Study Guide

The Color of Magic Language and Communication

By Terry Pratchett

Language and Communication

What qualifies someone as a witch? Is it the way someone worships, their ability to cast spells, the way they look, or the fact that they weigh the same as a duck? As this famous Monty Python sketch shows us, comedy often displays the ridiculous nature of words, definitions, and language for some gut-busting laughs. And Pratchett's The Color of Magic continues this wonderful tradition of British comedy.

Much of the comedy found in this novel centers on the hilarity of definitions, body language, the ambiguity of language, and the unspoken aspects of our spoken communication. Language and communication are the common denominator between our world, the Discworld, the Dark Ages, and every world in-between.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Pick your favorite gag, pun, joke, jest, wisecrack, or witticism. Why is it your favorite, and how does the novel use language to achieve its humor?
  2. How do you see Rincewind's gift of languages serve him throughout the novel? Does it hinder him in anyway?
  3. Does Twoflower's difficulty with the language of Ankh-Morpork reveal anything about his character (either in what he does know, doesn't know, or both)?

Chew on This

Unlike many fantasy stories, which go for an archaic flavor of English, The Color of Magic uses a very modern—or, you know, circa 1980s—version of English including idioms, slang, and colloquialisms.

A communication breakdown is usually responsible for the troubles in Rincewind's life, whether resulting from Twoflower not knowing a kidnapping when he sees one, or Rincewind being mistaken as a hero.