Happy Towel Day, fellow hitchhikers. And if you happen to be a strag*, we hope you have found your towel. ‘What is it with towels?’ you may ask. Fans of the ultra geeky, ultra absorbing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will know that Douglas Adams had a few things to say on the subject of towels. A towel, the book teaches us, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.
It has great practical value:
You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini-raft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, though, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase that has become synonymous with hitchhiking slang: “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)
— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Every year on May 25, Adams fans around the world mark Towel Day. And they will be walking around carrying their towels like every good hoopy frood will, drinking Pan Galactic Gargleblasters in their favorite restaurant at the end of the Universe, or the lane if we can’t hitch a ride off planet, and generally trying to avoid Vogon Poetry. They will also be lamenting that this year’s Towel Day is on a weekend and not something they can observe at work.
To mark the occasion, we are incorporating as many quotes from HHGTTG and the rest of Adams’ works into casual conversation on Monday as we can. Should you choose to help us on this noble quest, here is a list of the top 77 quotes from Ford, Arthur, Zaphod, Trillian, Marvin and the rest that you can try to slip in among the unsuspecting strags at work.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The first book has some great quotes that can be used throughout the day. This first book was arguably the best, and many of the most valuable one-liners are in it. For some, you may need to substitute the X with your thought of the moment.
- X is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.
- Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
- On no account allow a Vogon to read poetry at you.
- If I asked you X, would I regret it?
- Mostly harmless.
- X is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is.
- I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.
- Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to X.
- And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.
- Oh no, not again.
- So long and thanks for all the fish.
- I checked it very thoroughly, and that quite definitely is the answer.
- “What’s up?” “I don’t know, I’ve never been there.”
- It committed suicide.
- Where shall we have lunch?
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
The second book in the series has fewer one-liner quotes, but the ones it does have are extra-yummy.
- This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
- Share and enjoy.
- There was an accident with a contraceptive and a time machine. Now concentrate!
- Holy Zarquon!
- Pathetic, isn’t it?
- (Not so much a verbal quote as a task) Label all the elevators in the office as “Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Happy Vertical People Transporters.”
- There will one day be X. Till then there will be a short delay. Please return to your seat.
- Poor X, you’re really not cut out for this life, are you?
- Shee, you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.
- Well, I wish you’d just tell me rather than try to engage my enthusiasm, because I haven’t got one.
- The major problem – one of the major problems, for there are several – one of the many major problems with…
- Stick it up your nose.
Life, the Universe and Everything
The third book of the series has even fewer, but the ones it does have carry all sorts of extra meaning. Only the real die-hard fans will recognize these, but you are quoting these for you, not for anyone else!
- I won’t disturb you with the details because they would – disturb you.
- There, behind that sofa!
- My doctor says that I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fibre.
- I can’t cope with it.
- Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful.
- They obstinately persisted in their absence.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
The quotes from the fourth book are all most useful in meetings, especially when dealing with the PMO.
- Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place.
- Read it through again and you’ll get it.
- Life is like a grapefruit.
- Let’s be straight here. If we find something we can’t understand we like to call it something you can’t understand, or indeed pronounce.
- I come in peace. Take me to your lizard.
- There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler’s mind.
The fifth book in the trilogy was also the last written by Douglas Adams himself. We’re including a couple of fairly long quotes in here.
- Anything that happens, happens.
- It was a programming technique that had been reverse-engineered from the sort of psychotic mental blocks that otherwise perfectly normal people had been observed invariably to develop when elected to high political office.
- This was fun.
- Protect me from knowing what I don’t need to know. Protect me from even knowing that there are things to know that I don’t know. Protect me from knowing that I decided not to know about the things that I decided not to know about. Amen.
- Most of the trouble people get into in life comes from leaving out that last part.
- A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
- The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
- It wasn’t merely that their left hand didn’t always know what their right hand was doing, so to speak; quite often their right hand had a pretty hazy notion as well.
- After that it gets a bit complicated.
- I think it may be something unimaginably dangerous.
- Temporal reverse engineering.
- Well, mine’s better.
- The buck stops there.
And Another Thing…
The sixth book in the trilogy was written by Eoin Colfer. Not as long as the other books, and more upbeat, there are not as many quotes, but those that are in there are great.
- I am fully programmed to take offense.
- Don’t give any money to the unicorns, it only encourages them.
- There is no such thing as a happy ending.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (movie, 2005)
While there were radio and television treatments on HHGTTG, the 2005 movie had some pretty good one-liners that have to be called out too.
- I’d much rather be happy than right any day.
- Life? Don’t talk to me about life!
- It may disturb you. It scares the willies out of me.
- It must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
- He’s got a TOWEL!
- This will all end in tears.
- You Zarkin’ Frood!
- I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.
- Well, this is weird.
- Computer do something!
- I’m sensing a lot of hostility from you, have you ever tried yoga?
- We don’t want to be happy, we want to be famous.
- Resistance is useless!
- If you want to survive out here, you’ve got to know where your towel is.
- We must talk.
- So much for the laws of physics.
- Well, that’s where it all falls down, of course.
- Buttons aren’t toys.
- Okay, don’t think. Nobody think. No ideas. No theories. No nothing.
- I have a million ideas, but, they all point to certain death.
What better way to honor the genius of Douglas Adams and celebrate Towel Day than remember the best quips and grab your towel?
Have we left anything out? Do you have a favorite quip or saying? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
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