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Urban Junkie

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Liff and junk

Question: Where would you find half an extension cord, two faded dog collars, 4 antique Good Knight machines, a Scrabble board with no tiles, a set of marbles and a 1999 calendar?
Answer: in a box that you are finally unpacking after having moved back to Bangalore last month.

Ever notice how moving house makes most of our possessions seem like junk? Junk that gets packed in the hurry to get packed but has its revenge on you when the unpacking begins. There is the nostalgia stuff, of course, and there is a bit of the ‘aHA, that’s where it’s been’ stuff. But there is a much more daunting, endless list of ‘don’t know what to do with’ stuff. Having waded through the last of my boxes last weekend, here’s the tally:

The ‘aHA, that’s where it’s been’ stuff : 3 items

  • The income tax form from last year
  • The never-used patchwork cushion covers
  • The leather jacket

The nostalgia stuff : 1 item

  • The photographs from the trip to Manali

The ‘nostalgia but don’t know what to do with’ stuff : 12 items

  • A menu from some restaurant in Paris
  • Bangles from my sister’s wedding
  • Gypsy’s first ball, chewed beyond recognition
  • … you get the drift

The just plain ‘don’t know what to do with’ stuff : 55 items

  • 2 burnt-out multi-plugs
  • the modem from the old computer
  • audiotapes of music I now have on CD
  • unusable gifts from important people
  • 3 unidentifiable objects which on close examination turn out to be : 1) a doorknob; 2) an oddly shaped lampshade; 3) half a rawhide bone
  • 3 other unidentifiable objects which remain unidentified
    … and so on.

But one of those boxes this time has yielded a treasure that balances out all unpacking woes. Deep in the pockets of a jacket not worn for 5 years, lying inside a box not opened for 3, was my long-missing, believed stolen copy of ‘The Meaning of Liff’.

''The Meaning of Liff'' is possibly one of Douglas Adam’s best books, though I’m often surprised at how little it’s known. It’s a tiny book, not easy to buy at a store these days, a second hand copy of which costs a small fortune at Amazon. Co-authored by John Lloyd, it is a tongue-in-cheek "dictionary of things that there aren't any words for yet". All the words listed are names of places, and describe common feelings and objects for which there is no current English word. For example:

ABILENE (adj.) Descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow.

BODMIN (n.) The irrational and inevitable discrepancy between the amount pooled and the amount needed when a large group of people try to pay a bill together after a meal.

DRAFFAN (n.) An infuriating person who always manages to look much more dashing than anyone else by turning up unshaven and hungover at a formal party.

DUNBOYNE (n.) The moment of realisation that the train you have just patiently watched pulling out of the station was the one you were meant to be on.

And, particularly relevant to me, I suppose
DOGDYKE (vb.) Of dog-owners, to adopt the absurd pretence that the animal shitting in the gutter is nothing to do with them.

I love this book. I’ve never known anyone to not have been reduced to helpless giggles page after page. I’ve made many friends over this book … jointly rolling on the floor screaming with laughter does much to break the ice and dissolve boundaries. For many years, it was my most effective ‘upper’ when I was low.

This week’s for rediscovering (and celebrating!) the Meaning of Liff.

For those who have not yet encountered this delightful book, here’s a link to the online version.


  • Very "together" post Anjali. And if you can't figure out what that mean, just know that it's a compliment.:)) Having moved many times, I can completely relate to this one.

    By Blogger Sujatha, at 9:42 PM, September 27, 2005  

  • in my last comment, "mean" should read "means", of course.

    By Blogger Sujatha, at 9:43 PM, September 27, 2005  

  • Thanks, Sujatha :)
    Since I've moved many, many times too this is quite a touchy subject!

    By Blogger Anjali, at 7:34 AM, September 28, 2005  

  • i also wonder how much junk we manage to accumulate in the house,,things u dont use and just cant throw also...

    By Blogger Ankur, at 1:49 AM, September 29, 2005  

  • I begin to pack even tho am not movin in a hope to unearth and find stuff that's been missin for a while...coz i do believe there is somethin called "THE PLANET OF THE LOST" where all the things go to when their purpose in this world is served:)

    By Blogger arvindiyer, at 10:14 PM, September 29, 2005  

  • still not finished the guide :).. btw, have you tried tom holt??

    By Blogger manuscrypts, at 12:28 AM, September 30, 2005  

  • ankur, hi :) ... thanks for visiting and commenting

    arvind, it would be so convenient, wouldn't it, if there was also a 'planet of the useless' which automatically attracted junk?

    manuscrypts: I don't think you ever really 'finish' the guide... I've been reading the omnibus for years. I've only read one book of Tom Holt's which I quite enjoyed. Should check out some more, now that you've made him salient!

    By Blogger Anjali, at 7:12 AM, September 30, 2005  

  • Moving is something great. Its acoincidenc that i have posted something abt moving a few mins ago.
    BTW..Douglas Adams was really the greatest writer of fantasy ever...what he could conceptualize is beyond one's imagination. I havent read his this book, but all others r my fav.

    By Blogger Kanishk | कनिष्क, at 8:37 PM, September 30, 2005  

  • thanx for the link to "The Meaning of Liff"

    By Blogger Kanishk | कनिष्क, at 8:39 PM, September 30, 2005  

  • Anjali, nice post.

    Have you read the 'Long Dark Teatime of the soul'

    Same author. Terrific book.

    By Anonymous Amitav, at 10:28 PM, October 01, 2005  

  • Anjali, coming to the Bloggers' meet this Saturday (Oct 8th) at 5 pm at Infinitea? Hope you can.

    By Blogger Sujatha, at 1:52 AM, October 05, 2005  

  • Did I hear someone say Blog meet? Hmmmm...is this for a select gang or is a guy who is wanted by D company allowed? * I swear I won't put ur lives on the line* :)

    By Blogger arvindiyer, at 12:12 AM, October 06, 2005  

  • arvind: sujatha's the authority on this :)
    sujatha - do you think people with such dubious connections should be allowed in?!

    By Blogger Anjali, at 6:42 AM, October 06, 2005  

  • Ahhhhh DAAAYUMMMMM *makes note to self..never write bout ur brush with death and the Underworld and make it public*

    By Blogger arvindiyer, at 10:13 AM, October 06, 2005  

  • ...unless you come across - NOTTAGE (n.)- the collective name for things which you find a use for immediately after you've thrown them away. For instance, your greenhouse has been cluttered up for years with a huge piece of cardboard and great fronds of gardening string. You at last decide to clear all this stuff out, and you burn it. Within twenty-four hours you will urgently need to wrap a large parcel, and suddenly remember that luckily in your greenhouse there is some cardb...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:55 AM, October 19, 2005  

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