Volokh Commenters Get Noticed:

Someone at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution liked our "mentee" thread -- and quoted a substantial chunk, all from the commenters:

he verbal warfare broke out late last month on "The Volokh Conspiracy," a blog run by UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh. The squabble began during a discussion of misspellings, when one poster took off on the word "mentee."

I find "mentee" [said he] so offensive that I disparage its usage at every opportunity. While I will reluctantly overlook the use of "mentor" as a verb (that battle is lost), I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the verb "to ment" that "mentee" necessarily implies. Resumes containing this word require no further review. I reserve such vitriol and summary dismissal for this error alone. This is because it is what might be called a Homeric error. And I don't mean Homer Simpson.

Yankev's post: What else do you call the subject of a mentor?

I still vote for protege.

Mentee sounds too much like the endangered sea cows that inhabit Florida's coastal waters.

Was that your mentee I saw you with at lunch?

No, that's not the person I ment.

Uggh. Mentee may be a word, but so is puke.

Ex parte McCardle's post: How about "lickspittle," a great old word which has fallen into unwarranted desuetude?

AK: I might recognize "mentee" as a word, but I will never recognize "Mentos" as a food.

James Fulford: What else do you call the subject of a mentor?


Tim Dowling: My recollection is that during the Bush I Administration, EPA's chief of staff issue a memo banning the use of the word "proactive" because, in his words, "it's not a word." Evidently, he didn't like it, word-wise speaking. By the way, mentoring has its own month, January. IT'S THE LAW. Go forth and ment.

NaG: I propose that "the" is not a word. It means nothing. There is nothing about "the" that adds meaning to a subsequent word. "The pig" has no different meaning than simply "pig"; "the" can simply be inferred from the noun itself.

BobH: Eliminate article!!

JohnEMack: Would other passive forms be better? How about "mentess" for female epigones? Or "mented," which permits us to call former students "demented."

Good work, folks!

JosephSlater (mail):
That's fun (and I can say that without hubris since I wasn't part of that thread). But it is also a bit of a caution about posting intemperately -- you never know who may be reading or about to quote you.
9.13.2007 5:06pm
Bob Montgomery:
So now we're commenting on a post about an article about our comments? Is that like kissing your sister?

I think we're entering the Twilight Zone.
9.13.2007 5:19pm
crane (mail):
We'd better hope nobody decides to publish an article about this post. It might create a hole in the space-time continuum and trap us all in a time loop.
9.13.2007 5:29pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
I can't help but wonder, on the "protege" question, why advice isn't support or care.

Imagine I have someone on the team I lead who has received some criticism from members of another team. Having heard the criticism, it is my opinion that the criticism is accurate, and that I am qualified to offer advice. Being interested in my team interacting smoothly with the other team, I go to that team member and say "I will mentor you on this matter".

Why isn't this team member now my protege?

As far as I can tell, this person is indeed under my care because I am interested in his welfare. I actually cannot see a single istance of acting as a mentor that doesn't place your... whatever... entirely into the existing definition of "protege".

I view "mentee" as deliberate silliness to ridicule the often involuntary position of being a mentor to someone who neither wants your advice nor takes it, frequently because your employer's corporate policy says that all new hires are assigned a mentor for their first several months.
9.13.2007 5:38pm
So now we're commenting on a post about an article about our comments?

Actually, we're commenting on a post about an article about our comments on another post that was about a comment on another post. It's all very meta. (Wait, is "meta" a word?)
9.13.2007 6:22pm
Were do I send my DMCA take-down notice?
9.13.2007 6:33pm
Cornellian (mail):
I made a comment on Prof. Bainbridge's blog once (about The Da Vinci Code) that got quoted in a newspaper. It was truly one of my finest moments as a blog hanger-on.
9.13.2007 7:36pm
JosephSlater: Boy are you right. I think I wrote the lead "mentee" post at three in the morning--and if it wasn't that one, I've written many others in the wee hours. As I said in an email to Professor Volokh, I never expected a post so far down a long list to result in any notice, much less provoke an extended thread. And now it is in a newspaper article.

I think the back and forth on this blog is generally of excellent quality. I would not be surprised to see book or web-based "best of" collections from this blog or others in the future. On many other sites, comments tend to be an echo chamber or get nasty in short order. Here, if not always polite, most tend to be thoughtful and/or entertaining.

For example, JohnEMack's suggestion that we allow "ment" to be verb so we can call former students "demented" almost persuades me to drop my prejudice. The comment was hilarious.

P.S. This submission is copyright 2007 by the author. It is submitted granting first publication rights to the "Volokh Conspiracy" only. Any reprinting, republication or reproduction in any media, in whole or in part, without the express written permission of the author is strictly prohibited.

P.P.S. Just kidding. No rights reserved deserved.
9.14.2007 8:13pm