An English word that has always annoyed me (though I’m guilty of using it, too) is the word “stuff.” It’s one of those catch-all terms that has more meanings than the old woman in the shoe had children. Some of its usage is understandable, e.g., rescuing a wounded warrior is the “stuff of greatness.” Used to refer to a pile or collection of unnamed articles, it makes sense. What child has never heard his/her mother say, “pick that stuff up off the floor?”
What irritates me is when the word “stuff” is used when being precise would be just as easy and much more exact, e.g., “Let me get my stuff” when “let me get my tennis racket and balls” is much more communicative.
Okay, so maybe a kid doesn’t know the name of kale when he whines, “I’m not going to eat that stuff.” Until recently, I wouldn’t eat it, either. On the other hand, when a reasonably intelligent adult asks, “where’s the stuff I need to clean the floor?” then “stuff” becomes nonsense. It would be much easier and plainer to ask, “where’s the mop and broom?”
As a verb, “stuff” makes perfect sense when referring to placing a large amount of “stuff” into a tight space. Santa Claus “stuffs” the children’s stockings, and they pull out candy, fruit, and small toys the next morning. Mom “stuffs” the turkey with dressing. ‘Nuff said. An encyclopedia (who remembers those?) was “stuffed” with valuable information.
Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit quirky about the word “stuff.” There are times when, as a noun, it refers to an unknown substance, and that makes perfect sense. “What’s that stuff Emily’s got in her hair?” We don’t know what it is, and we have to call it something. Okay, “stuff” will do. But on other occasions, it’s just plain laziness, e.g., we learned a lot of “stuff” in her class. Why not say, “we got a great deal of information in her class?”
Well, excuse me. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I have a lot of “stuff” to do.
On a more serious note: Let’s work toward ending child abuse. When you purchase a copy of John D’Amico’s book, THE WALLS TALKED BUT NOBODY LISTENED a portion of the proceeds goes to non-government programs for battered women and children. Link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_16?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+walls+talked+but+nobody+listened&sprefix=The+Walls+Talked%2Cstripbooks%2C291