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Category: Slippery Words

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

draw, draws, drawn, drew, drawer, drawers – withdraw – drawls

One of my favourite examples of a word with an awful lot of meaning wrapped into four letters:

Draw.

It seems simple enough. As in when we draw a picture right?

Let’s think about it. This meaning of the word seems to stem more broadly from to draw, as in to draw out. Say when we go to the nurse and she takes some blood, she will draw it out, or more simple put, draw some blood. To draw, in this sense, suggests something that comes out, perhaps painfully, or even carefully. If one has ever tried to draw, as in art, one can well sense why it is such an appropriate word.

However draw can also refer to something that goes in. That is to draw in, or draw near. To draw, in this sense, means something along the lines of a pull, or an invisible force. So we could say I was drawn by the wondrous light display, or while I was swimming at the beach the rip drew me under.

So draw then, broadly speaking, can have the meaning of being pulled from something or being sucked into something else. Back to the nurse we could saw that they drew blood from your arm and it was drawn into the syringe.

So we can have, in the sense of pull out from something:

  • to draw a weapon;
  • to draw a picture;
  • to draw one’s life blood.

And in the sense of being sucked into something, (curiously usually in the past tense):

  • drawn into a rip;
  • drawn by the light;
  • drawn by her love for me.

Okay. Simple. Right?

But what about drawers, as in furniture? Is it a variation of to draw? As in draw out. We draw out our drawers, so we call them drawers? (Is this also where we get drawers meaning underpants, because they come from drawers?) Possibly.

But what about drawer, as in the withdrawer in a financial transaction? There could well be a third meaning here. To draw, as in to draw from, or draw on. Unlike to draw out which has a sense of difficulty, to draw from has that same sense of pull, however this time with ease, or least from a larger source.

So we might have then:

  • to draw from the bank;
  • to draw on your reserves;
  • to draw a blank. (to try and draw from a larger source, but fail)

Withdraw then is a tricky one for the prefix with- means against. Withdraw, means then against the draw. Draw in this sense meaning to be sucked into something else. So withdraw then is to take something back against the prevailing paradigm. A meaning our banks might not be so happy about. Of course common usage would have us simply use withdraw to mean, to take from, and that is entirely appropriate and correct.

Of course, a drawl is a particular way of speaking with longer vowel sounds. Particularly, a Southern Drawl or an Australian Drawl. There is no particular close relationship between these word forms.

Finally. Draw is not a word that causes confusion, for good reason. For despite it’s mixed usage it is exactly that usage and context that guides us. Something to remember in all our writing.

Orgin
Middle English drawen, dragen, from Old English dragan; akin to Old Norse draga to draw, drag

Really finally, if you made it this far perhaps give your brain a break and try http://www.drawastickman.com/