30 years ago, John Lloyd and Douglas Adams wrote The Meaning of Liff, the much-loved dictionary of things there should be a word for but aren't. Examples include 'Shoeburyness' (the vague uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat which is still warm from somebody else's bottom) and 'Duntish' (mentally incapacitated by a severe hangover). And now the book has entered its next incarnation as a programme on BBC Radio 4.
On 28 February 2013 Radio 4 broadcast The Meaning of Liff at 30, a special feature to mark the 30th anniversary of Liff's publication. John Lloyd – producer of Blackadder and the brains behind QI – took submissions from listeners for all the words that really ought to exist but don't. The programme featured John talking to Matt Lucas about his love of the book, and a sift through the new definitions with a panel of Liff experts - Helen Fielding, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Terry Jones. Meanwhile, Liff devotee Professor Steven Pinker spoke about the tremendous psychological comfort and sense of bonding that come from the invention of common language.
We asked you to send in your suggestions to be used in the programme. Many thanks for sending them in - the programme-makers received hundreds of entries! John Lloyd whittled them down to a long list and together with judges Sanjeev Bhaskar, Helen Fielding and Terry Jones picked out some of the best for the programme.
Here are the entries the panel enjoyed most:
BADGER'S MOUNT n.
The sexual position you knew wouldn't work despite your partner's eagerness to try it.
- Stewart Harrison
FRISBY ON THE WREAKE excl.
A warning cry in a nudist colony.
- Stewart Harrison
The large and rapidly approaching ornamental knob at the end of the banisters that you didn’t notice until you started sliding down them
- Dylan Beattie
Brief moment of panic between realising your car keys aren't in your pocket and remembering that's because you're driving.
- Dylan Beattie
The wedge-shaped plastic thing placed on a supermarket conveyor belt to separate one person's shopping from another.
- Piers Fletcher*
KILLYBEGS pl n.
The cries by which a baby signifies that it no longer wishes to be tickled.
A problem that manifests itself only when nobody else is present.
- Chris McCrohan
The mental anguish of fighting the urge to turn around and look when someone whistles or shouts.
- Tony Hedges
PACKWOOD GULLET n.
The feeling you get in your throat when you realise you’ve mindlessly followed your SatNav somewhere really stupid.
- Helen Goddard
The crevice that separates a double chin.
- Chris Hook
The spooky sensation that someone is about to explain déjà vu to you.
- Gordon Miller
CLAVERING ppl v.
Pretending to text when feeling alone and vulnerable in public .
- Mikey Jackson
To decide against helping those less fortunate than yourself.
- Paul Livesey
The inappropriate noise made by an electronic device during a respectful period of silence at the theatre or a funeral service.
- Jamie Gladden
WINNERSH TRIANGLE n.
Pubic hairstyle popular in Berkshire.
- Ann Edwards
*Piers Fletcher happens to be the producer of QI, a fact unknown to the producer and to all but one of the panel at the time (and even that was a lucky guess). The submissions were divided three ways: none of the panel knew the authorship of the entries of the other panelists. The most popular new Liffs emerged from a free and open discussion about quality. Mr. Fletcher is not, and nor has he ever been, a director of the Tildonk Global Marketing Corporation Inc.
In life and, indeed, in liff, there are many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no words exist.
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 on places. Our job, as we see it, is to get these words down off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society.
- Preface to the 1983 edition
WOKING (ptcpl. vb.)
Standing in the kitchen wondering what you came in here for.
A look someone gives you by which you become aware that they're much too drunk to have understood anything you've said to them in the last twenty minutes.
To lean from side to side while watching a car chase in the cinema.
The safe place you put something and then forget where it was.
A badly suppressed yawn.
Descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow.