell that way!) or purple hearts (or whatever) receive discounted petrol or get to use special motorway lanes? So what's the big deal, then?
posted by Dysk at 2:41 AM on December 31, 2008 [7 favorites]


the congressional medal of "honor" (God how it irks me to spell that way!)

The congressional medal of honour then.

In the spirit of the New Year, I'm just trying to understand the strange and mysterious ways of another culture.

I will ridicule it later.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:45 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


As an American, I have to ask: do knights get discounts at the shopping malls? Do they pay less for gasoline? Is there a special fast-lane on the highway for knighted people?


There's a few weird old laws about Knighthoods which are technically on the books but I doubt anyone adheres to them. I was offered a Knighthood but turned it down as I don't believe in the honours system. I did look into what benefits you acquire in case it was worth selling out my principles.


- As a Knight of the Realm you are allowed to "commandeer for purposes of War" any horse not belonging to the Queen's stables.

- You are able to claim (free from charge) overnight lodgings at any Inn or Tavern.

- You become twelve times more radioactive than non-knights.




Happy New year!
posted by fullerine at 2:53 AM on December 31, 2008 [7 favorites]


What is so great about a knighthood? All I know is that once a King always a King, but once a Knight is enough.

He gets to get called Sir, his wife gets to be called Lady, but most importantly, can you imagine how fucking awesome it would be to see Sir Terry taking the piss out of any other Knight who takes knighthood seriously? I would pay $3.50 at a used book store to see that.

I am so happy for this. Sir Terry has made countless bus trips, commutes and flights not only bearable but entertaining and illuminating.
posted by dirty lies at 2:54 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


twoleftfeet: As an American, I have to ask: do knights get discounts at the shopping malls? Do they pay less for gasoline? Is there a special fast-lane on the highway for knighted people?

It is confusing, isn't it? While we're exchanging cultural notes, I have a few questions, about as intelligent as yours, to ask about the weird and exotic ways of your own strange land. Here they are:

If Laura Bush is 'First Lady', shouldn't she be older than all the other women in America? Is the Presidential Seal always a seal, or can it be some other aquatic mammal?
Is the Vice-President single-handedly responsible for perpetrating all the vice in the country, or does he get help with that? Is George Walker Bush really a smallish tree gifted with the power of locomotion?

Thank you in advance for any help you can give me with these questions that have long troubled me.
posted by ShameSpiral at 2:58 AM on December 31, 2008 [20 favorites]


Hurrah!
posted by Damienmce at 2:59 AM on December 31, 2008


...can you imagine how fucking awesome it would be to see Sir Terry taking the piss out of any other Knight who takes knighthood seriously?

He'd be in good company if he declined altogether.
posted by vacapinta at 3:00 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is the Vice-President single-handedly responsible for perpetrating all the vice in the country, or does he get help with that?

I'm inclined toward the former. I honestly don't get all this pomp and circumstance, this pageantry, this automatic deference, that British subjects feel towards their (unelected) leaders.

Knighthood is an institution that seems completely superfluous to modern existences. Why do you still care about it?

But I would be the first to admit that I'm wrong. Given good evidence.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:06 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was under the understanding that before they make it public, Downing Street asks the recipient if they will accept it. If it has been made public, in all probability he has already accepted, and it would be an assholish way to get moral high ground to decline now.

If his books and interviews reflect his personal views, I expect some good quotable stuff to come out of all this.
posted by dirty lies at 3:10 AM on December 31, 2008


Just think: Sir Terry Pratchett (Discworld) and Sir Terry Wogan (Eurovision) have provided outstanding comedic value over the years. Three cheers, and rousing guffaws!
posted by woodway at 3:12 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


twoleftfeet: top-ten lists seem completely superfluous to modern existence (given the internet, rating sites like yelp, and the fact that by the time the list gets published, everything in it is old new for those that may be interested), Why do you still care to make posts about them?

Sorry everyone else, sometimes I can't help throwing crumbs at the hungry noises I hear under the bridge.

posted by dirty lies at 3:14 AM on December 31, 2008


You say that now, but when the mongols are at your cottage, stealing your beets and burning your home, you'll be the first one huddling under the local knight's protection.

Who shall repel them with sharp irony.
posted by qvantamon at 3:15 AM on December 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


I honestly don't get all this pomp and circumstance, this pageantry, this automatic deference, that British subjects feel towards their (unelected) leaders.


We all have pictures of the Queen on our dining room walls. She makes us feel safe while we eat
posted by dng at 3:19 AM on December 31, 2008 [20 favorites]


bardic: same here. I went "oh hell no!!" until i reached the end of the sentence. Phew.
posted by vivelame at 3:21 AM on December 31, 2008


As a british-born antipodean I can see twoleftfeet's POV but I think its also just a very traditional system of bestowing national honours. Quite a few people turn them down. I guess a bloke like Terry (who has always been comfortable making fun of britishness) would see this as a real hoot - a bit of a laugh as well as an honour.

Anyway here's the wik on Knighthoods

Fancy that... the motto of the Order of the Bath is "Three in One".
posted by evil_esto at 3:22 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks vacapinta. I've finally got a suitable new years resolution: turn down a knighthood.

Ringo and I can pop round to Frank Auerbachs to celebrate.
posted by jimbaud at 3:26 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just over the years watching threads on anywhere from Botswana to Bulgaria end up as discussions about the U.S.

The user base for Metafilter is overwhelmingly located in the U.S. It's great that English language countries worldwide can participate.

As with most Americans, I am an asshole. On behalf of everybody, I apologize for being overly focused on my tiny portion of the planet.

Best wishes to all during this coming year. May the future be better than the past...
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:36 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I hope he gets a kick out of this. I've been unable to find a list of writers who have received knighthoods specifically for services to literature (only mentions of V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, and (honorary) William Trevor) but it appears to be a very rare honour indeed.
posted by tomcooke at 3:42 AM on December 31, 2008


The user base for Metafilter is overwhelmingly located in the U.S. It's great that English language countries worldwide can participate.

That didn't come off as condescending at all.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:48 AM on December 31, 2008


That didn't come off as condescending at all.

What part of "I'm an asshole" do I have to repeat?
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:51 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I know Wikipedia is justly ridiculed here and elsewhere, but in this instance it seems that it is required reading.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:51 AM on December 31, 2008


What part of "I'm an asshole" do I have to repeat?

Point taken. I would like to clarify something, though: very early in the morning, US time, Metafilter is often a very British place to be. Just so you know in the future: we're all awake here as is our British moderator, the Right Honourable vacapinta, and we will often post Items Of Interest To British Persons before you awake.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:55 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


I couldn't give a fuck about the honours system other than it recognises certain people whose achievements may otherwise not get noticed. This is particularly true with charity workers or others that have made a contribution to a society (not so much the sports stars, celebs and awful politicians that get their seats in the Lords at this time of year).

I know someone who was nominated and received the MBE for charity work and she was really chuffed as it was an outside acknowledgement that her hard work was recognised by people who had nominated her for the award. It wasn't the recognition from the establishment that mattered, it was that people thought her worthy of being recognised for a reward that was fulfilling.

twoleftfeet: you are trying too hard methinks. It's good to see that as well as crafting your incredibly illuminating year-end stunt posts that you find time to shit in other threads too. Or, you know, you could just go and pull together another wonderful post for our delectation and we can rejoice over there instead.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 3:57 AM on December 31, 2008


very early in the morning, US time, Metafilter is often a very British place to be.

I absolutely reject the idea that Metafilter should be time-segmented along geographic lines. The "Best of the Web" should be without temporal or geographical locus.

I've pissed off a bunch of Brits because I asked simple questions about knighthood. Honestly not knowing why calling somebody Sir should make any difference (really? Sir Paul McCartney?) has led me into your den of hatred. If you want to burn me for my innocence then so be it.

In the spirit of truth, beauty, and love... I wish you all a happy New Year nonetheless.

Friggin' Brits
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:11 AM on December 31, 2008


Oh dear. I can't help myself.

"If it goes on like this, Fool, you shall have a knighthood."
This was no.302 and the Fool knew better than to let a feed line go hungry. "Marry, nuncle," he said wearily, ignoring the spasm of pain that crawled across the duke's face, "If'n I had a Knighthood (Night Hood), why, it would keep my ears Warm in Bedde; i'faith, if many a Knight is a Fool, why, should a --"
"Yes, yes, all right," snapped Lord Felmet.


Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters, Victor Gollancz (1988) p. 130
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:13 AM on December 31, 2008 [10 favorites]


That list of declinations is very interesting. I didn't know it was so large for one thing, but also that so many have declined twice. Or even more than twice! That seems to indicate that the recipient is NOT asked ahead of time. And there must not be much egg on the Crown's face when they decline, or the recipient wouldn't be offered it multiple times.

I'm not sure if I would accept or decline. Could go either way, but on the whole I'd probably have to be convinced to accept rather than convinced to decline. I would also probably only accept the Congressional Medal of Honor or Presidential Seal of Approval from certain Congresses and Presidents.

I've thought about this a lot because as an Internet Genius of Wide Repute, it's so very likely that I'd be offered all three.
posted by DU at 4:13 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]



I absolutely reject the idea that Metafilter should be time-segmented along geographic lines.


There is no "should". It simply "is"! When British mefites are awake and posting, they post whatever takes their fancy and vacapinta deletes the chaff. There's nothing to be done about it: Time is a bitch like that.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:18 AM on December 31, 2008


When British mefites are awake and posting, they post whatever takes their fancy and vacapinta deletes the chaff.

Mr. Darwin, what happens if the occasional New Zealander, Australian, insomniac Canadian or American, or expat-in-Japan wanders in?

Maybe they already have.

We cannot make assumptions about the temporal or geographical locus of our fellow commenters.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:29 AM on December 31, 2008


I've pissed off a bunch of Brits because I asked simple questions about knighthood.

You have also assumed that you have to do something to piss off Brits.
posted by srboisvert at 4:38 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, as an Occasional Australian I'll take the bait and weigh in. And out again...
posted by evil_esto at 4:39 AM on December 31, 2008


*ahem*
“And an extra special question,” she said, with a hint of malice. “Does that mean it’s ‘then’ there when it is ‘now’ here?”

The hand slowed halfway in its rise.

“Ooo…” Vincent began, then stopped. “Doesn’t make sense, miss…”

“Questions don’t have to make sense, Vincent,” said Miss Susan. “But answers do.”

There was a kind of sigh from Penelope. To Miss Susan’s surprise, the face that would surely one day cause her father to have to hire bodyguards was emerging from its normal happy daydream and wrapping itself around an answer. Her alabaster hand was rising, too.

The class watched expectantly.

“Yes, Penelope?

“It’s…”

“Yes?”

“It’s always ‘now’ everywhere, miss?”

“Exactly right. Well done!”
Thief of Time, 2001
posted by woodway at 4:48 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think I've sussed it now. TLF is calling honourific titles out as a Wank. They are. We all get that but it New Years... Wank season.

As for temporal and geographical locus, I have to go up the hill to watch some fireworks AND balance a vodka/lime in my hands all the way.

Onya Terry, thanks for the book-memories, you deserve it mate. Sir Terry Pratchett.
posted by evil_esto at 4:49 AM on December 31, 2008


You have also assumed that you have to do something to piss off Brits.

May the New Year be better than the Old Year.

If I wanted to piss off Brits I'd make some stupid remark about how tea isn't nearly as powerful as coffee. Or I'd say something nasty about the Queen.

Peace and love during the New Year, from A to Zed.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:54 AM on December 31, 2008


Twoleftfeet, as someone who's seen all the Monty Python movies, I consider myself an expert in British culture, and I can tell you absolutely that it's impossible to make a British person angry.

It's the French you have to be careful of.
posted by Bageena at 5:16 AM on December 31, 2008


I absolutely reject the idea that Metafilter should be time-segmented along geographic lines. The "Best of the Web" should be without temporal or geographical locus.

And I therefore call upon Britain (and the East Coast of America) to sleep late in the mornings and go to bed later at night to synchronize posting schedules with us. SOLIDARITY!
posted by DU at 5:20 AM on December 31, 2008


LOLSeptics
posted by seanyboy at 5:42 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK, but back to the original question. What's up with the knighthood? is it like the Congressional Medal of Honor, which I've always thought you got for acts of super-dee-duperty bravery? I don't think it's like a Purple Heart, because that usually comes with getting shot at, but maybe it's like the Presidential Medal of Freedom? It is given for "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

I'm genuinely curious and not about just the official word, but what is the, I guess, "typical" British person's perception of such an honor? Can you not swing a dead cat without hitting a knight or is it something at least perceived as a great big honor?

I don't think that anyone gets discounts at the mall or a special lane on the expressway, but I think that also would be cool. Maybe a badge too, or give knights the option of carrying a sword everywhere. In fact, could we just let Terry Pratchett have those honors too? I think he deserves the right to drive wherever he wants, get in free at places and lop the heads off anyone sitting in his seat when he arrives. That's good for a start.
posted by BeReasonable at 5:50 AM on December 31, 2008


For the record, I'm a brit, and I have no idea why knighthoods are a big deal, either.

And we're quite the cranky nation it seems. Not, of course, that we're a nation.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 5:58 AM on December 31, 2008


It's the French you have to be careful of.

But that's only if you're awarded Kniggithood.
posted by qvantamon at 6:17 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually, twoleftfeet, I'd wager fairly safely that you've annoyed a large number of USians too. Your attitude here comes off as callous, condescending, rude and well... gosh, just like a stereotypical european's view of what an American is. I'd credit you for trolling brilliantly, except I think you didn't actually mean to troll.

Knighthood is an honor bestowed upon a citizen by the highest representative of their nation's government. Like others have tried to explain to you, how is this any different from the US's Medal of Honor and the like? It's when you as a humble citizen are recognized. It's nice to be recognized, it's a bit of a coup.

<-- Not Brit.
posted by cavalier at 6:21 AM on December 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


Robert Plant, CBE

Courtney Pine, CBE
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:32 AM on December 31, 2008


That's Sir Pratchett to You.

Sir Terry, actually.


Sir Pterry, you mean.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:34 AM on December 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yes! Sir Samuel would be proud.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:38 AM on December 31, 2008


The list this year is a bit heavy on sports stars, I suppose because it's an Olympic year. That always seems a bit strange - they come back from the Olympics with a major award, so what does the government do? Give them an award ... for winning an award!?!

Also, interesting that nobody has mentioned another name on the list: "Robert Anthony Plant, Singer and Songwriter. For services to Music." He is now a 'Commander of the Order of the British Empire'
posted by woodblock100 at 6:42 AM on December 31, 2008


This is a good Pratchett book to read to mark the occasion.

SPOILERS




Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, gets sacked from his job and uses his status as a knight to form a regiment of his former watchmen - with hilarious results!
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:42 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's now the Indonesia/Papua New Guinea/East Timor/Malaysia MetaFilter Hour. Please adjust your spite accordingly!
posted by shadytrees at 6:53 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


TwoLeftFeet, would it make you feel better if the British government changed the term "knighthood" to "Department of Generally Cool People"? My wager is yes.

So what you're really asking is a term of semantics. Why do they call it a "knighthood" when actual medieval knights aren't around as such today?

Well, tradition, really. You could just as easily ask why we in the U.S. still do daylight savings time, or why we shoot of fireworks on July 4th or the like. Sure, shooting off fireworks on July 4th doesn't really make much sense if you think about it, but we still do it because "but we always do that! Why change it?"

So the answer to your question is -- the British government has been bestowing the term "knight" on super-cool people for over a thousand years now. Why change the name?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


If Paul Scofield ruled for no other reason - though of course he does - he would rule for being one of the few men dignified enough to decline his knighthood offer.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:05 AM on December 31, 2008


From what I can tell, it just means that someone thought highly enough of you to put you on a list of notable people worthy of a few hours of pomp and circumstance.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:09 AM on December 31, 2008


I think LS Lowry has the record for turning down awards - five times. And is therefor my hero. As are Iain Banks and Benjamin Zephaniah who I know both turned down gongs.

Getting the Keys To The City gets you a free ride on the buses (I think). Not sure about knighthoods, though it probably gets you a decent table in restaurants.

The idea of awards is supposedly to acknowledge service (so even though there's loads more showbizzy ones than there used to be - they are usually those that 'do a lot for charity'). Hence the number handed out to senior civil servants (as it's assumed they could have earned at lot more if they had a career in private industry). You tend to work your way up to a 'sir' via an CBE, OBE.

Oh and YANKZONE, to us, all that hand on heart, pledging allegiance, saluting the flag looks a bit odd from where we are standing
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:17 AM on December 31, 2008


Actually, twoleftfeet, I'd wager fairly safely that you've annoyed a large number of USians too. Your attitude here comes off as callous, condescending, rude and well...
Knighthood is an honor bestowed upon a citizen by the highest representative of their nation's government.... It's nice to be recognized, it's a bit of a coup.


Frankly, this seems completely disengenuious. Any child who has ever read childrens stories knows that a "knight" is something special (beyond e.g. the Congressional Medal of Honor). For example, Wikipedia's entry for Knight says "Knight is the English term for a social position originating in the Middle Ages. In the Commonwealth of Nations, knighthood is a non-heritable form of gentry."

To pretend that knighthood is little more than a national badge of merit is to ignore the fact that knighthoods were traditionally social leg-ups into an aristocratic society. Knighthoods originally came with grants of land which positioned the knight just under the Lord in the social ladder.

In feudal societies, knighthood meant much more than just a National Merit Badge. Today, when knighthoods are granted to everyone from Bono to Mick Jagger one can argue that they are simply badges. But these badges are still bestowed by an unelected aristocracy. They may not come with grants of land, but they still come with unusual prestige, a prestige whose conferral is foreign to the "callous, condescending, rude" minds of folks like me.

I did nothing more than ask for an explanation of the purpose of knighthood. Methinks thou dost protest too much.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:19 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see, now your snark was SERIOUS.
posted by smackfu at 7:22 AM on December 31, 2008


Right, so, standing corrected, you are/were trolling. Thanks for clarifying.

(Congrats Terry!)
posted by cavalier at 7:32 AM on December 31, 2008


Frankly, this seems completely disengenuious. Any child who has ever read childrens stories knows that a "knight" is something special (beyond e.g. the Congressional Medal of Honor).

The childrens' book version of knighthood is different from the actual reality of knighthood, though. Because -- it's the children's book version.

I mean, children's stories also tell us that spiders who live above pigs' pens are literate, or that running headlong into the wall at Charing Cross Station in London will get you onto track 9-3/4, but we don't take that as fact. Even when kids' stories may have elements of truth to them, or are based on "true stories", that doesn't mean they necessarily represent current reality.

...After all, kids' books also say that Columbus "proved the world was round," but the truth was that most learned people in Columbus' day knew that, and had known that since the time of the ancient Greeks. That "fact" itself came from a kids' book written by Washington Irving, who was trying to jazz his book up. Much of the kids' book depictions of knighthood suffer from the same "embellishment."

For example, Wikipedia's entry for Knight says "Knight is the English term for a social position originating in the Middle Ages. In the Commonwealth of Nations, knighthood is a non-heritable form of gentry."

The key words there are "originating in the Middle Ages." Definitions of words evolve, you know. The definition of the word "knight" has itself evolved since the Middle Ages -- yes, knights in the Middle Ages were considered more of a military position, but things have changed somewhat over the past 600 years.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's the French you have to be careful of.

The french are irrelevant. This is why they have such lovely wine, great food and beautiful stylish women.

Brits are always pissed. They will take a piss or take the piss. They will tell you to piss off while they go out on the piss. They will have a good piss up if the beer is not piss poor. It is all about piss on this island.

Then there is their joyful exuberance....
posted by srboisvert at 7:53 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Terry Pratchett was on the radio this morning; he confirmed that he had been discreetly asked in advance whether he'd accept. He said it felt a bit strange, but he couldn't see that a fantasy author should have any problem with being made a knight.

As I understand it the only advantages of being a knight are things like it's easier to get a table in restaurants, some people are slightly more inclined to overlook your debts and laugh at your jokes, and many attractive and otherwise sane women add 10 to 25 percent to your screwability score. In the USA, I hear, 25 to 50 percent.
posted by Phanx at 7:53 AM on December 31, 2008


In truly prescient form, Pratchett addressed the issue of whether and how he'd accept a knighthood about 18 months ago:
I think that making me a knight would be extremely silly, and would therefore embrace the idea in true Chestertonian fashion by taking it seriously. I would buy a suit of armour (and stand vigil over it, but since praying in a chapel is not my scene, maybe the Humanists would let me sit in their lobby and read Darwin. Maidens, dragons...oh, the possibilities are endless:-)
So that's something to look forward to.
posted by xchmp at 7:56 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


children's stories also tell us that spiders who live above pigs' pens are literate, or that running headlong into the wall at Charing Cross Station in London will get you onto track 9-3/4,

electroboy bestows upon EmpressCallipygos the Ancient and Distinguished Order of Irrelevant Pre-Adolescent Literature.
posted by electroboy at 7:57 AM on December 31, 2008


And you know, a quick wikipedia search would have answered the questions without the snark. Knighthood as it currently exists is just a way for committees to recognize various contributions.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:57 AM on December 31, 2008


Wow. I'm stuck in a thread where it's me vs. the British Empire. And I meant no harm. I'm so sorry. This will not make it better:

This whole idea of knighthood is something all Americans can want. And this is the time to discuss it. As previously mentioned: very early in the morning, US time, Metafilter is often a very British place to be. But later in the day, US time, Metafilter is often a very American place to be.

So I propose to you, my fellow Americans, that we institute a system whereby the President can bestow upon deserving members of the Nation the title of "Member of the American Empire". Such an award would be accompanied by the appropriate ceremonial ritual. For example, the recipient will bow thrice, touch his nose to the ground twice, then George Bush will tap the honored member with the Sword of Preemptive Strike and declare him Massive Member of the Union.

Thereafter, we will all pay homage to George Bush's selections. Men will bow and women will curtsy whenever a Lord or Lady of King Bush's choosing passes under our noses.

If it worked in Britain, it could work here.

Promised ridicule. Utterly ridiculous. Please don't kill me.

Happy New Year!
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:58 AM on December 31, 2008


> - As a Knight of the Realm you are allowed to "commandeer for purposes of War" any > horse not belonging to the Queen's stables.
>
> - You are able to claim (free from charge) overnight lodgings at any Inn or Tavern.
>
> - You become twelve times more radioactive than non-knights.


- You are allowed to treat pi as 3 for ease of calculation.

- You are granted a seat in Parliament Funkadelic.

- Lifetime supply of halvah. Nobody knows why.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:58 AM on December 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


Like others, I saw "Pratchett" in a post and my throat immediately and involuntarily started choking up as I was sure something horrible had happened and I was going to have to spend my New Years mourning the loss of one of my favorite writers. As it happens, it's something far, far cooler.

I have no idea if my American perception has any basis in the reality of what a Knighthood is used for, but it always seems to be bestowed on someone that England is simply (exceptionally) proud of; through their works or actions, and they want to offer some kind of signifier to everyone that this person has made an interesting contribution.

Either way, it a cause for celebration! Today, I will raise my glass to Vimes, Crowley, Death, and Dog, and to all the others who Sir Terry has created to help me pass the time.

Cheers!
posted by quin at 8:16 AM on December 31, 2008


still do daylight savings time,

That's just the sort of thing we Americans suspect you haughty holders-of-powerful-titles will try to pull! It's daylight saving time. No "s"! NO "S!" Even for Empresses!

No offense, EmpressCallipygos. I just felt that the tread needed some new foaming-at-the-mouth outrage to distract from twoleftfeet's crazy trolling or meta-trolling or whatever.

Also, as an American who is not confused about about why the UK grants knighthoods but who does like Terry Pratchett and also likes stories about mediæval knights, and quite enjoys the excuse to type æ, thanks, I'd like the honor of making the obligatory "knights who say neep" reference. Neep!

posted by desuetude at 8:18 AM on December 31, 2008


Under the preponderance of opinion equating my comments with trolling... I bow out.

No harm was meant. No animals were harmed.

May you all have the very best possible New Year.

But damn it. I was right!
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:25 AM on December 31, 2008


Back to (Sir!) Pterry, I too thought for sure that this was going to be an obit and I was about to be pissed. Sir Pterry is by far one of my favorite authors, even though he hasn't written anything about the witches in ages... *grumble, grumble*.
posted by bookwo3107 at 8:25 AM on December 31, 2008


Certainly there are parallel systems that already exist in the United States. Both the President and Congress can bestow civilian and military honors. I don't think we need a central government committee system that nominates hundreds of people every years. And perhaps I'm just missing it, but it seems to me that Knighthood these days comes with about the same levels of public respect as Honorary Doctorates.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:25 AM on December 31, 2008


Also, as an American who is not confused about about why the UK grants knighthoods but who does like Terry Pratchett and also likes stories about mediæval knights, and quite enjoys the excuse to type æ, thanks, I'd like the honor of making the obligatory "knights who say neep" reference. Neep!

They're actually saying "ni" rather than "neep". (grinning, doffing "pedant" hat)

And I've been trying for years to figure out what their NEW designation is -- I believe they're saying they are now the Knights who say "Ekki Ekki Ekki Ekki P'tang Zoo Bong Pimble Womble".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 AM on December 31, 2008


They're actually saying "ni" rather than "neep". (grinning, doffing "pedant" hat)

Of course they are, if you're going to use the British spelling. OR MAYBE I WAS JUST TESTING YOU.

On-topic New Year's Resolution: reread lotsa Pratchett.
posted by desuetude at 8:34 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a nice little Hogswatch Eve present. Yay.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:12 AM on December 31, 2008


FINALLY!

All my e-mails to the Queen have paid off!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:31 AM on December 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


twoleftfeet:But these badges are still bestowed by an unelected aristocracy.

No, they are bestowed by the elected government of the day. I'm familiar with the process in New Zealand, and I'm sure it's similar in the UK: the public can write to the Honours Secretariat, suggesting people who should receive honours. The Honours Secretariat does some research, sees if the person might be suitable, checks to see if they've turned down the offer before, then provides a list of names to the government, who will remove some, approve others, and probably have their own suggestions as well. The Honours Secretariat then contacts them to tell them they're going to offered an honour, and checks whether they wish to accept. Then the full list of names is published.

It's really no different from whatever honours you have in the US, it's just a different process, with different names. I don't see why the Brits should stop awarding knighthoods, just because the custom is old; if anything, that seems like a good reason to keep it.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


The only thing that annoys me about knighthoods is a) senior civil servants get them pretty much automatically, and b) I know a blistering buffoon of a villain who has just been given one. That aside, I'm all for them.

twoleftfeet: we give them because this whole damn island runs on centuries of tradition. We have, uh, trashcans older than your country that are still in daily use. We have job titles that run back about 1000 years. Add that to our gift for pomp and the ol' make-do-and-mend spirit, and you've got the perfect recipe for continuing to give out knighthoods.

Why on earth would we create a new type of honour when we have a 1000-year-old one ready and waiting to be repurposed? It means when we (and they are approved by democratically elected leaders) award them honorees are joining an tradition spanning centuries. That's better than some appalling New Britannia Medal of Social Inclusion or whatever shite we'd come up with now.

Sure, our whole system is messily encrusted with class and hidebound with tradition, but we've evolved to get where we are. We patch the system while it's running. We don't chuck hissy fits and hoy all the tea in the brink, like.

Also you think you'll piss us off by mocking the Queen? You really don't get Brits.
posted by bonaldi at 9:52 AM on December 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


I feel like an right git now because I genuinely intended no slur against twoleftfeet, who seems fine by me, and was merely picking up on something that tickled one of my prejudices but was tangential to his/her genuine question. Please direct any further animosity in this thread in my direction.
posted by Abiezer at 10:18 AM on December 31, 2008


*holds hands with Abiezer, twoleftfeet* Kumbayah my Lord, kumbayah...
posted by woodway at 10:45 AM on December 31, 2008


I feel like an right git now...

Nah, he was being a dildo. There's no need to keep popping back in to say "o noes you're misinterpreting....but one more thing, why are y'alls teeth so nasty?" and suchlike.

Besides, honorary knighthood is much less silly than the peerage system. At least for knighthood you actually have to do something.
posted by electroboy at 10:59 AM on December 31, 2008


Most Brits, even modernising liberals, have a lot of respect for the Queen, whence derives at least some respect for her associated institutions. That respect is unlikely to survive her though.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 11:00 AM on December 31, 2008


Infinite Jest: No, they are bestowed by the elected government of the day.

Well, technically the Queen does bestow the honors as the ceremonial head of state. It's one of the few forms of political power that she still has. Under the advice and consent of the elected government, the Queen performs some of the magical rituals that make political reality.

By the same extent Barak Obama is just Mr. Obama or Senator Obama until he says the magic words proscribed by Article II, Section 1.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:04 AM on December 31, 2008


Quite true (and the same in Commonwealth countries; it's the Governor-General). But as you say, it's only technical, it's purely symbolism. The Queen (or Governor-General) would not refuse to award an honour, nor would they refuse to sign legislation that was put before them, even though theoretically they could.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:05 PM on December 31, 2008


Okay, here is why Canada and other commonwealth countries have a Governer General and England still has a queen. The crown serves two purposes in the modern commonwealth. First and foremost, it knights (or bestows GG awards to) artists, scientists and other citizens of note rather than having to drag a real executive official, like the President of the US, away from his real job of running the country to deal with these issues. Only as a secondary function does the Queen or the GG ever arbitrate electoral disputes (like has recently happened in Canada and has only happened once before in our entire history as a country). Do we really need to elect these clowns? Isn't the several million dollars it costs to run an election better spent elsewhere, like electing actual politicians?
posted by Pseudology at 1:08 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


So if I'm understanding you correctly, the Canadian queen cost-benefit analysis goes something like this:

Benefits:
Prime minister spared arduous task of signing sheet of names decided by a committee.

Costs:
Unelected foreign Queen granted power to dissolve your parliament.
posted by Pyry at 1:40 PM on December 31, 2008


Well, technically the Queen does bestow the honors as the ceremonial head of state.

Well, technically she is the font of honor, which is a bit more than just tapping folks on the shoulder.

By the same extent Barak Obama is just Mr. Obama or Senator Obama until he says the magic words proscribed by Article II, Section 1.

Curiously, no. At the moment of expiration of Bush's term, Obama will become President of the United States, even if he has not yet uttered the oath of office. The oath is required before he begins executing his duties/exercising his powers, but not to bear the title of President, because that happens automatically.
posted by ubernostrum at 2:11 PM on December 31, 2008


Unelected foreign Queen granted power to dissolve your parliament.

But to apply that to the US, imagine how much better a place we'd be in if she had come in, taken a look at the Contract on America, and said "Newt, I don't think so."
posted by maxwelton at 2:12 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


And what if the Queen is Next Gingrich?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:16 PM on December 31, 2008


Costs:
Unelected foreign Queen granted power to dissolve your parliament.


We have a system for that two. It's called beheading. If you want to learn more bout the proccess, wiki Charles I and the English civil war.
posted by Pseudology at 2:34 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just came back to congratulate twoleftfeet on his adequate trolling.

His obvious enthusiasm for the New Year suggests his brain is running too cool for his own good. As the sun rises and the day gets warmer, he begins to get slower. If he only had an air conditioned helmet, he could troll full speed 24/7.
posted by dirty lies at 2:50 PM on December 31, 2008 [10 favorites]


I always take titles for people I've heard of as an official recognition of the affection that the public hold them in, and that's certainly the case here. Other awards (for charitable work, for example), I can't see as anything other than good.

As I get older, I have to admit I'm more impressed by the seriousness with which the top Royals execute their inherited responsibilities compared to the slapdash, cynical, self-interested way politicians use their elected powers. Charles no less than his mother, or his grandfather or great-grandfather, seems to take his responsibility very seriously, and I suspect that when it comes to it the monarchy will extend at least to his term.

They're people who have accidentally found themselves in an extraordinary position, and though I don't feel they are automatically entitled to my deference, I respect the fact that often they've gone out of their way to try to earn it.

(The Queen has personally known every major world leader plus every Commonwealth leader and a large number of the other ones since 1952. Imagine that.)

But in general, I don't think the British really do deference, not the way people in the United States do, at least. I always found the pomp and flummery that surrounds the office of the President, for example, to be slightly ridiculous. Possibly Idiot George has debased the office forever, but even the best American President is nothing more than a very good politician.

But anyway - hooray for Sir Pterry!
posted by Grangousier at 3:51 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Years ago, I went out for drinks in Manhattan one night with group of interns from various magazines. One person -- a friend of a coworker -- was from England, and had the perfect Bertie Wooster accent. Although he lived in NYC and held a job there, when we all got carded at the door of the bar he pretended to have no idea what was going on and gave the bouncer a credit card as a form of identification. The credit card was under the name Lord John Smithe-Davies (or whatever his name was). The bouncer was very impressed, and apologetic.

So... there's one use for a title. There might be others.

That said, as someone who's desperate for external validation, I'd love to be offered a damehood. (I know that as an American I wouldn't be allowed to accept it, but maybe it could be a little secret between me and the Queen.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:33 PM on December 31, 2008


This is fantastic. I interviewed him earlier in the month for my day job (editing a UK-based mag) and he is just about the most amusing person I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with in my life. And as a big fan of his books, too, I have to say it couldn't have happened to a nicer and more talented person. Well done!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:00 PM on December 31, 2008


My new year's resolution is to become a full British citizen. I can only hope that (as well as making me very happy) it pisses twoleftfeet off so much that he has some sort of aneurysm.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:01 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


That list of declinations is very interesting. I didn't know it was so large for one thing, but also that so many have declined twice.

I'm surprised how many times some individuals were offered something. I figured Her Majesty's Department of Gong Distribution had more spite than this:

L. S. Lowry, artist (...had previously declined appointment as OBE in 1955 and CBE in 1961 and a knighthood in 1968; holds the record for the most honours declined)
posted by vbfg at 5:38 PM on December 31, 2008


--ing wonderful!
posted by mmmleaf at 9:18 PM on December 31, 2008


Yes Sir!
posted by ersatz at 7:42 AM on January 1, 2009


bookwo3107 : Sir Pterry is by far one of my favorite authors, even though he hasn't written anything about the witches in ages... *grumble, grumble*.

They are written for young adults, & the older witches aren't exactly the focus, but they are set in the witches' bailiwick: were you aware of the Tiffany Aching books?
posted by Pronoiac at 10:18 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a knitting person (and therefore sheep fan), I was recommending the Tiffany Aching books to all my fiber friends with young daughters this summer in lieu of Twilight! And I made a point to thank him for writing them, too!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:49 AM on January 1, 2009


"Ekki Ekki Ekki Ekki P'tang Zoo Bong Pimble Womble".

...Ni.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:16 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


*waves tiny little flag*

Huzzah!
posted by Alnedra at 9:02 PM on January 1, 2009


Glad to hear it. Nothing but the best for PTerry.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:50 PM on January 1, 2009


I have a question about using "Sir" as a title: does it replace a professional title, like "Doctor"? I never would have considered calling someone "Sir", except that I read this thread a few days ago... since it's so tangential to the thread tho, I posted it in Ask.

(Thanks, and I'm assuming this doesn't count as a self-link -- sorry if i'm wrong on that tho)
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:22 AM on January 2, 2009


NikitaNikita - You're fine here. Relevant self-links are okay in comments, but any self-links in posts are a bannable offense, with a crowd jeering the poster & cheering on the appearance of the banhammer.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:46 AM on January 2, 2009


Congrats Sir Pterry!

A knighthood conveys no greater benefit than the title and your name in Burke's Peerage, really. My father-in-law was granted such an honour for service to the community (as a pioneering doctor in the highlands of Papua New Guinea) and has very little else to show for it (apart from the nice trip to Buck Palace and getting to meet the Queen, in 1978). Honours are pretty much titular only, nowadays - but that can still be pretty handy, by all accounts!
posted by goo at 9:51 AM on January 2, 2009


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