Lung cancer and emphysema have scared you away from smoking? You like your teeth and jaw how they are? Nicotine patches and gum just won't satisfy the cravings? Fear not, oh addict, for there is another alternative. I'm talkin' 'bout snuff.

Feeding the nicotine monkey, 17th-century style

About two centuries after Sir Walt began importing the devil's own weed from the New World, it became the fashion for British gentlemen to insufflate finely-ground tobacco. The habit became widespread throughout Europe in the 18th century, but fell out of common practice by the end of the 19th. The snuff might be plain tobacco, or it might be scented with attar of roses, clove oil, or jasmine. It was usually carried in a snuffbox, which, like the snuff, could be either plain or fancy. Some were decorated with ivory inlays, elaborate paintings, or even gold and precious jewels. Snuff-takers would also carry a grater to grind their snuff finely, much as a cocaine addict will carry a razor blade.

What? Cocaine? Yes, the habits are very similar, though snuff-takers didn't use mirrors, jewel cases, credit cards, razor blades, and straws or rolled-up currency. They might snort a pinch from their snuffboxes, or they might carry around a glass or ivory vial with a small spoon attached to the lid. Otherwise, the habits are much the same; both involve snorting stimulants, both are highly addictive, and both eventually destroy the septum and sinuses.

Does anyone still do this? Well, my own mother used to use the stuff back in grad school. Since she was at the time viciously addicted to nicotine, and smoking and chewing tobacco were both strictly forbidden in class, she would take snuff from one of the aforementioned ivory vials, causing everyone to think she had a raging cocaine habit. I myself have done the stuff, once, and found it unpleasant; while the nicotine rush is certainly nice, it's almost as irritating to the nose as sniffing ground pepper.

Where to get it

There's not much demand for the stuff nowadays, so you'll have to do a bit of digging. Brit-noders may have more luck, since it seems to be a bit more popular on the other side of the pond. Otherwise, try your local tobacconist or head shop, or you might try making your own with some dry tobacco and a coffee or pepper grinder. Happy snorting, fellow addict.

Sources:
"snuff" Encyclopædia Britannica
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=70185
Personal experience

Constructive criticism is welcome, as always. Thanks to wick for the inspiration.

"Ah, your grace, it is good to see you back at last. How went your holidays, apart from lawless actions, ad hoc activities, fights, chases on both land and sea and indeed freshwater, unauthorized expenditure and, of course, farting in the halls of the mighty?"

-Lord Vetinari

"Point of detail, my lord: didn't fart, may have picked nose inadvertently."

-Sam Vimes

Snuff is the thirty-mumblety-th (by Io, it's actually the fortieth!) Discworld book. It is a City Watch novel (or Sam Vimes novel, depending on your storyline nomenclature). For those of you to whom this means nothing, I strongly recommend doing some reading on the subject of Discworld and Terry Pratchett before continuing. I'll try to avoid spoilers for this book, but will be unable to avoid some spoilers for previous City Watch novels - so if you haven't read those, you might want to skip this review until you have.

When we last saw Sam Vimes in a novel of his own, it was the end of Thud! Snuff seems to pick up perhaps four or five years later. Young Sam is six, curious, friendly, and thanks to the popular children's author Mrs. Beedle, obsessed with the subject of poo. In other words, a healthy lad. Sam Vimes, at the very start of the book, is being packed off to a country estate for a holiday by his loving and firm wife Sybil Ramkin. In point of fact, it is the Ramkin country estate, which means it's now Sam's country estate and, despite his iron-clad populist sentiments, he is Lord of the Manor. Bereft of bacon sandwiches, forced to eat muesli for breakfast, Sam dutifully accompanies his family out of Ankh-Morpork into the *shudder* countryside.

Of course, Sam Vimes is a copper. And one thing coppers know: No matter where you go, there's crime. And where there's a crime, there's criminals. And when you see them, they'll run - and you must chase. That's what being a copper is.

The City Watch novels are, on the surface and simultaneously: a series of lovely and amusing detective stories; police procedurals for J.R.R. Tolkien and Douglas Adams fans; social commentary on historical London society, English and Fantasy sociology in general. One thing they're also about, which is obvious in one way but not so obvious in others, is the definition of humanity.

Not in the biological sense, but in the civic sense. Sam Vimes, a born and bred bigot (although mostly against anyone who's not a copper) finds himself as time goes on adding various races to the City Watch rolls. Dwarves, trolls, werewolves, vampires, gnomes, even accountants. There are stories about what it means to be human; what it means to be dwarf, and what it means to be troll. So far, there has been no creature so mean that Sam Vimes has not eventually (and with increasing speed as time goes on) realized that he considers them more human than, say, the Assassin's Guild. In the last Discworld novel, even the dreaded Orc is addressed.

And this book is no different.

There is a race that we haven't seen much of in Discworld. The goblin. They're the lowest of the low; so low that they themselves are utterly convinced they're worthless. Some of them work for Harry King, near Ankh-Morpork, but most of them live in caves, slowly practicing their religion/obsession of unggue. They don't generally bother anyone.

The problem is that some folks up on the surface think that goblins are basically chicken-stealing vermin with no rights. Rich folks. Rich folks with some power who don't live in Ankh-Morpork, where Lord Vetinari's reach seems far away and where the Law has no jurisdiction.

The problem for some of those folks is that, as it turns out, they live near Sam Vimes. And they're about to find out that the Law, in the hands of a certain A-M copper, has a very grimly liberal view of what its jurisdiction is.

As Discworld has progressed, and as Pratchett has become more and more comfortable with his world, the books have flowered. Whereas the early books are satire of standard fantasy fiction tropes, linear narrow novels in themselves, the more recent works have taken on the entire structure of society both within Discworld and within our own. Their reach has increased as has their insight. As we read about more and more inhabitants of the Disc, and read further into their lives, we read more about our own.

Snuff is a Big Book, in that sense - it's about Big Issues, like what it means to be human and what it means when that decision isn't your own. It's about the continuing evolution of Sam Vimes along a well-defined road he's been traveling for some time. But it's about other things, too - it's about pushing the boundaries of our exploration out past Ankh-Morpork but not towards Lancre or the Rim or the Hub or the other places we've seen - but into the Countryside.

It's paced well. Although you know where it's going from page three or so, it takes you there at its own speed - not rushing, not stalling, but letting the story flower. The characters - well, you know most of them. The Watch, in the persons of Captain Carrot, Sergeant Angua, Fred Colon, Nobby Nobbs, Cheery Littlebottom, A.E. Pessimal and even Wee Mad Arthur, put in more-than-cameos. As Discworld progresses and flowers, the characters seem to be showing up across books more frequently - William de Worde is here, and the Nac Mac Feegle get a mention (Crivens!).

What happens in the book doesn't suddenly shake the world, but it certainly grabs hold of an already-shaken tree and gives it a really good wobble.

It's not as funny as some Discworld books, although it isn't without humor. As Pratchett has progressed into his Industrial Revolution books, the humor has become less slapstick and more intellectually satirical - and I'm OK with that.

In sum: strongly recommended if you like Discworld. If you're a Sam Vimes fan, you won't need me to tell you to just go buy it already.

Snuff
by Terry Pratchett
416 pp (U.S. Version)
Harper Publishing (October 11, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0062011848

Snuff (?), n. [Cf. G. schnuppe candle snuff, schnuppen to snuff a candle (see Snuff, v. t., to snuff a candle), or cf. Snub, v. t.]

The part of a candle wick charred by the flame, whether burning or not.

If the burning snuff happens to get out of the snuffers, you have a chance that it may fall into a dish of soup. Swift.

 

© Webster 1913.


Snuff, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Snuffed (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Snuffing.] [OE. snuffen. See Snuff of a candle Snuff to sniff.]

To crop the snuff of, as a candle; to take off the end of the snuff of.

To snuff out, to extinguish by snuffing.

 

© Webster 1913.


Snuff (?), v. t.[Akin to D. snuffen, G. schnupfen, schnuppen, to snuff, schnupfen a cold in the head, schnuppen to snuff (air), also, to snuff (a candle). Cf. Sniff, Snout, Snub, v. i.]

1.

To draw in, or to inhale, forcibly through the nose; to sniff.

He snuffs the wind, his heels the sand excite. Dryden.

2.

To perceive by the nose; to scent; to smell.

 

© Webster 1913.


Snuff, v. i.

1.

To inhale air through the nose with violence or with noise, as do dogs and horses.

Dryden.

2.

To turn up the nose and inhale air, as an expression of contempt; hence, to take offense.

Do the enemies of the church rage and snuff? Bp. Hall.

 

© Webster 1913.


Snuff, n.

1.

The act of snuffing; perception by snuffing; a sniff.

2.

Pulverized tobacco, etc., prepared to be taken into the nose; also, the amount taken at once.

3.

Resentment, displeasure, or contempt, expressed by a snuffing of the nose.

[Obs.]

Snuff dipping. See Dipping, n., 5. -- Snuff taker, one who uses snuff by inhaling it through the nose. -- To take it in snuff, to be angry or offended. Shak. -- Up to snuff, not likely to be imposed upon; knowing; acute. [Slang]<-- also, competent, able to do [the task] -->

 

© Webster 1913.

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