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Glen's Blog Posts

Lose or Loose – Don’t be a Loser!

If I want to say, “put that down before I lose/loose my shit!” which should I use (without being a loser)? What does “lose/loose my shit” mean anyway? And, why do people get it wrong so often?

LOSE:

Pronounced “looz”. Despite the single “o” in the spelling the “oo” sound is drawn out as in “Louise”.

  1. (v.) To miss-place something, to forget where something is.
  • Slow down or I’ll lose you; and,
  • Don’t leave it there, you’ll lose it.
  1. (v.) To not have won. Fail to win.
    It is, of course, in this sense of the verb in with we get loser. Being one who loses, or who has no chance of winning.
  • We win, you lose; and,
  • We lose, but only because they cheated.
  1. (v.) To fail to gain or retain. Be deprived off.
  • Put that down or I’ll lose my shit; and,
  • Hold tight, don’t lose it.

You may have tried to grab something, or even tried to hold onto something, and failed.

Of course, and this is where some of the confusion arises, if you deliberately released something, then you would “loose it”.

There is a convergence of meanings.

LOOSE:

Pronounced “loos”, despite the double “o” spelling, the “oo” sound is short as in “Louie”.

  1. (v.) To set free.
  • Let loose the dogs of war!
  • We don’t need that robot army any more, you can turn them loose.

So, it’s (mostly) equally right to say:

  • Hold tight, don’t lose it. (ie. don’t fail to retain it.); or,
  • Hold tight, don’t loose it. (ie. don’t deliberately let it go.) Though perhaps: Hold tight, don’t loose it yet, would be better.
  1. (adj.) Not firmly fixed. Not tight-fitting.
  • the jar lid was loose fitting; and,
  • My loose pants fell down.
  1. (adj.) Not exact.
  • loose talk costs lives;
  • a loose interpretation of the facts; and,
  • that was a loose shot.

The confusion comes in two ways

  • The pronunciation works against the spelling so “Lose” is pronounced like we’d expect to pronounce “Loose” and visa versa; and,
  • All these incessant and sometimes convergent meanings.

So, if you say “loose my shit,” it would mean you literally had a bad case of diarrhoea. Awkward.

And, lose my shit? In this slang phrasing, anger has overwhelmed the speaker. What is being lost is one’s faculties of reason and level headedness. So instead of saying, “put that down before I lose my faculties of reasoning and level headedness,” we say, “put that down before I lose my shit”, to imply (and threaten) that we have already lost them.

Mentee, Mentoree – Ngram – Final Word

Finally the final word. 

This is a follow up to two previous posts:

  1. Mentee, Mentoree, Meant What? and
  2. Mentee, Mentoree, Meant something after all,

… where I finally give into the prevailing tide.

With the ongoing conversation on the usage of Mentee vs Mentoree it occurred to me that there is a measure that will allow us to get a sense on usage.

Usage after all is one of the great arbitrators of nomenclature.

Google Ngrams is a fascinating project that was developed out of the Google books project.

A considerable amount of number crunching was done of all of the words (some 500 billion of them) that were scanned by google from a range of books dating back several centuries. Specifically the researchers catalogued the frequency of occurrence of important words and phrases. Ted has a fascinating talk were they explain how they did this.

My suspicion is that this is the best open access resource we have to track the history of word usage. The accuracy of this tool as a measure of real historical usage is difficult to lock down. Any systematic error would be a factor of the number and types of books that Google scanned in, in comparison to the number and types of books that are in existence. My suspicion is that if there is a systematic error prevailing this data it will be a small one. So that if we see a big difference in usage between Mentee and Mentoree we can safely assume a preferred usage.

The Results

So, despite all my objections and to join the common purpose of understanding, which is after all the point of language, Mentee it is.

The people have spoken (or in the case, written).

Mentee, Mentoree – Meant something after all

This post is a continuation to a blog post I made back in January 2011.

Mentee, Mentoree – Meant What?

Please read this first and the comments to come up to speed. I’ll be referring to comments through the rest of this post.

Firstly, thanks so much for all your thoughtful comments over the years.

I’ve been having a read back through these comments and my original post, made some two years ago, and feel content to arrive at a solution for my own usage, which is perhaps all we can ever hope to do. The two common options both feel difficult and unhelpful:

Mentee

Despite it’s common usage, mentee sits wrong with me for the reasons in my original post. Being that there is no verb form “to ment”. And despite it having the validity of being it being in the dictionary (as JD points out July 21st, 2011, 2:31 pm), this argument has never really held water with me. The idea is to write the best one can, not just to follow what ever one else is doing. In a comment above I had briefly resigned myself to the usage of mentee as yet another exception in the English language, but I’m feeling less generous today.

Mentoree

Mentoree, likewise, I appreciate the comments made by anotheridea (May 22nd, 2012, 10:34pm) and TimBT (Oct 4th, 2012, 8:29am) and indeed TimBT is quite persuasive however I can’t quite bring myself over to the usage of mentoree.

As TimBT describes “to mentor” is a proper verb form, to have mentoree you’d also need to have mentorer, which as he argues is a proper noun form (though the dictionary entry is a little confusing). Only it’s not a common usage noun form. Indeed one does not see mentoring programs calling of mentorers and mentorees (or at least not to my knowledge). Indeed the noun mentor is so widely used that I can’t see any hope of mentorer catching on. And I think I know why.

There is an argument against this grammatically correct word pair form based on style and aesthetics. Indeed good writing style is about clarity and serving the reader; unfortunately the similarity of the words mentorer and mentoree make them clumsy and prone to confusion. That there is already a common and correct usage of mentor as the noun only serves to increase confusion and do a disservice to the reader.

Something Else

As I was getting at in my original post, this is my preferred solution.

I had suggested using Mentor and a title equivalent to the work they do, eg Mentor  and Student, Mentor and Young Teacher. However this kind of approach can have it’s problems as well, as Daniel Greene points out in his comment (Feb 27th 2013, 4:17pm) when mentoring in a program for young interpreters it makes no sense to say Mentor and Interpreter.

In my original post I had also suggested, Mentor and Telemachus, as a reference to the Greek Myth from which the word Mentor is derived as a “favourite.” I had suggested Telemachus primarily to open people’s minds to the possibilities out there. Daniel Greene in the comments (Mar 2nd,  2013, 11:18am) has returned the favour. I am equally inspired by his notion of the mentoring relationship actually happening between Mentor and Odysseus. Here is Daniel’s comment in full:

One other thought, Glen: You mentioned: “Mentor was Odysseus’s trusted counselor. Indeed Odysseus made Mentor guardian to his son Telemachus…” Wouldn’t that make Odysseus the counterpart of Mentor? That would make sense, because Mentor was Odysseus’s “trusted counselor,” and a mentor can be more of a trusted counselor than a guardian. The counterpart of guardian would be protégé, which is what Talamacchus was, but the counterpart of trusted counselor would be… trusting client? If I don’t call my mentee “my client,” maybe I could call her “my Odysseus.” I’ll have to see what she thinks about that.

Indeed the suggestion that Daniel makes above to call his mentee “my Odysseus” feels to me like it has the right amount of potential and positive association. However it doesn’t quite fit with the Myth, wherein the Goddess Athena took the form of Mentor so as to give advice to the young Telemachus. That said, I actually like the usage of Mentor Odysseus to describe this relationship. They did have a preexisting relationship before Odysseus traveled to the Trojan War and subsequent adventure on his return home. And this speaks to the sort of relationship I imagine exists between a mentor and mentee. The mentor advising and guiding so that the mentee may travel and be the stuff of legend.

NEW BLOG POST July 12th 2013

Mentee, Mentoree – Ngram – Final Word