pejoration of "stuff?"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri May 25 20:52:56 UTC 2007

At 3:42 PM -0400 5/25/07, Leslie Savan wrote:
>  > Maybe unadorned stuff is pejorating, but it hasn't gone too far yet.
>>  Snapple is still, we are told, "made from the best stuff on earth".
>I agree: Most stuff is still good stuff, especially in advertising and
>marketing. I wrote a column, "Stuff Love," in the Village Voice years ago,
>and referred to it in Slam Dunks and No-Brainers:
>The lay-consumer word for product is stuff....Ten years ago, over just a few
>months' time, I counted some seventeen ads that turned on the word stuff,
>from the Snapple slogan, "Made from the best stuff on earth," to the
>"anthem" TV spot of a $100 million Microsoft campaign. (Over a montage of
>"diverse" human faces, a druggy-sounding female voiceover oozed, "The stuff
>that we make...the stuff that we make, make trouble and good things will
>happen...stuff that we make is powerful.") Today, we're still unable to talk
>or think or put out a men's magazine (namely Stuff) without tufts of stuff
>love. Recently [i.e., '05/'06], Verizon helped sell itself with a line that
>could be mistaken for Microsoft's: "This is really powerful stuff"; a TV
>spot for Gold Bond medicated powder claimed, "This stuff really works";
>while a package of Hostess cupcakes beckoned, "Hostess: Now that's the
There's a lovely paean to stuff (albeit modified stuff) in the song
"Stuff That Works" by either Rodney Crowell or Guy Clark (they both
sing it well and they're both songwriters, and unfortunately the web
doesn't make it clear which one wrote it):

I've got an old blue shirt and it suits me just fine
I like the way it feels so I wear it all the time
I've got an old guitar that won't ever stay in tune
But I like the way it sounds in a dark and empty room

I've got an old pair of boots that fit my feet just right
I can work all day and go out and dance all night
I've got a new used car that runs just like a top
Yeah I get the feeling it ain't ever gonna stop

Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
Is the kind of stuff you don't hang on the wall
Stuff that's real that stuff you feel
Is the stuff you always reach for when you fall

I've got a pretty good friend who's seen me at my worst
He don't care if I'm a blessing or a curse
But he always shows up when the chips are down
That's the kind of friend I like to be around

Stuff that works...

There's a woman I love she's crazy and she paints like God
She's got a playground sense of justice she don't give odds
I've got a tattoo with her name right through my soul
And I think everything she touches turns to gold

Stuff that works...

The American Dialect Society -

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