Portminting

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Issue 298
September/October 2016
Regenerative Cities

Ethical Living

Portminting
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issue cover 298

Cover: Illustration by Luc Schuiten www.vegetalcity.net

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Declutterati, anyone? Matt Harvey expands his vocabulary.

Illustration by Claudia Schmid www.claudiaschmid.co.uk

Illustration by Claudia Schmid www.claudiaschmid.co.uk

I want to start this piece with a book review, a glowing review of a new work that I’ve not yet read – may never read – that I’ve judged entirely by its cover. And its cover by its title. The book is Stuffocation: Living More with Less, by James Wallman. It’s all there in the title, isn’t it? It is for me. In the first word, in fact.

You had me at stuffocation, Mr Wallman. This portmanteau word is so eloquent in and of itself I don’t feel the need to hear the case you make for how choked and congested our lives are – OK, my life is – with stuff, nor avail myself of the road map you provide from materialism to experiential-ism.

The word is working on me, the coining has had consequences, and I am grateful. I also feel I should honour its effect by not cluttering my sagging shelves with yet more stuff. For, truth be told, the material possessions I mostly accumulate are books – I buy them, hoard them, it’s getting out of hand. So Stuffocation joins the elite list of books I don’t own and haven’t read but whose essential content I feel I’ve somehow absorbed from their title – this list includes Oliver James’s Affluenza, Erich Fromm’s To Have or To Be? and Dennis Wise: The Autobiography.

Affluenza, another elegant portmanteau that has since gone into the language, was used recently as a defence in the case of a young man who attributed his appalling behaviour to well-to-do, boundaryless parents providing him with everything money could buy, thus depriving him of any moral compass. A classic case of deprovision.

As you can see, making up portmanteau words – aka portminting, or sportmanteau – is a wonderful armchair sport, the kind you’ll have more time for if you take my advice and read Mr Wallman’s excellent book. Other portmanteau words I’ve attempted include paranoimal, smugma and wondermentalist (the last of which made it into Radio Times). These words will perhaps give you a taste of the anticipointment our editor feels when receiving my copy. My favourite, though, comes in a poem, Water-Cooler Moments, inspired by a workplace romance that never was.

It talks of shared looks by the water-cooler

Wry, dry looks that had no witnesses
Rueful smiles and knowing grimaces

that surely had meaning

You weren’t just being nice to me
You sent memos with your eyes to me

though they were never taken further

We didn’t ever action
Our un-minuted attraction

and then it was too late

And now to my intense regret
You use the little kitchenette
That’s time-shared with the 2nd floor
A long mile down the corridor

but even so it was worth it

Re: ‘the first stone’, let those who’ve never
Wished and wondered cast it –
It was a beautiful speculationship
While it lasted

I suggest to you, without modesty, that ‘speculationship’ is a beautiful, much-needed word that “denotes a new concept, or one for which a satisfactory term was heretofore unavailable”. Have you never had a speculationship? Of course you have.

With the time and space freed up in your days from a rigorous reading of Stuffocation, you could do worse than indulge in the pastime of making up portmanteaus. Try it – you’ll be surpleased.

Matt Harvey will be performing at the Resurgence 50th anniversary event One Earth, One Humanity, One Future, at Worcester College, Oxford, in September. For information and tickets: www.resurgence.org/R50event

Matt Harvey is a poet.

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