Saturday, March 04, 2006

cookee

Does the "ee" suffix necessarily turn the giver of an action into the recipient of said action? For example, the employer/employee, trainer/trainee, entertainer/entertainee relationships. Have we inadvertently discovered the root of the word cookie? Is it the recipient of the action performed by the cook?

3 comments:

Chaka said...

First of all, thank you, Linus and Special K, for giving me a reason to waste more time on the internet. God will judge you.

The -ee suffix is what we call a "productive morpheme" in that it can be used to form new words, prototypically referring to a person who receives the action done by the person with the -er suffix. For example, I believe the word "mentor" derives from the name of a person in Greek literature. Some speaker of English analyzed the end of this name as being the -or/-er/-ar suffix and created the parallel word "mentee," which I've been hearing quite a lot lately. I don't know if it's in OED yet, but it's definitely a new word created by this productive morpheme.

Your proposed history of "cookie" is setting off my folk-etymology sensors, however. I doubt that this is the origin, but OED shall be consulted. My sense is that -ee became productive much more recently than the word "cookie" appeared in English.

Linus said...

so does this work for copier / copy ?

Chaka said...

Summary of findings: I was right.

Cookie is from a Dutch word for "cake" plus a diminutive suffix.

Mentor was the name of the tutor Odysseus left in charge of his son.

If you want a quick test of these cases, like copier/copy, may I suggest that only those words that end in -ee really could qualify. This suffix probably didn't become productive until after the standardization of spelling, so it probably doesn't underlie any other spellings of the sound /i/.