What is “shtuff?” That’s what you get when someone starts saying “shit,” then changes their mind to “stuff” midstream.
As in: “I’m getting too old for this shtuff.”
This word isn’t in any dictionary I know (except Urban), but I hear it a lot in conversation. Maybe someone realized there was a kid nearby, or that a friendly conversation with the boss perhaps shouldn’t be that friendly.
However it happens, it’s a quintessentially human word. In a single awkward syllable, it encapsulates so many aspects of our nature. The unguarded truth, straight from the inner self, hidden at once behind a wall of propriety. The anxiety of how we appear to others. The split-second flexibility to choose a new path when the first one’s barely begun. Something weak and powerful at once.
I realize I’m waxing pretty philosophical for a word that means “poop.”
Yet it’s striking that a word so commonly used in real life rarely appears in art. When you read a book, when you watch TV, characters say “shit” or “stuff,” but not both at once.
Partly for clarity. New writers are often told that real conversation is too fragmented, too halting and uncertain, to be rendered in narrative. That’s mostly true. Yet I think, especially in writing, you could get across this meaning clearly and succinctly with a construction like “shi – stuff.”
The fact that we rarely see this says something about our art.
As writers, we unconsciously tend toward an idealized version of our world, a place where things make more sense than they really do. As I said, this isn’t all bad, and is partly a courtesy to the reader. But we shouldn’t be afraid to let go of that tendency at times, to embrace the uncertainty, the fuzziness, the anxiety, the strangeness, of genuine human life.
What do you think about that shtuff?