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The recipe to “Make a man” – origins?

Hullo, Geeple. Here’s some ridiculous ‘bonus’ content.

Joanna’s right – this subject is a great demonstration of what happens when I want to find something really specific and can’t stop myself from falling down the rabbit hole. So, I thought I’d add a bit of commentary to my page of notes. I think you’ll enjoy the extracts I managed to dig up. They seem like good supplementary material to Wintersmith.


Here’s the newsgroups post that sent me on a wild goose chase.

One of Daibhid Ceanaideach’s annotations reads:

“‘iron enough to make a nail'”
Google suggests that this originates with Professor C.E.M.
Joad, but my Google-fu doesn’t extend to where he said it. The
last three lines, mentioned by Tiffany later, don’t seem to be

Terry Pratchett replies:

Believe me or not, but I’ve never heard that version. When I was a kid–
and still now — you get / got these ‘The human body contains enough
iron to make a nail’ articles[1], so I dug up a list of ‘ingredients’
and assembled the song from scratch, finding suitable uses that would
work in Tiffany’s world. On the farm, sulphur would be a pest control
and fumigant, for example.

There is in fact not a huge overlap with the only Joad version I can
find on-line, and I doubt if he would have countenanced the last three

[1] An Edwardian version says: “It would take the iron in the blood of
thousand men to make a ploughshare.”

I do believe him, obviously, but that wasn’t going to stop me tracking down the version to which Daibhid referred. I love searching for things like this. Hearing that someone else tried and failed? That’s red-rag-to-a-bull stuff.

C.E.M. Joad

I’d never heard of Prof. Joad, but was immediately fascinated when I googled his name. The wiki preview reads:

Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad was an English philosopher, author, teacher and broadcasting personality. He appeared on The Brains Trust, a BBC Radio wartime discussion programme. He popularised philosophy and became a celebrity, before his downfall in a scandal over an unpaid train fare in 1948.

I don’t have time to write about him at length, but I highly recommend reading about him if you haven’t already.

Interest piqued, I had a go at the obvious search terms and found nothing but…

Christian sites

Superficial googling was, indeed, a wash. It turns up sparse and contradicting versions of this quote from Joad, and usually paints him as a dreadful materialist cynic who didn’t take the soul into account when reeling off the ‘ingredients list’. This seemed unlikely.

I was then hindered by a religious book which not only misquoted the man but pointed me to the wrong book. (WHY?!) This took a while to confirm, as some older books on archive.org are hard to search – the OCR gets stuff wrong, and I didn’t know exactly the wording I was after. Still, I feel that I enriched myself. Somewhat.

The Brains Trust

I began a needle-in-a-haystack search through some promising Brains Trust recordings. For example:

I had to give up on this line of enquiry before the 1940s BBC accent settled permanently into my inner monologue.


Finally, and I’m afraid I really can’t remember how, I came across this Faraday Paper by Michael Poole, whose footnotes finally led me to…

A Formula for a Human Being.

The extract below is copied and pasted straight from C.E.M Joad’s Philosophy For Our Times (1940) pp146-147.

Let us now extend our consideration to the whole which is a human being ; for a human being also may be regarded as a collection of parts. There is, for example, a celebrated prescription for the constituents of a human body, quoted by Mr. B. A. Howard in his book The Proper Study of Mankind :

Enough water to fill a ten-gallon barrel ;

enough fat for seven bars of soap ;

carbon for 9,000 lead pencils ;

phosphorus for 2,200 match-heads ;

iron for one medium-sized nail ;

lime enough to whitewash a chicken coop ; and

small quantities of magnesium and sulphur.

Take these ingredients, combine them in the right proportions in the right way and the result, apparently, is a man. This, at least, is one of the things that a man is. There is, in other words, a scientific formula for the production of human bodies as there is for the production of any other commodity. And, if it be objected that the formula applies only to the body, and that the mind has been left out of the recipe, we have only to go to the biologists and geneticists for information as to genus, species, race, initial inheritance, and distribution of chromosomes and genes, and to the psychologists for a statement of inherited disposition, temperament, mental structure and unconscious complexes, and the mind and character can be brought within the bounds of the formula. Now just as, if you know the formula for the ingredients of a chemical compound, you know how the compound will behave in such and such conditions, so, from the standpoint of science, if you know the formula for the ingredients of a man’s bodily and mental constitution, you can tell how a human being will behave in such and such circumstances ; for, directly you take it to pieces and examine the parts, each part as we have seen appears to be completely determined by the others. The human being, then, as science conceives him, is a determined function of the constituents of his body and mind.

As you can see just from this extract, the lazy bloggers did Joad a big disservice. Read more of the surrounding chapters and you’ll realise just how big. The prof was many things, but he was not a caricature of a narrow-minded chemist.

An Interesting Prescription

The extract below is painstakingly typed (copy/paste didn’t go well due to image quality!) from B.A. Howards’ The Proper Study of Mankind (1933), pp17-19.

A Dr T.E. Lawson has recently published an interesting prescription. If you take
Enough water to fill a ten-gallon barrel ;

enough fat for seven bars of soap ;

carbon for 9,000 lead pencils ;

phosphorus for 2,200 match-heads ;

iron for one medium-sized nail ;

lime enough to whitewash a chicken coop ; and

small quantities of magnesium and sulphur

you get, apparently, a Man. That is, indeed, what he is, or one of the things he is: a block of carbon, phosphorus, iron and a few more ingredients, bound together with a liberal dose of water. In individuals the proportions vary– a Mussolini, for instance, would perhaps have more iron; others may contain more soft soap. To make a man, you just mix these things together in the right proportions and in the right way. That’s all.

An attractive theory…

A physicist would put the matter rather differently. He would say that man is, in part, an immense collection of minute electric charges, whirling round in complicated orbits; and that the rest of him, by far the larger part of his bulk, is mere emptiness. The chemist thinks of man as being chiefly water and the physicist thinks of him as chiefly a vacuum; and they are both right. It is true, for instance, that if man’s body were analysed in a chemistry laboratory, something like the above list of products would result. It would be far more difficult, but conceivably possible, to reverse the process, and by assembling these elements in the right way to construct a synthetic man. But there is one good reason why no one is likely to waste his time in attempting it. For the result would be a dead man. No one has yet constructed in a chemistry laboratory any form of life at all. It is only Nature’s laboratory which has produced a living man.

Chemical analysis is a good servant but a bad master. Applied to the human body, it can find out some useful things; it can assist in the study and prevention of disease. But as a method of finding out anything about the essential nature of man it is almost valueless. It is researching in a field where its writ does not run.

We might as well ask the chemist to discover the real nature of a poem. His analysis will deal with the paper on which it is printed and the ink employed; he will find little difference between Blake’s Milton and The Vicar of Bray. Another kind of analysis would be needed to bring out the difference; an analysis of metre, rhythm, style and content. But something would elude even that kind of enquiry. For the value of Milton depends on two things; what Blake was trying to express when he wrote it, and what it evokes in our minds when we read it; and that depends on the whole past history of our minds.

So it is with man. He is certainly a compound of carbon and iron; but he is more than that. He is also a bundle of inherited dispositions; a student; a citizen; an artist; a shipwright; a statesman; and a dreamer. Some people regard him as an enterprising ape; others, a a fallen angel; still others think that both ape and angel are inextricably mixed in him, that he is at once a quarrelsome bit of protoplasm and the Image of God. Externally, he is a member of a complicated human society, eking out his living on the surface of a globe; internally, he is a mass of swarming fears and hopes. In short, he is a living thing. An as such he is in a state of flux; he is evolving; what he was once he is not now; what he is now he will not be a million years hence. This time of entity does not yield up its secrets under chemical analysis.

Flash forward to now…

I’m finally starting this last bit at 22:25 on 17 December 2023. The podcast goes out at midnight. I have created drama. Not purposefully, but let’s lean into it. Can I find a closer-to-primary source than the eloquent B.A. Howard before we all turn into pumpkins?

Right. So. We’re looking for the recipe from a Dr T.E. Lawson.

First I find a reference from the miscellaneous stories in an Australian newspaper – The Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser, 21 January 1932:


What constitutes a man’s body?

A London paper says that Dr. T. E. Lawson’s prescription for a man aroused some interest.

With these ingredients you get an Einstein or village idiot, according as
you arrange the ingredients. A pugilist, no doubt, will require a little more water, and a jockey a little less fat: but that is the stuff of humanity.

Item No. 3 seems to indicate that man was predestined to authorship.

I don’t have time to find out why the pugilist jibe is funny. I’m sorry. I’ll look later.

I find the same story, almost word-for-word, in The Reflector, an Indiana newspaper, also from 1932. Same again in the Manchester Evening Herald.

I’m starting to think this is a bit of 1930s viral content with no proper source.

Over to the British Newspaper Archive. Searching “Dr T.E. Lawson” throws up too many random entries, so I try the more specifically grim “enough fat for seven bars of soap”.

I don’t have a subscription at the moment, so I’ll take what I can from previews.

… Dr. Thomas Lawson, are all the ingredients of the body of an average man of 10 stone Ten gallons of ivater enough fat for seven bars of soap; carbon for 9,000 lead pencils; phosphorus for 2,200 match heads magnesium for one dose of salts iron for one m …

Ooh. That one, from The Bystander, is dated 1931. We have a first name. We’re closer! It’s now 23:23.

…And this one, from The Grantham Journal, is 1927! OK, fine. I’ll log in. Use up one of my precious free page views.

Oh, bloody hell. This version has a different originator!

The Rev. A. P. Gower-Rees preaching on Sunday at Bolton Parish Church, Bradford, referred to the evolution controversy and, stressing the importance of the soul compared with the body, said : —

“Take the average policeman, height anything from five feet ten inches to six feet, and weighing about 160lb. In that twelve stone you have enough fat to make seven bars of soap, enough magnesium to make a dose of magnesia, enough potassium to fire a boy’s toy cannon, and enough lime to whitewash a hen-coop. With a little sulphur thrown in. So that six feet would cost four bob in a chemist’s shop– though the wholesale price would be about 2s. 3d.”

Rev. A.P. Gower Rees… gotta be this guy, right? The ‘football parson”. Educated in Cambridge, worked up north until he moved to Canada. That’s the fella.

It’s 23:37. If I want to get this formatted to be even slightly legible before midnight I need to stop. Argh. I may resume this search another time — if you have any more luck before then, please let me know!

The recipe to “Make a man” – origins? Read More »

Bad poetry with chatgpt

Supplementary material for E110 – Wee Free Men Pt 3.

Please write me a poem on The Tay Bridge Disaster

Oh, the night was dark and stormy,
As the train approached the Tay,
With passengers unaware,
Of the danger on their way.

The bridge stood tall and proud,
Spanning the water below,
But the wind was fierce and howling,
And the waves were starting to grow.

The train made its way across,
As the bridge began to sway,
And the passengers felt the fear,
As the structure gave way.

The water below was black,
And the screams were deafening loud,
As the train plunged into the depths,
And the tragedy unfolded.

The Tay Bridge Disaster,
A moment frozen in time,
A tribute to the power of nature,
And the fragility of mankind.

We remember those who lost their lives,
On that fateful winter’s night,
And honor the bravery of those,
Who fought to make things right.

May we learn from this tragedy,
And never forget the cost,
Of underestimating the forces of nature,
And the lives that can be lost.

Can you make it reminiscent of the style of William McGonagall?

Certainly, here’s a version that pays homage to the unique style of William McGonagall:

‘Twas a dark and stormy night,
The train was crossing Tay,
The passengers on board, so brave,
But they were doomed that day.

The bridge was high and proud,
It spanned the waters wide,
But the wind was fierce and howling,
And the waves were on the rise.

The train kept going forward,
As the bridge began to sway,
And passengers could hear the creaking,
As it gave way that day.

The water below was black,
And the screams were deafening loud,
As the train plunged into depths,
And tragedy did abound.

The Tay Bridge Disaster,
A moment we won’t forget,
The power of nature on display,
And lives that were lost, alas.

We mourn the ones who passed away,
On that fateful winter’s night,
And honor the brave who tried to save,
And make things right.

May we learn from this sad tale,
Of nature’s fury and might,
And always remember the cost,
Of lives that can be lost in the night.

Can you write a poem about Tan Lin in the style of William McGonagall?

Certainly! Here’s a poem about Tan Lin in the style of William McGonagall:

Oh, Tan Lin, the writer, so wise,
His work, it truly mesmerizes,
From poetry to essays profound,
His voice, it echoes all around.

He sees the world in a unique way,
And through his writing

Sorry, I meant Tam Lin

I see, my apologies! Here’s a revised poem about Tam Lin in the style of William McGonagall:

Oh, Tam Lin, a tale of old,
A Scottish legend, oft retold,
Of a fair maiden and a brave knight,
And a love that withstood dark night.

In Carterhaugh, the maiden went,
And there she met a handsome gent,
Tam Lin, a knight of fairy lore,
Who captured her heart evermore.

But Tam Lin was not all he seemed,
For he was bound by fairy fiends,
And only by a maiden fair,
Could he be freed from their cruel snare.

The maiden, with her love so true,
Took hold of Tam Lin, and held on through,
As fairy knights and maidens danced,
And the wind whistled and fate advanced.

But with her wit and steadfast heart,
The maiden won her love from the fairy’s part,
And Tam Lin was freed at last,
From the fairy queen’s hold, so fast.

Oh, Tam Lin, a tale so dear,
Of love and magic, and no fear,
A legend that will forever shine,
In the hearts and minds of all time.

Bad poetry with chatgpt Read More »

Ray Bradbury telling us to explode

Picking up Zen in the Art of Writing, I found two instances of “go explode!” advice within the first few pages.

I have come up with a new simile to describe myself lately. It can be yours.

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me.

After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.

Now, it’s your turn. Jump!

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing, Preface

The history of each story, then, should read almost like a weather report: Hot today, cool tomorrow. This afternoon, burn down the house. Tomorrow, pour cold critical water upon the simmering coals. Time enough to think and cut and rewrite tomorrow. But today—explode—fly apart—disintegrate! The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, reading your story, will catch fire, too?

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing, The Joy of Writing

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Terry Pratchett on Video Games

The various sources (articles, interviews, forum posts) I’ve found relating to Terry Pratchett’s views on video games.

Terry Pratchett – Going by the Book – PC Gamer 1993 interview – PDF

The E-Mail Interview – Terry Pratchett – PC Zone (January 1995) – PDF

‘Help! I’ve been spotted!’ Terry Pratchett on Thief, his favourite video game – The Guardian 

Thief newsgroup (Pratchett’s contributions) – alt.games.thief-dark-project

Terry Pratchett – Online Radio Interview with the Author – The Author Hour

The story behind the Oblivion mod Terry Pratchett worked on | Eurogamer.net 

A tribute to Terry Pratchett | PC Gamer 

Turning Terry Pratchett’s Discworld into Audiobooks [bit about theme music being inspired by Oblivion] – YouTube

Terry Pratchett on Video Games Read More »

Transcript: 1: The Colour of Magic Pt. 1 (Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry, Zlorf Flannelfoot)

>>Show notes

Soft open

Joanna: how are we going to reduce the reflected sound of underground spirits now, Francine?

—Divider sound effect—

Francine: how often do you think you reread Pratchett books? Like, without us being on a deadline like this?

Joanna: I tend to treat them like palette cleansers – like, it’s very rare I do like a full reread. But say I’ve just finished reading a trilogy or I’ve just read a particularly heavy book and a want something that’s not new afterwards then I’ll read like a Pratchett book or a couple of Pratchett books. So, I’ll read, say, a few books from the Guards, a few books from the Witches. What about you?

Francine: Do you know what, I’m not sure I’ve ever done a full read through from beginning to end. But I would go and read like three or four at a time maybe twice a year. Something like that.

Then I’d revisit the favourites another couple of times. Like Night Watch or… Maskerade I was really into reading like a lot at one point. And… oh, The Last Continent is I think my favourite next to Night Watch. In fact, I would flip between them depending on mood. Like, I think Night Watch is probably objectively the ‘better’ book, but The Last Continent is one of the few books that still makes me absolutely belly laugh as an adult.

Like, as a teenager I feel it was easier to get those belly laughs out. But now the book has to be incredibly funny to make me do that and The Last Continent still is, even after so many rereads.

01:36 Joanna: yeah, I have to say, I’m more likely to get the belly laugh from one I haven’t reread for a while. Because in something like Night Watch… or Monstrous Regiment was one I reread a lot, that’s a bit of a – I think I described it the other day as ‘I’ll hold a book up in front of my face and then a film plays’. I’ve read it so many times and I know all the beats and what happens.

But one I haven’t reread for a while will suddenly surprise me with a joke I’d forgotten, or one I’ve missed before and haven’t got. So, like,  I hold off on rereading Soul Music too much for that reason. Its one of my absolute favourites and I love it because “oh, that reference!”

Francine: Right, and you don’t want it to become just a movie playing in front of your eyes. Yeah. That’s why it’s been quite cool rereading this with a stack of post-it notes.

Joanna: and actually stop and think about what you’ve read and be like “is that something I can talk about? Is that worth talking about?”

Francine: yeah. And like whittling it down because it’s like… “oh, I love this line! Oh, I love this line!” like, if I’m reading a Pratchett book in the same room as Jack, I am unbearable because a) he does not really care for Discworld and b) knowing that fully, I will still read out passages every… hmm, two and a half minutes or so, probably?


02:53 Francine: right, ok, let’s do, like, the podcast or something.

Joanna:  Oh, shall we make a podcast?

Francine: yeah, let’s make a podcast.

—Intro music—

Main episode

Joanna: Hello and welcome to The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret, a podcast in which we are reading and recapping every book from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series one at a time, in chronological order.

Joanna: I’m Joanna Hagan.

Francine: And I’m Francine Carrel.

Francine: The first book that we have read in an analytical fashion to regurgitate at you is The Colour of Magic, which is the first in a kind of – what’s it called – a couplet instead of a trilogy? Couplet. I like that, so let’s say that. Um, a couplet of books, The Colour of Magic and  The Light Fantastic, which were released in the early 80s.

Joanna: 1983, I think?

Francine: 1983 for The Colour of Magic. The book itself is split into almost four novellas. And so we’re going to do just the first one of those today, and then in the next episode the middle two, and then in the last episode probably, like, the last one.

Francine: The third episode, rather than the last. Unless we really get sick of each other in the next two hours.

Francine: So, yeah, the basic idea is to recap these books and chat about some concepts within and just try and get a different perspective on things?

Joanna: Yeah. Talk about why we love them; as much as this comes from a place of love, maybe highlight a couple of things that… could be done better or that… well, not could be done better.

Francine: You’re so reluctant to say that, but yes it’s OK to say “could be done better”, because he got better at writing! I’m sure he would go back and do it better if he had the chance.

Joanna: OK, yeah. Maybe look at it from a slightly different perspective.

00:04:38: Joanna: So, a note on spoilers for this podcast. This is a spoiler-light podcast, so obviously heavy spoilers for this book.

Francine: Yes. This is a spoiler podcast in that respect.

Joanna: Yes. However, for the series as a whole we’re going to avoid revealing any major future plot points and anything that happens in the final Discworld book, The Shepherd’s Crown, we won’t be revealing until we get there.

Francine: Yes. Because there are people who are holding off reading it for various reasons.

Joanna: And hopefully those people might come on the journey with us.

Francine: [laughing] Oh my god, you sounded so wanky.

Joanna: I was about to say it sounded wanky, God damn it, Francine. Right, so.

Francine: Yeah, sorry. Read the blurb.

Joanna: The Colour of Magic. On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…

Francine: Do you think that Pratchett wrote his own blurbs?

Joanna: Reading that? Nah.

Francine: Do you not think so?

Joanna: Would Pratchett refer to The Luggage as having “dear little legs”?

Francine: Hmm… no, I suppose not. I dunno, maybe if he’s trying to sound…

Joanna: The main reason I think he didn’t is that for some reason THE EDGE of the planet is in capitals, and at no point in the book is it ever referred to as THE EDGE, it’s always The Rim.

Francine: Oh, yeah, good point. Hmm. I believe you, then. If you have any knowledge to the contrary, listeners, then please @ Joanna. It’s fine, I don’t read them.

Transcript: 1: The Colour of Magic Pt. 1 (Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry, Zlorf Flannelfoot) Read More »

Discworld Halloween 2015 – Bad Pictures of a Good Night

All right, yes. Fine. Look. It was 2015. I had a cheap phone. We were both drunk. Half of these were dug out of a WhatsApp backup folder. It’s the best I can do.

Discworld Halloween 2015 – Bad Pictures of a Good Night Read More »

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