Friday, June 19, 2009

Douglas Adams and the Meaning of Liff

I was probably in the seventh or eighth grade when I first read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and fell in love with Douglas Adams. Since then, I've read everything he's written. Well…with one exception.

In the list of his works in the front of some of his books, I'd keep seeing the title The Meaning of Liff. I always kept an eye out for it in bookstores, and I'd try card catalogs and, later, library databases trying to find this book and see what it's all about. Eventually, I gave up looking and started reading Neil Gaiman.

Anyway, thanks to my old friend Dolph for pointing out that The Meaning of Liff is available for free (and in need of a good proofreading) online. I don't know that it's legally available for free, so follow the previous link at your own peril: the ghost of Douglas Adams may come back and start hiding your towels, dropping your cufflinks behind the refrigerator, or teaching your disgruntled parrot some sailor lingo.

From the intro on the Web page, The Meaning of Liff appears to be Pseudodictionary-like collection of definitions for common elements of life and living it assigned to placenames found on signposts, especially throughout the United Kingdom. Many of the definitions are quite useful for concisely referring to something that doesn't currently have a "real" definition. For example, I'm a skilled alltamist and kalamist, I once limerigged my leg so hard in college that I was in an air cast for three weeks, and I'm a horrible abinger (though I don't own a cheese grater).

Other definitions are a little too specialized for general usage, though all definitions are perfectly brisbane. Check it out! Is it worth reading from start to finish? Yesnaby!