The Meaning of Liff


As you may have noticed, this blog post is late. I blame my parents.

Don’t worry, I don’t blame them for a traumatic childhood or anything like that. I blame them for visiting me and forcing me to leave the house and do fun, sociable, outsidey things. Like shopping and going out for tea.

It doesn’t leave much time for moping around the house coming up with blog post ideas.

At first, I felt bad about this, and was about to dedicate my afternoon to writing a well-researched and informative article about the Just in Time methodology and how you can use it to streamline your kitchen. Then I saw this headline:

NASA shoots human sperm into space

And I thought, “Well, if that’s what NASA considers real and important science, I can write a blog post of excerpts from ‘The Meaning of Liff’ by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd”.

So here they are:


In Life[1], there are many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no words exist.

On the other hand, the world is littered with thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places.

Our job, as we see it, is to get these words down off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society.


Aberbeeg (vb.)

Of amateur actors, to adopt a Mexican accent when called upon to play any variety of foreigner (except Pakistanis – for whom a Welsh accent is considered sufficient).


Bodmin (n.)

The irrational and inevitable discrepancy between the amount pooled and the amount needed when a large group of people try to pay a bill together after a meal.


Clathy (adj.)

Nervously indecisive about how safely to dispose of a dud lightbulb.


Dewlish (adj.)

(Of the hands or feet.) Prunelike after an overlong bath.


Ely (n.)

The first, tiniest inkling you get that something, somewhere, has gone terribly wrong.


Farnham (n.)

The feeling you get at about four o’clock in the afternoon when you haven’t got enough done.


Great Wakering (participial vb.)

Panic which sets in when you badly need to go to the lavatory and cannot make up your mind about what book or magazine to take with you.


Hoff (vb.)

To deny indignantly something which is palpably true.


Jawcraig (n. medical)

A massive facial spasm which is brought on by being told a really astounding piece of news.


Kalami (n.)

The ancient Eastern art of being able to fold road-maps properly.


Liff (n.)

A book, the contents of which are totally belied by its cover. For instance, any book the dust jacket of which bears the words ‘This book will change your life.’


Motspur (n.)

The fourth wheel of a supermarket trolley which looks identical to the other three but renders the trolley completely uncontrollable.


Nybster (n.)

Sort of person who takes the lift to travel one floor.


Ockle (n.)

An electrical switch which appears to be off in both positions.


Polbathic (adj.)

Gifted with ability to manipulate taps using only the feet.


Skegness (n.)

Nose excreta of a malleable consistency.


Thrupp (vb.)

To hold a ruler on one end on a desk and make the other end go bbddbbddbbrrbrrrrddrr.


Winkley (n.)

A lost object which turns up immediately you’ve gone and bought a replacement for it.


Yarmouth (vb.)

To shout at foreigners in the belief that the louder you speak, the better they’ll understand you.


[1] And, indeed, in Liff.


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