All through the Discworld series (well, the 'Witches' story arc, at least), whenever Margat refers to her former mentor, Goodie Whemper, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg chorus "may-she-rest-in-peace".

For example, in Lords and Ladies,

"I don't know what it means," said Magrat. "I mean, old Goodie Whemper-"

"-maysherestinpeace-" the older witches chorused.

"-told me once that the circles were dangerous, but she never said anything about why."

To me this seems as if it's one of the obscure references that Terry Pratchett peppers his books with, such as Granny Weatherwax continually munging the 'a man walked into a bar and asked for a alligator sandwich' joke right the way through Witches Abroad.

However, this occurs across so many books that I'm wondering if it's something more than just an obscure reference.

Why did Goodie Whemper have to rest in peace?

  • 5
    Because she ded
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 9:44
  • 4
    @Valorum come, now. In a free-thinking world such as the Discworld she should at least have the freedom to turn in her grave.
    – user32390
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 9:45
  • 1
    Given the alternative?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 10:09
  • 1
    Possibly because she's only recently dead and Magrat keeps using the name without saying it. Tradition is important after all.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 15:40
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    Always thought it was akin to Muslims using "peace be upon him" when using the name of Mohammad or Jews using "of blessed memory" when referring to some prior sage.
    – Marakai
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 23:32

2 Answers 2


It's just part of the witches psychology (headology?) and something observed about old ladies.

It's a respectful thing to say about a departed friend/colleague by acknowledging that she's dead and gone and we're all very sorry about that, but has been said so many times it becomes like a little mantra, indicating respect, but avoiding a digression and conversational tangent on remembrance and how much she's missed.

British old ladies tend to use it as a conversational shorthand 'So I saw Dotty the other day...' 'Poor Dotty' 'Yes, poor Dotty; and she said...' as both parties are acknowledging the various problems of Dotty.

So 'Maysherestinpeace' becomes a shorthand for 'She's left us and she deserves her rest, but she's dead and gone so let's not waste time reminiscing.' Being witches, this might also have the addition 'And because she's resting peacefully she won't come back and cause any more trouble for us.'


It's all about tradition

Lancre, and that general area is modelled after what it's known in England as the west country, which because of its sparsely laid out towns, cities and villages has managed to stay more isolated than other places in the UK. Typically, villages folk would be more superstitious and cling closer to tradition than other areas of the UK, such as London (which would, by analogy be Ankh-Morpork).

Typically this can mean saying certain phrases without knowing why, and then these phrases degenerate into words only locals should understand.

Here're some examples of the sort of phrases I mean:

Berrin - funeral (burying) Rumped (up) - huddled up, usually from the cold; phrase "rumped up like a winnard" Zackley - exactly

And also, from elsewhere:

Allernbatch (Devon) - old sore chinny reckon (North Somerset) - I do not believe you in the slightest (from older West Country English ich ne reckon 'I don't reckon/calculate' hucky duck (Somerset, particularly Radstock) - Aqueduct

Can you see how a phrase, meant in all reverence, can go from 'may she great in peace' to an almost nonsense sounding concatenation of maysherestinpeace. I think Terry Pratchett is sparring the reader from having to decipher sincerity more like maysee resinpeese which is how I'd imagine there's phrase ending up.

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    It's not the west country, it's Lancashire. It's even in the name.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 15:21
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    Some reference as to why it has to be Lancashire for you: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendle_witches. Remember that in Good Omens he specifically mentions Device and Nutter, that's where his witches come from.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 15:44
  • I figure the country side effect still counts. Also, I figured The Chalk was more southern.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 15:46
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    Yes, the horse is probably the one at Uffington, that being the horse that looks like what a horse be rather than what a horse looks like, though there's reference to probably the Cerne Abbas Giant as well, most other chalk men being more polite.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 15:53

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