I've always wanted a rubber stamp that said "REQUEST DENIED", although I don't know if I'd ever be able to bring myself to use it. (That said, I once had made, and gave to someone as a gift, a rubber stamp that was a full eleven inches wide and four inches tall, which said PISS OFF! in all caps. That was fun to pick up at the office-supply store.)
But if I did have a "REQUEST DENIED" stamp, I'd use it for this semi-serious request that was written about here, at the Volokh Conspiracy:
Instead of creating a new word to represent someone who is receiving guidance under a mentor as a 'mentee', couldn't someone (not certain of who is responsible for adding/changing definitions to the official dictionaries) simply add an additional definition to the word protege to allow for further meaning?
Okay. Let's unpack this a bit:
- There is no one person who is responsible for "adding/changing definitions to the official dictionaries" — at least, not for English, as English has no "official dictionaries." Perhaps you're thinking of French?
- Dictionaries (as is, thankfully, pointed out in the original post) don't add new definitions "to allow for further meaning". "Further meanings: allowed" is the DEFAULT SETTING. You want to use protege to mean mentee? Go ahead, knock yourself out — just be prepared to be misunderstood.
(Me, I occasionally use henimus to mean "(not a) genius", based on a MISUNDERSTANDING of this episode ["Girlfriend 2000"] from the old Chris Elliott show "Get a Life", which I think four people watched … although the toxic-waste-doping spelling bee episode, "Chris's Brain", with its prize of a jewel-encrusted dictionary, is a Dictionary Evangelist favorite. But I don't expect to be understood when I use henimus, because it's about as obscure as you can get.)
- If you don't like mentee, there's no reason you have to use it: say "the person I mentor," or some other work-around. Just because a word exists doesn't imply that its use is obligatory.
Also worth rebutting (which Volokh does quite well, but I'll throw in a couple pennies as well): the idea that if the word mentee exists, that this implies the existence of the verb to ment. I don't know where this notion came from, but English morphology is a bit more fluid than this. You can certainly go from mentor to mentee without having to postulate some missing-link verb *ment. Although, frankly, I'm considering using ment now (strictly jocularly, and on my own recognizance) just to piss those anti-mentee people off.
To sum up: yes, mentee is a slightly awkward word. Give it time to grow up a bit, or use a work-around of some sort … although if you decide to repurpose another word, be prepared for some "what?" reactions. But, please, don't waste your time or anyone else's trying to get a dictionary to record a change that hasn't yet happened in the language. We have enough to do keeping up with the changes that have!
Thanks to Kat for the link!