Literature: The Meaning of Liff

The Meaning of Liff is a book by Douglas Adams and BBC producer John Lloyd, which uses place names as Neologisms. Based on a conversation Adams and Lloyd had while on holiday, which was based on a school assignment Adams was given, which may have been based on an essay by Paul Jennings, Ware, Wye and Watford.

Some of Liff's definitions originally appeared in the Not the Nine O'Clock News calender and "glossop" and "scrogs" are mentioned in the additional material in the Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty script book. (Lloyd directed both shows).

An expanded version was published as The Deeper Meaning Of Liff. In 2012 a sequel, Afterliff, was published, compiled by Lloyd and Jon Cantor.

Trope Namer for Zeerust. Can be read in its entirety, with reader-submitted material, here.


The Meaning of Liff contains examples of, or words for'':

  • Abstract Scale - Several words define the measurement of something that can't be measured.
  • Apologises a Lot - Greeley.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign - "Aberbeeg" is to use a Mexican accent when called upon to play any kind of foreigner.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick - The definition for "nacton" gives the examples "Fish 'n' Chips", "Mix 'n' Match" and "Assault 'n' Battery".
    • The definition of "Toronto":
      Generic term for anything which comes out of a gush despite all your careful efforts to let it out gently, e.g. flour into a white sauce, tomato ketchup on to fried fish, sperm into a human being, etc.
  • Brilliant but Lazy - Ible.
  • Curse - Aird of Sleat, an ancient Scottish curse cast from afar on the land now occupied by Heathrow Airport.
  • Cut Himself Shaving - Sluggan is when you really did walk into a door, but no-one believes you.
  • Home Made Sweater From Hell - Jurby.
  • Ignore the Disability - Wigan. From an ITN newsreader with a Dodgy Toupee who was supposedly always given stories about that town.
  • Mondegreen - Woolfardisworthy. From Hamlet:
    When he himself might his quietus make,
    With a bare bodkin? Who woolfardisworthy,
    To grunt and sweat under a wary life.
  • Literal Cliff Hanger - A grimmit is the small bush cartoon characters cling onto.
  • Seven Minute Lull - The measurement of the embarrassment caused is a "lullworth".
  • Shaggy Dog Story - Gildersome, a joke that starts off well, but which the listener tires of after half an hour.
  • The Shill - Tigharry, specifically in the three-card trick.
  • Spanner in the Works - Aboyne.
  • The Talk - Ambleside.
  • This Product Will Change Your Life - Liff itself.
  • Translation: Yes - The definition of "pen-tre-tefarn-y-fedw", which is apparently a direct translation from Welsh, and runs to three lines.
  • Your Mime Makes It Real - "Scosthrop" is the as the act of miming using a pair of scissors while searching for them, in the hope that it will favourably influence your chance of actually finding them.


Alternative Title(s):

The Meaning Of Liff