Weaponising the Portmanteau
‘Proseterity’––beyond wordplay as a means to resist apathy
by Joseph Sgambati III
May 2nd, 2021
Portmanteau (n.) port·man·teau \ pȯrt-ˈman-(ˌ)tō \
Morpheme or hybrid word-blends formed by separate portions of other words, merged
together in a way that the result resembles the originals in form and meaning.
Prose (n.) prose \ ˈprōz \
A literary medium most accessible to people; vernacular; distinguished from poetry by its greater irregularity and variety of rhythm and its closer correspondence to the patterns of everyday speech.
Posterity pos·ter·i·ty \ pä-ˈster-ə-tē \
The offspring of one progenitor to the furthest generation.
Proseterity (n.) prose·ter·i·ty \ ˈprōz-ˈster-ə-tē \
A prodigious interpersonal skill to embrace and connect with another being;
A tool for radical empathy, empathetic engagement, communion.
Alternative Fact (n.) al·ter·na·tive fact \ ȯl-ˈtər-nə-tiv ˈfakt \
A mistruth or piece of information presented as having objective reality,
often in extreme contradiction to truth; a contortion of fact.
Feel Fact (n.) feel·fact \ ˈfēl ˈfakt \
An assertion informed by inherent bias, rotten to the core,
and often cancerous to dialogue.
A call to bear 'Proseterity'
Incendiary rhetoric, cancel culture, and performative 'wokeness' mark the most recent awakening to a post-truth existence global citizens have long been living in––one in which the social landscape is supersaturated with alternative facts, feel facts, and the denial of truth. It is another moment in the human continuum when practitioners of post-truth attempt to hijack popular culture, usurp power, and seek validation through ideological supremacy.
Society is in need of a new weapon to attack this problem and dismantle the very words that have proven cancerous to dialogue across opposing ideologies. “Proseterity” proposes to do so with language, weaponising this portmanteau to usher in an era of radical empathy.
Radical empathy is a process that seeks to go beyond placing oneself in the position of another in an effort to reconstruct (albeit subjectively) and understand the situation as it bore on the other. It requires an examination of historical contexts, viewpoints, intentions, and stressors that make the agent feel and act accordingly––a process that seeks to clarify the conditions in its understanding.1 It acknowledges that no one engages another with a blank consciousness. Every being exists with a system of beliefs that limit the boundaries of their thought.2 Proseterity makes those seemingly rigid edges elastic while preventing us from empathising with entities morally bankrupt.
Retz, T. (2018). Conclusion. In Empathy and History: Historical Understanding in Re-enactment, Hermeneutics and Education (pp. 213-218). NEW YORK, OXFORD: Berghahn Books. doi:10.2307/j.ctvw0490w.16
Retz, T. (2018). A Conceptual Portmanteau. In Empathy and History: Historical Understanding in Re-enactment, Hermeneutics and Education (pp. 57-70). NEW YORK, OXFORD: Berghahn Books. doi:10.2307/j.ctvw0490w.8
Proseterity makes those seemingly rigid edges elastic while preventing us from empathizing with entities morally bankrupt.
Prose is key to understanding the human experience as it is society's spoken language––a language laid bare. Beyond its formal practice in the classroom or workplace, prose receives pressures from cultural, social, and extracurricular activities that move it forward.3 Vernacular is one of the most significant threads running through humanity. It is as living and breathing to those who communicate with it, recording the past and coevolving with the human race.
This curated splicing of “prose” and “posterity” are important to understanding the substance of Proseterity. Prose is a raw material for composition and communication to practice radical empathy.
Prose is a raw material for composition and communication to practice radical empathy.
It is a way to contextualise the existence of another and foster a union or reciprocation of thought looking towards the future.4 Portmanteaus have great potential for adoption into vernacular as the retention of word meaning goes beyond single connection definitions between word and meaning. Blends like “smog,” brunch,” and “athleisure,” make multiple connections and often speak to experiences that reinforce their meanings.5 In many ways they become more marketable, appealing artefacts of language.
Armed with proseterity we have the opportunity to dismantle a wired-in cognitive bias that prevents us from being a witness to an other’s experience and compels us to reject the uncomfortable as a way to fortify personal beliefs.
Retz, T. (2018). Introduction. In Empathy and History: Historical Understanding in Re-enactment, Hermeneutics and Education (pp. 1-18). NEW YORK, OXFORD: Berghahn Books. doi:10.2307/j.ctvw0490w.5
Collage Art by Joseph Sgambati III