Thursday, July 23, 2009

Words with truth inside

Andrew's recent comment on our anniversary post reminded me of The Meaning of Liff, a spoof dictionary by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd of words that, though they might not exist, definitely should.

This book provided a lot of joy in my teen years, but it's been a while since I read it, so I had forgotten the sublimity of definitions such as the following, which was on the first page, so it caught my attention immediately:

ABERYSTWYTH (n.)
A nostalgic yearning which is in itself more pleasant than the thing being yearned for.


(Having now seen Aberystwyth, the aptness of matching term to definition has become far more apparent to me.)

A quick breeze through an online version reminds me that Adams and Lloyd made good use of place names (especially British place names) to create new words. Like the following inspired run from the 'S' section:

SHOEBURYNESS (abs.n.)
The vague uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat which is still warm from somebody else's bottom.

SHRIVENHAM (n.)
One of Germaine Greer's used-up lovers.

SIDCUP (n.)
One of those hats made from tying knots in the corners of a handkerchief.

SILESIA (n. medical)
The inability to remember, at the critical moment, which is the better side of a boat to be seasick off.


The rest of them are here.

I wish you much enjoyment.

Thanks, as always, Douglas, for all the fish.

On the topic of words:



The Books, 'Smells Like Content'

2 comments:

Alyx Sands said...

Have you tried the German version of _The Meaning of Liff_? _Der tiefere Sinn des Labenz_. It's not so much a translation but rather a real German version with German place names...I can lend you mine if you can't get hold of it.

Sandy Velten (you met me tonight-the academic-turned-admin worker ;-) -I wasn't cyber stalking, just curious!)

J. Carter Wood said...

I haven't, actually, taken a look at the German version, but I have heard of it.

I'm wondering whether the humour would be as apparent in another language. One of the great things about _Liff_ is the way that it plays with certain sounds an associations that are not even just English language but also very specifically British.

I will have to track that down. Should I have problems, I'll let you know.

Glad you found us (not hard, I know...) and it was very nice to meet you last night. I think we have some shared interests.

Though your Welsh is certainly better than mine.

Tschüß!