(the) Heather Langenkamp stuff

VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
Once Paul wanted to tell his friend Mac about a misterious issue that was worrying him, and Mac just teased him, calling him Heather Langenkamp (from Nightmare On Elm Street). Later, when they meet again, and walk the street, Mac asks him:
-- You OK?
-- Yeah.
-- I mean, er, Heather Langenkamp stuff...
-- I knew what you meant.
The Fades, TV series

I'd have expected it to be "the Heather Langenkamp stuff.", since he's referring to a particular stuff they both know about. Thank you.
 
  • SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Once Paul wanted to tell his friend Mac about a misterious issue that was worrying him, and Mac just teased him, calling him Heather Langenkamp (from Nightmare On Elm Street). Later, when they meet again, and walk the street, Mac asks him:
    -- You OK?
    -- Yeah.
    -- I mean, er, Heather Langenkamp stuff...
    -- I knew what you meant.
    The Fades, TV series

    I'd have expected it to be "the Heather Langenkamp stuff.", since he's referring to a particular stuff they both know about. Thank you.
    In speech, we often leave out elements that aren't necessary, because they are readily understood/implied. If Paul and Mac understand what's meant by "Heather Langenkamp stuff," there's no need to add "the," even if you, the reader, might expect it from the grammatical point of view that they both know about it (remember that the reader is an outsider to this world that's represented in the dialogue, so his point of view is irrelevant). Notice that Mac also says "you ok?" where a grammar-conscious reader might expect to see "Are you ok?"
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    (maybe Loob might want to explain her point)
    SevenDays is right that we often leave out elements in fast informal speech that we would include in speech.

    But even if we assume a fully-written out sentence, I'm not sure that "the" would be necessary:
    I'm talking about Heather Langenkamp stuff.
    vs
    I'm talking about the Heather Langenkamp stuff.

    The choice would depend, I think, on the form previous allusions to Heather Langenkamp have taken.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    In speech, we often leave out elements that aren't necessary, because they are readily understood/implied. If Paul and Mac understand what's meant by "Heather Langenkamp stuff," there's no need to add "the," even if you, the reader, might expect it from the grammatical point of view that they both know about it (remember that the reader is an outsider to this world that's represented in the dialogue, so his point of view is irrelevant). Notice that Mac also says "you ok?" where a grammar-conscious reader might expect to see "Are you ok?"
    Articles are sometimes omitted in speech, I ocasionally come across such things in movies, but it usually happens at the beginning of a sentence, not in the middle..
    But even if we assume a fully-written out sentence, I'm not sure that "the" would be necessary:
    I'm talking about Heather Langenkamp stuff.
    vs
    I'm talking about the Heather Langenkamp stuff.

    The choice would depend, I think, on the form previous allusions to Heather Langenkamp have taken.
    There were two occasions:
    When Paul was guessing what he is, Mac suggested: "Heather Langenkamp from Nightmare On Elm Street. That is such a compliment, Heather Langenkamp's an utter legend! OK, I will be Heather."
    Later Mac also said this: "My only friend is either a lunatic or Heather Langenkamp. I'm petrified."

    I just don't understand why "stuff" would act any differently from any other noun referring to something specific. The 'Heather Langenkamp' is an adjectival, it is not a possessive.
    I mean, er, the Heather Langenkamp story...
    I mean, er, the fact I called you Heather Langenkamp...
    I mean, er, the Heather Langenkamp thing...
    :)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well, one key difference is that "stuff" is uncountable.

    I think there are two different sorts of thought processes, one leading to the use of a definite article, one not.
    For the first second, the logic is something like:
    A. I'm talking about stuff.
    B. What sort of stuff?
    A. Heather L stuff.


    For the second first, the logic is something like:
    C. I'm talking about the stuff.
    D. Which stuff?
    C. The Heather L stuff.

    If we take Paul's question "You OK?" as meaning "Has any weird stuff been happening to you?" then the follow-up doesn't need "the" and the idea is "I mean weird stuff like Heather L stuff" or "I mean Heather L-type stuff".

    If we take Paul's question "You OK?" as meaning "Has the weird stuff been happening to you again?" then the follow-up needs "the" and the idea is "I mean the weird Heather L stuff that happened before".

    (This is quite difficult without having seen the series!:D)

    EDIT: Oops

     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Yes, "stuff" is uncountable, but when it comes to "shared knowledge" (which I think is the case in the OP), I think both C and U nouns are used with THE.

    1)
    Imagine you see your friend wearing a hat and gloves with razors, and you ask her: "What's all this about? Freddy Krueger stuff?"

    2)
    The next day, you see her dressed in her usual clothing, and ask her: "So, you OK now? I mean, the Freddy Krueger stuff..." (= the way you looked and behaved yesterday).

    You would use "the" in "2)" regardless of whether you mentioned the word "stuff" the day before or not, right?:)
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    SevenDays is right that we often leave out elements in fast informal speech that we would include in speech.

    But even if we assume a fully-written out sentence, I'm not sure that "the" would be necessary:
    I'm talking about Heather Langenkamp stuff.
    vs
    I'm talking about the Heather Langenkamp stuff.

    The choice would depend, I think, on the form previous allusions to Heather Langenkamp have taken.
    Ah, I think I see what you mean. "Stuff" pragmatically plays the same function as the definite article: it narrows the meaning of "Heather Langenkamp" to something that's known (and therefore "determined/specified") contextually (Mac and Paul instantly know what's meant). So, now that I think about it some more, it isn't simply that "the" has been omitted (but understood); "the" is not included because it is redundant, for the purposes of the dialogue. The definite article would be needed if there was a need to differentiate (and not just "specify") "Heather Langemkamp stuff" from another kind of "stuff," which isn't the case. I think there's a term for this (unless I'm mistaken): noun adjunct. That is, "Heather Langenkamp" is an optional modifier of "stuff;" and could be left out, because obviously both understand the meaning of "stuff," based on what happened before:

    -- You OK?
    -- Yeah.
    -- I mean, er, stuff...
    -- I knew what you meant.


    Supposed Mac had prepared chicken soup for Paul (because Paul asked him to). Later, when Mac asks Paul, what are you eating?, Paul would naturally answer "Er, chicken soup" or "Er, soup" but not "Er, the chicken soup," unless Paul needed to differentiate "chicken soup" from another type of "soup" (which wouldn't be the case).
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Re post 11 I probably would use "the" in your situation, Vic.

    I'm sorry, I've run out of ideas to explain why the scriptwriters chose not to include "the" and why the original sentence sounds OK to me without it:oops:.

    ---------------

    EDIT: Reading SevenDays' post, I think that's it: you'd use "the" to differentiate. Thank you, SevenDays!
     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you for the answers!
    If we take Paul's question "You OK?" as meaning "Has any weird stuff been happening to you?" then the follow-up doesn't need "the" and the idea is "I mean weird stuff like Heather L stuff" or "I mean Heather L-type stuff".

    If we take Paul's question "You OK?" as meaning "Has the weird stuff been happening to you again?" then the follow-up needs "the" and the idea is "I mean the weird Heather L stuff that happened before".
    I see the film context as the second option:):oops:

    That is, "Heather Langenkamp" is an optional modifier of "stuff;" and could be left out, because obviously both understand the meaning of "stuff," based on what happened before:

    -- You OK?
    -- Yeah.
    -- I mean, er, stuff...
    -- I knew what you meant.
    "Stuff" is so a vague word, I doubt Paul would understand what Mac meant by just "stuff":(
    Supposed Mac had prepared chicken soup for Paul (because Paul asked him to). Later, when Mac asks Paul, what are you eating?, Paul would naturally answer "Er, chicken soup" or "Er, soup" but not "Er, the chicken soup," unless Paul needed to differentiate "chicken soup" from another type of "soup" (which wouldn't be the case).
    If Mac prepared for Paul a three-day amount of chicken soup, and then the next day comes to Paul's place, sees him eating something, asks him what he's eating and hears ""Er, chicken soup", I would take it as Paul just forgot that it was Mac who made the soup for him (or that he just was being humorous):)
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I think you'd use "the" to differentiate or simply to specify exactly what you are talking about. Here he is using "the" for exactly both purposes. To differentiate it from any other stuff which Paul might have thought he might have meant when he said "you OK?", and secondly to specifically refer to what he meant by using "the Heather Langenkamp stuff [I said earlier]."

    The whole point about that line of the conversation in the OP is that it is already a very abbreviated, weakly implied apology.

    Later, when they meet again, and walk the street, Mac asks him:
    -- You OK?
    -- Yeah.
    -- I mean, er, Heather Langenkamp stuff...
    -- I knew what you meant.
    The line in a "full" conversation would probably be something such as, "I mean, er, I'm sorry about the/that Heather Langenkamp stuff [I said] earlier."

    I know that people abbreviate in speech, especially when it is rapid and informal. I ought to, having spoken English for half a century. What we actually choose to say will depend upon context, including the time available. e.g. If I'm in a burning building calling out of the window to onlookers and the fire hasn't reached the room I'm in, I might call "Help! I'm up here on the third floor, room 35A. Get help quickly!" If the fire is already in the room I might only have enough time, or mental capacity to shout "Help!".

    What I'm saying is that people can say whatever they want, depending on the context, as long as their intended audience understands what is said it doesn't really matter. We are really just talking here about degrees of formality. These are two friends having an informal conversation, and so it will naturally be full of abbreviations.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Abbreviated speech is fine, I got used to it, and it's the same in Russian too. But when it comes to articles, that's where issues occur sometimes:D

    "I mean, er, I'm sorry about the/that Heather Langenkamp stuff [I said] earlier."
    Hmmm... I don't think it's I'm-sorry-about stuff:D It's like -- "You don't think that you're kind of special any more, do you?" At least that's how I understnad it.

    Thank you!

    x-posted with Loob.
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Hmm, I'm not so sure, but as Loob has said, it's very difficult without having actually seen the series. We pick up so much by tone/inflection, context and facial expressions.

    By calling him "Heather Langenkamp" earlier, Mac was teasing Paul by saying that he was like the screaming girl from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" who is haunted by Freddy Krueger in her nightmares. He is therefore telling Paul that he is behaving "like a[n] hysterical/overreacting girl" for worrying about a mysterious issue. [i.e. Worrying about something which, Mac thinks, may not even exist.]

    Later, in conversation, it would be very natural for Mac to apologise to Paul. However, people very often apologise in an indirect fashion, especially if they are embarrased about their earlier behaviour.

    [That's how I read it, just going on the text and context. However, it appears it can be read in several different ways! :)]
     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    By calling him "Heather Langenkamp" earlier, Mac was teasing Paul by saying that he was like the screaming girl from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" who is haunted by Freddy Kruger in her nightmares. He is therefore telling Paul that he is behaving "like a[n] hysterical/overreacting girl" for worrying about a mysterious issue.
    Thank you for the background for this Heather Langenkamp, because I didn't know what kind of character he meant (I remember only Freddy from the old movie). That fits the context, because Paul did repeate "I'm scared". But how can "You ok?" refer to apologising?... I see it as shortened of:
    "Are you OK/all right now?" (= are you not scared any more?)
    ...:confused:
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "Are you OK/all right now?"/QUOTE]

    :thumbsup: Yes. By enquiring as to his friend's well-being, he may not be directly asking if he's scared any more, but just asking how he is serves as the lead-in to the apology which follows. It often serves as the gateway to enable people/friends to start talking properly/rationally again after an argument or disagreement. {For some reason the text editor keeps adding my comments to the quote!}
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Ok, you should have seen this scene:):oops: It's just from his face expression, his gesturing, and how they generally communicate with each other, the last thing I would think of in this context is Mac implying apologising:D
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I would expect intonation to play an important part too, as Trochfa says.

    I'll try to get hold of a copy and post any further thoughts when I've seen it:).
     
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    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It's just from his face expression, his gesturing, and how they generally communicate with each other, the last thing I would think of in this context is Mac implying apologising:D
    People can apologise in some very odd ways, particularly if they don't do it normally and they don't wish to grovel too much! :D

    It will be very interesting to see what Loob makes of it, if she can find a copy to watch.
     
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