Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Meaning of Liff, a la Grecque

Back in the 1980s, the late great Douglas Adams co-authored a wonderful little book called 'The Meaning of Liff'. Its central concept was that certain English place names can be used to describe situations, sensations or states that otherwise need a full sentence to explain.

Thus, Woking is walking into the kitchen only to stand there wondering what you came there for, and Shoeburyness is that slightly uncomfortable sensation of sitting in a seat that’s still warm from someone else’s bottom.

A friend and I came up with a few Liff definitions of our own after I suggested Arundelising for the weekly train trips she used to make to the rather posh, picturesque Sussex town of Arundel (it has its own castle, no less) as it sounded like an up-market, alternative version of caramelisation.

Silliness soon ensued and the gems we came out with included: Climping (the ouch-punctuated way you walk when your new shoes have given you blisters); and Bujumbura (the noise you make when trying to suppress a burp - or in real life, rather than liff, the capital of Burundi).

I decided to see if the same principle could be applied to place names from Greece. So, with apologies to Greek readers (and a plea for clemency, as the meanings I assign bear no relation to their true origin), here is a small selection that came to me as I watched the sun sink towards the horizon last night:

  • Imerovigli – that itchy, tickling sensation when you first get out of bed in the morning.
  • Zouberi – the over-ripeness of a fruit when the skin slides off the mushy flesh at the slightest touch.
  • Kos – reaching the top of the stairs only to stop and wonder if you were heading for the bedroom or the toilet. Usually followed by a puzzled ?
  • Drogaratis – a deep dark bruise that appears without you having the foggiest idea how you got it.
  • Lasithi – that cavity in your tooth that your tongue just won’t leave alone.
  • Salamina – the act of retracing your thoughts in a desperate bid to remember what the hell you were going to say.
  • Marpissa – a fart in the bath.
  • Lavrio – a never-fulfilled promise to do something “later” or “tomorrow”.
  • Salakos – that wave of panic that sweeps over you when someone asks you to explain exactly what a word or phrase you constantly use actually means.
  • Varybombi – the feeling, usually accompanied by a bad head cold, that your skull has been stuffed to bursting point with wet cotton wool.
  • Liopesi – the state of drunkenness where you can no longer feel your lips or fingertips.
Any other Liff definitions – from Greece or anywhere else – are eagerly awaited.

1 comment:

  1. My Sister-in-Law used the name of a local Optician: 'Scrivens' to describe the gloop that trickles down a ladies leg when standing up after sex.