Stuff is one of our language’s most adorable multipurpose words. It is short but packed with useful applications. It is balanced: two consonants—one vowel–two consonants, which appeals to all those symmetry buffs. It offers a mixture of sounds, beginning with the soft “s” sound and ending with the always gentle “double-f” sound, as in fluff and puff. It also uses the staccato, tough-sounding “t.” You would be hard pressed to find a much more useful word that is so much fun to say.
Stuff is also generic, so it’s cheaper than a lot of name brand words. Stuff can be animal, vegetable or mineral. Stuff can be singular (“What’s that stuff on the doorknob?”), or it can be plural ( “We can get all the stuff we need to bake a cake at the grocery store.”) It can serve as a transitive active voice verb as well (“Will you stuff those clothes under my bed so I won’t have to wash them today?”)
It is such a versatile word. A comprehensive list of its applications would be impossible to capture in a column, but we can explore some of its more popular uses.
Stuff, in he following proverbial adage, represents the resolution to life and all its problems. “There are two rules in life. Number one: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Number two: Everything is small stuff.
Stuff is cool. “Hey, man, your artwork is cool stuff.”
Stuff is annoying. “Move your stuff off the couch.”
Stuff is mysterious. “Whose stuff is this piled by the back door?”
Stuff is talent. “He’s got the stuff to be a hall-of-fame quarterback.”
Stuff is conciliatory. “Stuff happens.”
Stuff is cuisine. “I thought the turkey stuffing was too spicy.” or “This restaurant has the best stuffed mushrooms.”
Stuff is playful. “Watch Maria giggle when she plays with her stuffed bear.”
Stuff is personal. “Hey, man, get your grimy hands off my stuff.”
Stuff is economical. You can use stuff to categorize groups of words. For instance, you can say, “I want to show you all my woodworking stuff.” Then you don’t have to say, “I want to show you my table saw and my lathe and my drill and my hammer and my nails and my screwdrivers and my chisel and my vice and my pliers,” and so on. Using stuff in this instance saved speaking or writing a whopping 26 words.
Or a football coach can walk into the locker room and tell all his players, “Get your stuff on and let’s get out on the field for practice.” The coach and all his players know what stuff means without the coach having to rattle off pieces of equipment.
Stuff can help others. “Let’s take all that stuff in the garage to Good Will.”
Stuff can describe a key basketball move. “Michael Jordan could stuff a basketball with the grace of a ballet dancer.”
Stuff can represent some words in a list, saving both time, words and space. “Dad’s going overboard with all this healthy food. At the grocery store he bought carrots and lettuce and celery and all that stuff.”
It’s obvious from my diligent research and extensive experience as a word maven, English teacher, writer and avid reader, this word deserves consideration as the greatest, most versatile, most useful, most multipurpose word in the English language and all other languages all over the world for all time and all that stuff.