I've stumbled on this phrase in Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies:

“This is the Moon,” Diamanda repeated, “for those who weren’t paying attention.” She held up the card. “And what do we see here—you, Muscara?”

“Um…it’s got a picture of the moon on it?” said Muscara (née Susan) in a hopeful voice.

“Of course it’s not the moon. It’s a nonmimetic convention, not tied to a conventional referencing system, actually,” said Diamanda.

I know what mimetic and convention mean, but I'm not sure what nonmimetic convention means in this context. Any help? Thanks.

  • 1
    "Mimetic" means representing things "as they are". Nonmimetic here means the opposite. The picture of the moon is not meant to represent an actual celestial body. Jul 25, 2017 at 18:47
  • 1
    But this is just jargon, and probably 99% of native speakers wouldn't know what was meant there.
    – TimR
    Jul 25, 2017 at 18:49
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo Even vocabulary has its One Percenters! To the barricades! Haro! Jul 25, 2017 at 18:51
  • @P.E. Dant I think you must be taking word-hoard literally.
    – TimR
    Jul 25, 2017 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


It doesn't really mean anything in this context. The phrase is pure jargon. Diamanda is just showing off to the other wanna-be witch girls to prove she knows more about magic than they do, by using words they don't understand.

So, "a nonmimetic convention, not tied to a conventional referencing system" it just a fancy-schmancy way to say that the card is not meant to represent the actual moon. Instead it represents the objects and concepts often symbolized by the moon (a long list, varying by culture, religion, education, and personal belief).

Excellent book by the way. Have you read the previous books in the series? It's actually part of an ongoing story over about ten novels.

  • That makes sense. Thanks! Yeah, I've been reading the series in publication order. It's fantastic :) Jul 26, 2017 at 10:07
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    @AlexeyNekrashevich Pratchett's "Witches" books also include four "young adult" novels starting with "The Wee Free Men". They're written for a younger audience but still very worth reading.
    – Andrew
    Jul 26, 2017 at 14:46

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