Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Downton Abbey stuff

Elaine and I watched Episode 6 of you-know-what last night and noticed three little flurries of stuff:

Lady Edith Crawley: “Oh, just family stuff — an errand for my grandmother.”

Lady Mary Crawley: “Nothing. Women’s stuff.”

Matthew Crawley: “Nonsense, you had stuff to see to.”
Stuff is an old, old noun. But the three young Crawleys are using the word in a new way. The Oxford English Dictionary has it:
Used loosely to denote any collection of things about which one is not able or willing to particularize . . . ; material, matter, business. colloq.
The young Crawleys are a colloquial avant-garde. The OED’s first citation for this use of stuff is from 1922, from an American source, Radio News:
Take a look at S. M. Brown, Chief on the Mauretania, “doing his stuff” in the saloon.
I can’t imagine that the influx of stuff in this episode is just coincidence: it’s one sign among many that the world is changing.

A related post
Word of the evening: hobbledehoy

[Other signs of change in this episode: new techniques in land-management, new roles for women, and jazz.]

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