Liff as we know it

Ion points out that Douglas Adams' The Meaning of Liff is online in its entirety. If you haven't read this book your life (and indeed your Liff) is dreadfully incomplete. What Adams did was that he took funny place names from maps and signs and invented descriptions for the words. In the process, he was wonderfully observant, describing situations everyone recognizes, but which there are no words for. I could go off on a Rortyish pragmatic tangent here about how language isn't "true" or conveys "truth" and how Adams makes an immensely funny and interesting linguistic point with all this, but I recognize that I've been talking about these things too much lately, so I'll just leave the funny bits for you.

Here are some old favourites of mine:
ABILENE (adj.)
Descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow.

AHENNY (adj.)
The way people stand when examining other people's bookshelves.

The sneeze which tickles but never comes. (Thought to derive from the Metropolitan Line tube station of the same name where the rails always rattle but the train never arrives.)

CLIXBY (adj.)
Politely rude. Bliskly vague. Firmly uninformative.

CLUNES (pl.n.)
People who just won't go.

A certain facial expression which actors are required to demonstrate their mastery of before they are allowed to play Macbeth.

That part of a hymn (usually a few notes at the end of a verse) where the tune goes so high or low that you suddenly have to change octaves to accommodate it.

Sudden realisation, as you lie in bed waiting for the alarm to go off, that it should have gone off an hour ago.

The moment of realisation that the train you have just patiently watched pulling out of the station was the one you were meant to be on.

DUNTISH (adj.)
Mentally incapacitated by severe hangover.

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

The kind of person who has to leave before a party can relax and enjoy itself.
I could go on and on, so I'll just let you read the rest yourself.


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