Meaning of Liff

In their 1983 book, The meaning of Liff, Douglas Adams and John Lloyd created new words for ‘common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects for which no words exist’. All the words are place names: ‘spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing around on signposts pointing at places’.

Here are 5 examples:

  • Babworth (noun)
    Something which justifies having a really good cry
  • Hastings (plural noun)
    Things said on the spur of the moment to explain to someone who comes into a room unexpectedly precisely what it is you are doing.
  • Oughterby (noun)
    Someone you don’t want to invite to a party but whom yu know you have to as a matter of duty.
  • Quoyness (noun)
    The hatefulness of words like ‘relionus’ and ‘easiphit’.
  • Smearisary (noun)
    That part of a kitchen wall reserved for the schooltime daubings of small children.

These are all real placenames: Babworth is in Nottinghamshire, Hastings is in Sussex, Oughterby is in Cumbria, Quoyness is on the island of Sanday in Orkney. Smearisary appears to be a place in Inverness-shire (Scotland), more often spelled Smirisary.

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