Adams / Böttcher: Meaning of Liff / Sinn des Labenz

I had forgotten The Meaning of Liff / Der Sinn des Labenz, although I have them on the bookshelf. There are links at the Strong German Verbs website to them (mentioned recently).

Douglas Adams, after Hitchhiker’s Guide, wrote, with John Lloyd, The Meaning of Liff, a dictionary consisting of definitions lacking a word. To each of these definitions he attached a real, but underused, place name. The Deeper Meaning of Liff is an enlarged version:

Does the sensation of Tingrith make you yelp? Do you bend sympathetically when you see someone Ahenny? Can you deal with a Naugatuck without causing a Toronto? Will you suffer from Kettering this summer? Probably. You are almost certainly familiar with all these experiences, but just didn’t know that there are words for them. Well, in fact, there aren’t – or rather there weren’t, until Douglas Adams and John Lloyd decided to plug these egregious linguistic lacunae by getting a few beers and a notebook and sitting on the beach for a couple of weeks. They quickly realised that just as there are an awful lot of experiences that no one has a name for, so there are a lot of awful names if places you will never need to go to.


Sven Böttcher
translated the book into German, using German place names instead of British ones. There are websites where volunteers can add new terms to the English and German versions.

The German version is still in print, and it contains the full English version.

Here’s an example:

English: Dewlish (adj.) (Of the hand and feet.) Prunelike after an overlong bath.

German: Rosien (Adj.) Gleichzeitig feucht und verschrumpelt wirkend. Beschreibt das trockenobstartige Aussehen von Händen und Füßen nach einem zu langen Badenwannenaufenthalt.

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