Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mentee or Mentoree?

In the epics of Homer from Greek mythology, Odysseus was away from home for 20 years. Before leaving he left his infant son, Telemachus, under the guardianship of his friend, Mentor. Yes, Mentor was his name.

Now Athene, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and Odysseus were part of a mutual admiration club. During his absence, she got into the body of Mentor, and taught, guided, advised, mentored, & counselled Telemachus.  A few 100 years ago, the term ‘mentor’ was 1st used to refer to a guide or counsellor.

Some time later, maybe a century, the word was ‘verbed’ (in Calvinspeak) or verbalized. In the (v.) form it came to mean ‘guide’ or ‘counsel’.

Now comes all the other dis-figurations of the name of Odysseus’ friend. If a guide is called a mentor, what do you call the person being guided?

The term mentee seems to have entered some dictionaries. It seems to have come out of the erroneous assumption that ‘mentor’ is a noun form of the word ‘ment’. So you have the verb employ, giving rise to the nouns employer & employee, referring to one who employs & one who is employed respectively. Similarly ‘ment’ gives mentor & mentee.

But what if the root verb is not ment, but mentor? Would the person who is being acted upon then be called a ‘mentoree’? Thankfully that word doesn't seem to have entered the dictionaries. Yet.

And then later maybe the person ‘mentor’ing would be called a mentorer? Have sometimes seen people get confused when the noun and verb are spelled the same. As in sponsor. Have heard the word ‘sponsorer’ used a few times.  Am curious now – what would they call the person being sponsored? Sponsee? Sponsoree?

Coming back to mentor & ___. Why not just use existing words? You could have disciple or student. Either is better than mentee (Brings connotations of someone on the mend after a stint in prison).

I’d prefer protégé (Add an e for the feminine form).