Friday, September 14, 2007

Kinda like Nerf I guess.

I want there to be stuff.

It's not that I want stuff for myself, or that I want more stuff to exist. I want there to be a substance that is . . . stuff, because right now the word has almost no meaning.

A quick rundown of ways the word "stuff" is used.

"Are you ready to move?' 'I'm working on it now, I've got way too much stuff!"
"The waiter brought that stuff you ordered"
"Hey, everybody has their stuff, in a relationship you've just got to work through it."
"Yeah, well, stuff happens."
"Your stuff's in a box by the door, goodbye."*

I guess the meanings break down into three basic categories.

1. The Substantial - "Stuff" can mean physical substances or conglomerates of the things you own. This is my favorite meaning of the word, because every time someone says "I'm packing up my stuff" or "I've got to go get some stuff", I immediately get a mental image of this orange, foam material that can't be described any other way. When you go to a housewarming party and see those last few boxes marked "kitchen stuff" and "bathroom stuff", that's what's in them. In a few days the new home owners are going to open those boxes, pull out hundreds of little orange pieces and say "Where are we going to put all this STUFF?"

2. The Eventful - "Stuff" can also mean events that happen ("I can't believe all that stuff went down over the weekend") and tasks that you've got to perform ("Tuesday? No I can't, I need to do some stuff for work.") This meaning is a little weird. Calling your possessions "stuff" makes sense, because the word comes from "stuffing", like the physical stuffing in a pillow. Of course, I guess even that meaning is strange since you'd think that "my stuff" implies "that which gets crammed into me".

But calling events "stuff" isn't nearly as odd as . . .

3. The Emotional - Yes, even a person's crippling emotional baggage can be quickly and easily referred to as "stuff"!

"That dude has a lot of stuff to work out with his parents."

"He's still dealing with his breakup stuff."

Somehow it seems a little cold to call serious personal issues by the same term that means "the assorted items in my hallway closet" and "the hour I'm going to spend making a presentation for my boss", but then I suppose this meaning is more subtle. Emotional "stuff" is "don't ask stuff". It's a euphemism, really. That guy? He's got some stuff. Leave that stuff alone, that is HIS stuff.

And I guess that's the running theme of these definitions, they're all possessive. I don't know what "stuff" is, but I know there's your stuff and there's my stuff, and it's completely different stuff.

*I meant these examples to be random, but when you read them in order like that . . . well, it's quite a little narrative!

No comments: