The new website for my church calls me and all my fellow congregants “attendees.” Not “attenders.”
It may sound like quibbling to you, but this one small element of an otherwise perfectly lovely website is making me writch around not unlike the unwitting princess who still felt that pea under her mattresses. (Perhaps despite appearances, I’m fragile.) Adding to my somewhat repentant 9/1 post describing my unwillingness to watch the church website tutorials, I find that I now have a grammatical obstacle in my way, the likes of which I have not had since I went an entire dictionary-less day wondering whether the name “Stealth Bomber” implies that ‘stealth’ is an adjective, despite its normal usage as a noun.
You’re on your own with that one.
Research on englishforums.com suggested that ‘attendee’ works like ‘retiree’ (one who retires), ‘escapee’ (one who escapes), and ‘abscondee’ (one who absconds), the last of which I used just the other day, when I said, “Fie!! Thou hast absconded with my tankard of gruel, thou heartless abscondee! Nay, I shall slay thee anon!” Thus, ‘attendee’ would mean one who attends, and in the case of the church website, someone who attends the church.
A bit of a controversy, though, comparing this to research on grammartogo.com, which advised me to think about the relationship between ’employer’ and ’employee.’ The employer employs and the employee is employed by the employer. So the ‘attender’ attends and the ‘attendee’ is attended to. Got that?
Does this imply that my church attends to my needs? That is sweet, isn’t it? I could use a personal attendant sometimes, mainly to hold the hymnal at an appropriate reading distance when I forget my progressive lenses. Isn’t that nice of them?
The best word on ‘attendee’ that I found was in the British Medical Journal (Vol 323, published 8/18/2001) There, Andrew West, specialist registrar in child and adolescent psychiatry (whatever that is) at Oxford wrote a short, decidedly non-medical piece on how he doesn’t use the word ‘attendee.’ He reports the results of his own research in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, which revealed no meanings for the suffix ‘-ee’ that identify the person doing an action (such as one who attends a meeting). West describes himself as one who has taken refuge from a meeting, perhaps making him a refugee despite the fact that the meeting necessitated rather than provided the refuge.
Interestingly, West also refers to the meaning of ‘-ee’ as being a diminutive suffix, as in a ‘coatee’ being a small coat (does that make a ‘goatee’ a small goat?) This makes me wonder how in the world we came up with ‘Slurpee’ (by this definition, possibly a small slurp), a beverage that can be ordered as an oxymoronic ‘Big Gulp.”
I think I’m with West. ‘Attender’ is A-OK. Anything else makes my head hurt.