In the foreword to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the following sentence occurs:

You will find quantum tomfoolery, cosmic belly laughs and more absurd one-liners than you could quorble a stank at.

I haven’t the slightest notion of what quorble and stank at mean there. Browsing through dictionaries hasn't helped.

  • 2
    This is deliberate nonsense, a nod to the Douglas Adams's own "hoopy frood". Aug 4, 2013 at 17:07
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    It's Douglas Adam's unique way of saying. Than you can shake a stick at! en.wiktionary.org/wiki/more_than_one_can_shake_a_stick_at
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 4, 2013 at 18:51
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about "English" Aug 4, 2013 at 20:52
  • 1
    @Fumble: Perhaps that's true in hindsight, but there's no way to know that at the time of asking. Moreover, there was a time when the word "jabberwocky" wouldn't have been a question about English, either, but now that word is in the dictionary. Sometimes the boundaries of English can shift over time.
    – J.R.
    Aug 5, 2013 at 1:16
  • So if quorble is a loan-word in English, does it need italics?
    – Fortiter
    Aug 5, 2013 at 1:39

1 Answer 1


It’s the HHG2G, which is known for being silly and nonsensical at times. They don’t mean anything except in so far as they are literary nonsense. In this case I would say they are meant as a nonsensical parallel construction to “shake a stick at”.

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