Mentee isn't really a word, but we're probably stuck with it

My company is starting a mentorship program, and the official announcement email talked about both “mentors” and “mentees”. Being the pedantic jerk that I am, I dashed off a light-hearted note to my VP, pointing out the word pair isn’t based on “somebody who ments” and “somebody who gets mented”…but rather, the character in The Odyssey named Mentor, who was the tutor of Telemachus.

The VP thought that was pretty awesome, to her credit.

My OED is several years old, but it doesn’t have “mentee”. But I suspect that ship has sailed and it’s here to stay.

Mentee - “Someone who is mentored.”

And of course Stentor refers to a loud speaker and Stentee refers to a loud listener.

If we’re going to create back-formations on faulty etymology, then it would probably be “mentoree”.

Online OED

Origin: Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: mentor n., -ee suffix1.

Etymology: < ment- (in mentor n.) + -ee suffix1.

Originally U.S.

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A person who has a mentor; the person guided or tutored by a mentor.

1965 Amer. Econ. Rev. 55 862 What is the typical economics class but a contact between the conservative teacher and his mentees?

1978 Amer. Polit. Sci. Rev. 72 423 The effects of the mentor on the mentee can be profound.

1983 Progressive Oct. 35 An older crafty male mentor uses Svengali-like power to mezmerize a young female mentee.

1994 Vanity Fair (N.Y.) May 168/3 But about the mentor/mentee relationship between the detectives, that’s an important thing.

2001 Fast Company (Electronic ed.) 1 Jan. 58 Although Garrison doesn’t think that mentors need to be best friends with their mentees, he does think that both partners should feel simpatico on some level.

Stuff like this happens. In the late 19th century, people in America and the UK independently decided that they needed a verb for what a burglar does for a living. The UK folks created “burgle” much like “mentee” was created (by treating the “ar” as if it were “er” added to a verb) (I’m convinced that the first few people did that as a joke). In America, they were more regular - adding “ize” to the noun to create “burglarize.”

The OED is a beautiful artifact of the rich history of new words added to the English language, and it is explicitly descriptive, not prescriptive. A given edition of the OED is not the end-form of the English language.

If we’re going to invent a word, let’s go with mentat.

“All words are made up.” -Thor

You will soon be free, my friend,
So do not worry any more.
The king will let you out of here,
You’ll buttle as you did before.

I like that new words happen. That some of them have amusing, obvious but incorrect origins is delightful.

Plural: mentos

This feels like the right place to add a plug for the movie “The Professor and the Madman” for those that haven’t seen it.

As evidenced by the fact that somewhere between my hard copy (Shorter) OED, and the online OED linked by Andy_L – mentee made the cut.

I started it a few days ago, but got interrupted. I’ll definitely go back and finish.

We’re also stuck with “supervisee.” Actually I like that better than “report” anyway.

You’ve earwormed me, so in return “It was red and yellow and green and brown and blue!”

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Every golfer knows the Mentee is about ten yards back from the Ladies’ Tee.

If someone does the work of Mentor, aren’t they a mentorer? Thus working with mentorees?

Or is it Manatees?

Back when I was part of my company’s mentorship program, they kept referring to “mentees.” I insisted there was no such word and the proper term should be “protege.” Even though that is absolutely the correct word (“a person who is guided and supported by an older and more experienced or influential person”) my suggestion fell flat.