Terry Pratchett wrote in Thud!:

Coffee was only a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your slightly older self.

I am struggling to understand the meaning of it. Is it pro/contra coffee, nothing of that sort?

  • 1
    Contrast with similar remarks about time and about alcohol in particular in other Terry Pratchett books. Alcohol gives you euphoria now but hangover tomorrow. There is even a fictional drink in some books that gives you euphoria now but hangover yesterday.
    – Stef
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 13:41
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    @stef I don't have enough rep to comment but it's called a hangunder as opposed to a hangover. It is neither pro nor con coffee, just Terry's fantastic, funny perspective. Caffeine keeps you awake now at the expense of being more tired later. Of course, you must be careful if drinking Klatchian Coffee, get thoroughly drunk beforehand. Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


Coffee keeps you awake, but you'll have to sleep eventually. You get time now (by being awake now) and pay it back later (by sleeping later). It's as straightforward as that.


It’s a tongue in cheek reference to the fact that stimulants, including caffeine (which for many people is why they drink coffee), do not actually give you any energy, they just make you use what energy you already have faster. This is why good energy drinks have a lot more than just caffeine (or some other stimulant) in them.

In other words, by drinking coffee, you’re making yourself more awake now (because your body is burning more energy right now than it would be otherwise) in exchange for making yourself more tired later[1].

I would not say it’s really pro-coffee, or even anti-coffee, but maybe could be said to be subversively speaking out against certain aspects of the culture around coffee drinking.

1: That is, of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a slow enough baseline metabolism. Some people, myself included, have a high enough baseline metabolic rate that we never get that state of heightened ‘awakeness’ and go straight to the exhausted phase (and, believe it or not, this particular quirk of high baseline metabolisms means that stimulants are actually used medically to treat hyperactivity in individuals with ADHD).

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