Experiencing ‘Shoeburyness’? It’s The Meaning of Liff

| February 27, 2013

The Meaning of Liff - book front coverIt’s The Meaning of Liff‘s 30th birthday and yet again Douglas Adams and John LLoyds’ splendid book is making me snigger like Beavis and Butthead.

About The Meaning of Liff

If you haven’t come across it yet, it’s a dictionary-style tome of things there are no words for.

Conjure up the vague discomfort you get when you sit on a seat that someone else’s backside has already warmed, for example. It’s a well-known feeling but until Adams and Lloyd christened it Shoeburyness, there was no way of verbally encapsulating it. The same goes when you tell an amusing story to someone, having completely forgotten they told you it in the first place… in other words, Plymouth.

Notice the pattern? Instead of making up new words, the authors use place names – toponyms. If you’re reading this with a deeply furrowed brow and puzzled expression, it probably isn’t for you. But if the antics of the Monty Python team reduce you to giggle-fuelled helplessness, you’ll love it.

By way of celebrating this beautifully silly book’s 30th anniversary, here’s a handful of my favourites:

  • Aberystwyth – A nostalgic yearning which is in itself more pleasant than the thing being yearned for
  • Farrancassidy – A long and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to undo someone’s bra
  • Kettering – The marks left on your bottom or thighs after sunbathing on a wickerwork chair
  • Malibu – The height by which the top of a wave exceeds the height to which you have rolled up your trousers
  • Naugatuck – A plastic sachet containing shampoo, Polyfilla etc., which is impossible to open except by biting off the corners
  • Quenby – A stubborn spot on a window which you spend twenty minutes trying to clean off before discovering it’s on the other side of the glass
  • Thurnby – A rucked-up edge of carpet or linoleum which everyone says someone will trip over and break a leg unless it gets fixed. After a year or two someone trips over it and breaks a leg

If that’s got you rolling in the aisles, here’s a link to Amazon where you can buy this much-loved volume new or second hand: The Meaning of Liff.

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Category: miscellaneous

By Kate Goldstone - ()

Originally from Middlesbrough, I lived in Brighton for many years before moving to North Devon. I’ve had a passion for words all my life and this is my twelfth year as a freelance writer. In my spare time I draw, paint, sculpt, carve wood and rock, garden, read, write poetry and enjoy long distance hiking. I sing and play the recorder. I collect modernist paintings, vintage rugs and mid-century German art pottery. I’m a member of The Poetry Society. And I am an experienced volunteer shepherd, a ‘Lookerer’.

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