Bryn :: The Meaning of Liff (sic)

The influence which an older brother and father can bring to bear on a young boy is significant.  Dad and Gareth were no different and, as I wasn’t a terribly resilient child, I had to endure many attempts to interest me in woodwork, making plum jam and sailing. When I decided they were off their heads, confirming yet again that there was a mixup at the hospital when I was a baby, they would move on to a different subject or interest.

There was one topic, however, that they kept coming back to.  The works of Douglas Adams and, particularly, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  When the radio show was on, they used to regularly roll about on the floor laughing (I was the only child at school who truly knew that people did roll about on the floor laughing.  To most people it was a metaphor.  To me it was fact.).  At least the radio show was only on once a week.

And then they brought out the LP.  There was no escape.  I sat impassively through legendary comic lines like “the Gorgon constructor ship hung in the air exactly the same way as a brick doesn’t.”  I believe that was hilarious.

I tried reading the books.  I tried watching the TV series.  I even tried pretending.  It was no good, I just didn’t find it funny.  I appreciate, given that there are four or five books (it ws supposed to be a trilogy), a radio series, an LP, a CD box set, a TV series, a film, and a blow up doll with two heads, that I am probably wrong but, Douglas Adams just didn’t tickle my funny bone.

I tried the Dirk Gently books.  Absolutely 100% the same.  Not a titter.

And then I discovered The Meaning of Liff (sic).  An utterly fantastic book.  Undoubtedly the funniest book I have read.

I put this down to the fact that the co-author is John Lloyd, one of the greatest sitcom writers of all time.  Whatever, it is brilliant.  It is a dictionary of the “common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognise but for which no words exist.”  The introduction goes on to say “On the other hand, the world is littered with thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places.”  The dictionary pairs these place names with the common experiences, feelings, situations and objects which don’t have names.

For example, from even the opening pages of this book you will find ….

ARDSLIGNISH (adj.)  Adjective which describes the behaviour of Sellotape when you are tired.

AINDERBY QUERNHOW (n.)  One who continually bemoans the ‘loss’ of the word ‘gay’ to the English language, even though they had never used the word in any context at all until they started complaining that they couldn’t use it any more.

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

or one which I am guilty of, particularly in relation to John Barrowman…

ARDCRONY (n.) A remote acquaintance passed off as ‘a very good friend of mine’ by someone trying to impress people.

Last night, I endured an ELY, a WEMBLEY and a GODALMING over a very uncomfortable few minutes.

It was at 5:30 PM, we were in Ian’s house ordering a curry when the phone rang.  It was Tony asking which hotel we were meeting in at the airport in advance of flying to Kilimanjaro.

“The Holiday Inn at the airport, the big one beside the terminal.”  came Ian’s reply.
“I will be there in 5 minutes.”  said Tony.

We had a good laugh at this because we weren’t meeting until Monday evening.  Tony was 24 hours early.  I did, however, have an ELY.

ELY (n.) – The first, tiniest inkling you get that something, somewhere, has gone terribly wrong.

We set off to pick up the curry.  The phone rang.  It was Bob.  He was at the Holiday Inn wondering where everyone was.  This was the WEMBLEY moment.

WEMBLEY (n.) – The hideous moment of confirmation that the disaster anticipated in the ELY has actually struck.

For Tony to make this mistake was typical and expected.  For Bob to make a mistake of this nature was unthinkable.  Bob is an actuary.  Meticulous, precise and diligent.

Panic ensued.  A phone round took place to verify who else was under this impression and, indeed, should I be under this impression.  Do we fly out on Monday morning rather than Tuesday morning?

The first person I phoned was Fiona.  A lawyer.  She would have read literature and would know.  I couldn’t get hold of her.  My mouth was dry.  My hands were shaky.

Next up, another details person, Chris Ryan.  When he said he was still at home in Yorkshire I felt the GODALMING sensation.

GODALMING (n.) The wonderful rush of relief on discovering that the ELY and the WEMBLEY were in fact false alarms.

It was just a coincidence and everything was okay.  Bob and Tony returned to their homes and were reunited with their wives.

And Ian and I spent the evening rolling around on the floor laughing.

There is an online copy of The Meaning of Liff at

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