Douglas AdamsDouglas Adams’ body of work is an impressive one. Ranging from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy to The Salmon of Doubt one thing which undeniably runs through them all is Adams’ unique and rib-tickling humour.

Thirty years on from the first publication of The Meaning of Liff, the original dictionary of things there should be words for (written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd and published in 1983), we are still chuckling to ourselves each time we pick this book up, and quickly getting distracted from the work at hand! So, in celebration of the recent reissue of a 30th anniversary HB edition and the publication of even more liffs in Afterliff, we thought we’d put your Douglas Adams knowledge to the test.


Below we have pulled out one of Adams and Lloyd’s liffs* and had some fun inventing two of our own definitions for the same word. But can you recognize the true Adams humour and spot the original definition?

Which is the real liff? Try to avoid sneaking a peak if you already have a copy of The Meaning of Liff at home!

a) Sompting n. The practice of dribbling involuntarily into one’s own pillow.
b) Sompting n. The unfortunate result of wearing flip-flops on a wet day and therefore unknowingly flicking mud all the way up the back of your legs.
c) Sompting v. To sing dejectedly to yourself on public transport.

Let us know your answer in the comments section below, and we will select a winner at random from all of the correct entries. The winner will then be sent Douglas Adams’ entire collection of work and Afterliff!

The competition has now closed and a winner has been randomly selected from the correct entries. Thank you for all your answers! 

*A liff, in case you don’t know, is a place name which has been attributed a definition of a common object or experience for which no word yet exists.