Terry Pratchett is particularly fond of knees.

More than once, he has used an expression describing an abundance of knees, or an excess of knees, or suddenly growign extra knees, to describe his characters.

While the concept is, visually, one I can understand, I feel like I am not quite getting the exact meaning of this 'knee-abundance' he writes about so often. Particularly in Mort, where the main character has an abundance of knees, and in Jingo, where a camel grows 'extra knees' as it speeds up. The former being used to describe an unfortunate trait that I don't quite get, and the latter simply describing the camel's sudden increase in speed.

Is this a regular expression in British English, where a person grows or has an abundance of knees? Or is Pratchett just making up an expression that manages to fly over my head?


Writers have their different favourite sources of imagery, and Pratchett likes knees. There's a few different uses here. Excess knees can represent losing control of your legs under the influence of adrenaline, and becoming ungainly. The extra knees of a camel also represents an ungainliness though a contradictory one (camels look ungainly when running, but certainly aren't). Mort on the other hand is a gangly, awkward and thin, so having both that ungainliness and also more prominent knees than most.

One could be critical of such repeated imagery, (it isn't the only such repetition in Pratchett) but then he is very prolific and while repetitive it does also help place regular readers into the familiar narrative. He does also make good mocking use of some over-use of imagery, both his own and of the fantasy genre generally.

  • (Mort isn't a skeleton. Mort is a human boy, apprentice to Death. Thought I'd point that out) – KChaloux Nov 25 '13 at 14:59
  • @KChaloux Right you are, it was some times since I read that one, and I was thinking of Death. The phrasing works even better in conjuring the image of a gangly young man though, so nice correction. – Jon Hanna Nov 25 '13 at 15:01
  • @John Hanna On the other hand, perhaps that IS the image Pratchett is trying to conjour, given the rest of the story. – Zibbobz Nov 25 '13 at 15:24
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    I think so, with a gangly person you can if not "see the skull beneath the skin" you can often see the knee bones and perhaps the ribs. It would pair him to his apprenticeship well. – Jon Hanna Nov 25 '13 at 15:27

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