Culture, Radio

Review: The Meaning of Liff at 30 (BBC Radio 4)

The Meaning of Liff at 30 BBC Radio4It’s 30 years since Douglas Adams (Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy) and John Lloyd (Blackadder, QI) wrote The Meaning of Liff, their dictionary of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no words exist – all based on place names.

John Lloyd talks to Matt Lucas about his love of Liff, and also gathers new entries from the Radio 4 audience. These are then chewed over and sifted down by John and fellow Liff-lovers Sanjeev Bhaskar, Helen Fielding and Python veteran Terry Jones.

If you love a half-hour radio show filled with English whimsy and harmless humour, go to the BBC iPlayer and catch it now (over a year left to listen).

Professor Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard University and Liff devotee – talks about the psychological relief and sense of bonding that comes from recognising that you’re not alone in having these thoughts and feelings.

Some old favourite Liff definitions include:

  • Bodmin – the difference between the amount everyone chips in and the actual amount of a bill in a resturant (Fielding).
  • Nad – the distance between an drivers fingertips and the ticket machine in a car park (Lloyd).
  • Hubee – an erection which is big enought to cause an embarassing bump in the trousers but not big enough to do anything with  (Fielding).
  • Fakeham – to decide against helping those less fortunate than yourself  (Lloyd).
  • Shoeburyness – the vaguely uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat that has been warmed by someone else’s bottom (Bhaskar).

The BBC asked for audience suggestions for new definitions, to be featured in this Radio 4 programme about The Meaning of Liff. Suggestions should all be based on place names and should not have already featured in the first two Liff books, The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff.

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.

  • Badgers Mount – the sexual position you knew wouldn’t work despite your partners eagerness to try it.
  • Frisbee on the Reek – A warning cry in a nudist colony. (both from Stuart Harrison)
  • Winnersh Triangle – a pubic hair style popular in Berkshire
  • Scorrier – a small hunting dog trained to snuffle about in your private parts

Bhaskar came up with these two gems for the programme:

  • Pishill – the sound of the little bit of air that escaes when you sit on a leather sofa
  • Norwich – any sort of snack where the filling drops out

The Meaning of Liff at 30, BBC Radio 4
Duration: 30 minutes
First broadcast: Thursday 28 February 2013
Presenter: John Lloyd
Panel: Sanjeev Bhaskar, Helen Fielding and Terry Jones.
Guests: Matt Lucas, Professor Steven Pinker
Producer Beth O’Dea
Reader Dave Mounfield.

About Robin Catling

Robin Catling gained degrees in both arts and technology which led to a diverse portfolio of employment. A freelance systems analyst, project manager and business change manager for the likes of American Express, British Airways and IBM, he moved on to web design, journalism and technical authoring. He has also worked in film and television, both behind and in front of the camera, including productions by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Ron Howard and Ridley Scott. A qualified three-weapon coach, he runs West Devon Swords teaching sports fencing to all age groups, and in recent years qualified with the British Federation of Historical Swordplay to teach medieval and renaissance combat in the Historical Western Martial Arts.


3 thoughts on “Review: The Meaning of Liff at 30 (BBC Radio 4)

  1. Hi! I want to say that this post is nice written.

    Posted by Gettel | Mar 11, 2013, 1:10 pm
  2. Huge Douglas Adams fan here. Good luck for the next!

    Posted by P. Overfield | Mar 12, 2013, 9:50 pm


  1. Pingback: News: Long Wave Goodbye Radio 4 [Guest Post] | Everything Express - Mar 21, 2013

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