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:
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, 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.
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