Monthly Archives: December 2014

E-Cigarette as Portmanteau and Prosthesis

The ubiquitous e-cigarette, and its even more counter-intuitive e-liquid, are modern examples of portmanteau words; the ‘e’ of electronic merged with cigarette. What is electronic liquid though? Whereas naming an electronic version of a letter ‘e-mail’ makes a lateral combining sense, this application of electronic to any ‘e’ related accessory has assumed a forceful logic of its own. However, increasingly the e-cigarette does not resemble its namesake, but a hybrid between a man-from-uncle pen and a crack pipe. Why the change in presentation from its clunky body-double prototype? It appears both more phallic, and perhaps more addictive, than its ‘original’, i.e. there is no end to the draw, except an end to the liquid, or the power, whereas all smokers know of the finality, the brevity, to the experience of smoking a cigarette.


Moreover, the fact that this rather peculiar composite, emerging nonsensically from pockets and sleeves emitting ‘smoke’ then returning, does not qualify for a ‘new’ word of its own seems significant, and potentially part of the process and pattern of nicotine addiction. Thus, there must be continuity, or the semblance, sense or pretense of continuity; there must be a projected consistency of experience to keep the addict hooked. Interestingly, though the product must remain stable, the verb can adapt, hence the generation of the somewhat vacuous action of ‘vaping’.

Bring Up the Bodies (2012) by Hilary Mantel: Lecture, Manchester Metropolitan University

Remember, in a lecture… ‘YOU ARE NOT WATCHING TV’