The word: Stuff

Se noi diciamo “cose, robe”, gli inglesi dicono “stuff”. “What’s that stuff? (Cos’è quella roba?); My stuff is in the kitchen (Le mie cose sono in cucina). Ma non solo, questa parola ha molti altri significati, e attenzione: non confonderla con la parola “staff”, che vuol dire tutt’altro… LANGUAGE LEVEL B2 (UPPER INTERMEDIATE)

Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

The word “stuff (1)” is almost a false friend for Italians. This is because it is very similar to the word “staff (2),” but the meaning is completely different. “Stuff” means “material, rather like (2) the Italian “stoffa,” and it is also used figuratively. For example, if you have “the right stuff,” this means you are a courageous person, you’ve got what it takes (4). The most famous example was perhaps the film The Right Stuff, which came out in 1983. It was based on the Tom Wolfe book of the same name and it described the lives of America’s courageous astronauts in the 1960s. The Italian translation was Uomini veri. “Stuff” is also used as a verb: for example, “to stuff” literally means “imbottire” or “riempire”, and so, if you “stuff your face,” you eat too much. And then there’s the insult to “get stuffed”: if you tell somebody to “get stuffed,” it is a rather rude (5) way of inviting them to “go away.” And it is also used in a sporting context. For example, if you say, “we stuffed them five-nil,” it means that you won a football match 5-0 with great ease (6), and that your opposition was humiliated.


1    stuff: cose, roba
   staff: personale, équipe
3    rather like: piuttosto come
4    you’ve got what it takes: hai quello che ci vuole
5    rather rude: piuttosto maleducato
6    great ease: grande facilità

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