And no, it’s not 42.

Did you ever feel that the world needed a word for that bead of sweat which runs down your bottom cleavage?

Neither did I.

Luckily for the rest of us, two men did feel that particular need. Indeed, they felt the need to appoint words to a whole raft of life’s quirks which, beforehand, were left to fend for themselves.

And so was born The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff – dictionaries, as they describe themselves, of things for which there aren’t any words for yet.

The creators of Liff are, or rather were, the late, great Douglas Adams and the thankfully still quite present but no less great John Lloyd. Adams, quite the favourite round my way, is the comedic genius behind The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the Dirk Gently Detective Series while Lloyd is responsible for, among other things, Not the 9 O’clock News, Blackadder, Spitting Image & QI and is in no way whatsoever, a former tennis player and husband of Chris Evert.

So what’s the concept again?

Well, according to one of the many prefaces attached to the varying editions of the dictionary, The Meaning of Liff can be described as thus:

In life there are many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognise, but for which no word exists. On the other hand the world is littered with thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing around on signposts pointing at places.The Deeper Meaning of Liff, John Lloyd & Douglas Adams

In short, Lloyd and Adams have taken place names and afforded them new meanings.

Yes it’s an odd concept, I’ll give you that.

But trust me, once you delve into the book you’ll get it, you’ll read on, you’ll titter and you may even begin to adopt one or two into your actual everyday vocabulary.

It is, as is the case for most things for which these gents are responsible, very funny indeed.

A sample of ‘new’ words

Disclaimer: these books came out over 20 years ago so the use of ‘new’ is somewhat subjective. Also, the words themselves are not actually new at all, as they have been used as place names around the world for many a decade, but they are ‘new’ in the sense that they have been attributed ‘new’ meanings – albeit quite some time ago now. I hope that clears things up.

Abilene (adj)

Descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow.

Beppu (n)

The triumphant slamming shut of a book after reading the final page.

Budle (vb)

To fart underwater.

Canudos (n)

The desire of married couples to see their single friends pair off.

Farrancassidy (n)

A long and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get someone’s bra off.

Golant (adj)

Blank, sly and faintly embarrassed. Pertaining to the expression seen on the face of someone who has clearly forgotten your name.


The horrible smell caused by washing ashtrays

Lampung (n)

The daze which follows turning the light on in the middle of the night.

Pidney (n)

The amount of coffee left at the bottom of a jar which doesn’t amount to a spoonful

Poona (n)

Satisfied grunting noise made when sitting back after a good meal.

Rhymney (n)

That part of a song lyric which you suddenly realise you’ve been mishearing for years.

Ripon (vb)

(Of literary critics) To include all the best jokes from the book in the review to make it look as if the critic thought of them. (cough, splutter, what?)

Thrupp (vb)

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

[descriptions taken from ‘The Deeper Meaning of Liff’ by Douglas Adams & John Lloyd, 1990]
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