Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Wrong Stuff

I did not see Boogie Nights, so my introduction to Heather Graham was her role as CIA agent Felicity Shagwell in the second Austin Powers movie. And, I hate to say it, but I thought she was the movie’s weakest link.

Why do I hate to say it? Look at that punim. She's so pretty and seems like a lovely, nice, harmless person, doesn’t she? As I was watching the movie, I felt kind of bad for her, like she was out of her league. She didn’t quite have the edge to play a CIA agent, even in a comedy. When I saw her on screen, I didn’t think highly trained government spy; I thought la la la la la la la giggle giggle.

I was so relieved when I loved her in The Hangover. She was adorable as the sweet, naïve stripper.

My career advice to her: less action roles, more fluff.

That, however, is the exact opposite advice I would give the word stuff.

(No rhyme intended)

As an action word, stuff is brilliant. It's such a strong, descriptive verb:

Austin Power's suitcase was full, but he still managed to stuff in his Swedish penis enlarger.

Using stuff shows the reader how desperate he was to take the penis enlarger along. You can almost see the sweat dripping off his brow as he's trying to get the zipper to close around (groan) the (grunt) pump. Phew! Got it!

It was a tight fit, but Austin Powers stuffed his ....

Oh, never mind.

As a noun, however, stuff does nothing for me. It sounds so cheap. One of my students just used stuff in an essay describing her wonderful mother:

My mother has done so much stuff for me over the years.

Stuff! Really? Is that the best you can do? It makes all her mother's wisdom, kindness and support seem so ordinary and blah.

In fact, in the sentence above, simply taking out stuff would make the sentence sound better.

I know that I have warned against using absolute words, but here I go: when it comes to choosing nouns, we can always do better than stuff.

Am I being too stuffy?


notesfromnadir said...

Boogie Nights is a must-see! & yes, Don Cheadle's in it.

Stuff is just such a blah word.Lazy people use it. It also seems to be used in speech quite a lot.

Anonymous said...

I never thought of the word stuff like that before but you are right...I will think twice before using it...I like Heather Graham in Swingers...Then again she was only in it for a few minutes...

Wendy Ramer said...

I think "stuff" is meant to be a spoken word only. It definitely has its place in the English language. But I'm with you on its meaninglessness (word?) when written.

On a different note, it's nice to be back commenting on posts. I've been wrapped up in the start of the school year, and with so much "stuff" going, I haven't had time to post or comment. Hope I can find time soon to write more "stuff" for my blog.

Anonymous said...

love the *stuff* in this blog!

Boonie S said...

Stuff starts off hard and then ends up aspirated. That's what makes it so good in speech. I shall keep on stuffing whenevr I can.

Have a good day and all that stuff
from Boonie

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I actually think 'stuff' has it's place as a noun. It can be a useful word when describing junk, or trying to write in a teenage voice. Just my opinion. :) But I agree, there's always a better, more descriptive word.

Mary Aalgaard said...

My favorite way to use it: Stuff it!

Carolyn Abiad said...

*Stuff* should be stuffed away with *ly*.

The Invisible Seductress said...

Note to self: Stuff the word "stuff" deep in your verbal "go-to word" memory bank.

Please edit my book..You are brilliant!!!

Theresa Milstein said...

I try to avoid the word "stuff" as a noun and I would go nuts when the students used it. I'd write, "Be more specific," on their papers.

Talli Roland said...

Stuff is a weak word. I always feeling like I'm copping out when I use it.

DEZMOND said...

my favourite pun from AUSTIN POWERS is the name for his car - shaguar :)

Julie Musil said...

Your examples are ALWAYS perfect! Great *stuff* (how many of these can squeeze into one comment?)

I also loved Heather in the Hangover. Hilarious!