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What does the phrase to get stuffed mean in the following passage taken from my IELTS reading exercise?

One of London Zoo’s recent advertisements caused me some irritation, so patently did it distort reality. Headlined “Without zoos you might as well tell these animals to get stuffed”, it was bordered with illustrations of several endangered species and went on to extol the myth that without zoos like London Zoo these animals “will almost certainly disappear forever”. With the zoo world’s rather mediocre record on conservation, one might be forgiven for being slightly sceptical about such an advertisement.

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  • Having once lived in London, England, it is clear to me that it means what both Jeremy and Random832 say it means. I learned this by stating out loud in an English restaurant that I worked in by stating "I'm stuffed" rather loudly. I provided some real entertainment for those that I worked with there, soon to be followed by being drug into the kitchen and receiving a lecture punctuated with laughter.
    – user65285
    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:17
  • @user65285 "I'm stuffed" in the context of a restaurant or food means that you have overeaten and feel uncomfortable. In another context it can mean that you have been thwarted by circumstances or by the actions of others, Oct 12, 2016 at 13:45

6 Answers 6

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This quote is a pun, because "get stuffed" is being used in two ways here.

"To get stuffed" is a slightly antiquated piece of slang with the same meaning as "F off!" or "Screw you!" It's an implication that someone is worthless or meaningless. (That's the American phrase, which is used in this quote: "Get Stuffed" in England simply means "Go away" or "Get lost", just not as politely)

Edit: Huh, this is about London? Okay, I guess the "get lost" meaning is being used here. They have the same basic idea of implying that the target of the phrase is worthless or meaningless.

The quote also refers to taxidermy, that is, the practice (art?) of stuffing dead animals full of gunk so that they look pretty.

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  • 2
    Actually, get stuffed means "go away" in American English too.
    – apaderno
    Aug 22, 2011 at 14:06
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    So does "F--- off", for that matter - it's not clear what distinction is being made here.
    – Random832
    Aug 22, 2011 at 14:10
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    @kiamlaluno - I'm unaware of it meaning much of anything in the USA, other than that the speaker has perhaps watched a lot of Monty Python.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 22, 2011 at 22:28
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It refers to the practice of Taxidermy. Of course, the animals can't stuff themselves, so telling the animals to get stuffed is just a technique used to make the entire situation sound more ridiculous.

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@Jeremy is right to say it's a pun on the two meanings of get stuffed, one being the reference to taxidermy. But as a slang idiom it doesn't really mean Go away! in normal usage.

It means I don't care about you. It's often used in a more immediate fashion with the specific meaning I don't agree with what you just said, but the former clearly fits better here.

My own gut feeling, backed up by this chart, is that the slang usage is not at all "antiquated".

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  • Agree that there are more shades of meaning to get stuffed, but I think go away! is one of them. Get stuffed is simply a slightly more polite way of saying fuck you.
    – ghoppe
    Aug 22, 2011 at 19:12
  • @ghoppe: I agree get stuffed is much the same as fuck you apart from being far less coarse. But I disagree with the idea that fuck you and fuck off are ordinarily synonymous. The latter normally means "Go away!", which in my experience is almost never the meaning intended by careful speakers when they say Get stuffed. I know some would say it's oxymoronic to discuss how careful speakers use any idioms that include the word fuck, but I'm not one of those, obviously! :) Aug 22, 2011 at 20:46
  • @Fumble agree with your explanation and thanks for letting me know using the chart to collect word usage information, instead of just assume
    – mko
    Sep 6, 2011 at 18:01
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I'm native to the UK and live in London. Get stuffed was in common usage here years ago, but rarely used now, and it does indeed have a sexual connotation, so saying 'get stuffed' to someone meant, literally, 'go fuck yourself', an expression which I believe is more common in America.

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According to the context, it means that the endangered species will face an extreme extinction if they were not kept in the zoos. They could only be seen as stuffed animals, just like toys at home.

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  • It seems that this is actually a pun on two meanings, as amply explained above.
    – Davo
    Oct 13, 2017 at 20:38
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"Stuffing" is also slang for having sex. A non-native friend wrote to me how her relatives keep "stuffing her in cars", meaning, they keep pushing her into cars to go off to family events, but capable of being interpreted as incestual rape.

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  • I understand your point, however this is not relevant to the question. Aug 2, 2012 at 11:18

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