My grammatical faith in Americans in restored! This just in from Jeff Rakes, Pastor of Worship and Administration of Grace Church in Dover, DE:
we did research this at one time – here are a couple of things I’ve run across. you may have seen the same ones
the best distinction I found was
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:
(especially BrE) (AmE usually attendee) noun a person who goes to a place or an event, often on a regular basis: She’s a regular attender at evening classes. PowerExif – the best choice to edit EXIF data in imagesLongman Dictionary of Contemporary English
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English:
at·tend·er /əˈtendə US -ər/ n [C]
someone who regularly goes to an event such as a meeting or a class
Daniel was a regular attender at the Baptist Church.
(only found in Longman, no result in OALD)
at·ten·dee /əˌtenˈdiː, ˌæten-/ n [C]
someone who is at an event such as a meeting or a course
See also an interesting tidbit on English vs. British usage
We chose attendee because it can include people who attend occasionally and not necessarily regularly
Not that most people have thought about whether there’s a difference, but we were trying to be consistent, at least when we can remember
Blimey! I guess Briticisms don’t rule after all. That’ll show me for being so cheeky about the church website. Thanks, Jeff, for the well-reasoned and spot on response. If my rants weren’t permanently singed on the landscape of the Internet, you bet they’d be in the dustbin right now.