Form ‘R Substance: Picking Your -Ors and -Ees
by Dennis Walker
ausing to pick the proper appellation for people who are projected on can be problematic. A recent headline in The Docket, "The Perfect Match: Mentors and mentees reflect on their year in the Denver Bar Association’s Mentoring Program," caught me. I know I used to attempt to be a "mentee," but, like always having been a "white" guy, it never occurred to me to think of myself that way. Connotations.
We draft documents to transfer rights and shuffle concepts down to shorthand. We pick what we hope is the convenience of injecting "hereinafter referred to sometimes as ‘assignor,’" and even squeeze in the delightful, "assignee." As provisors, we cringe in hope that our "provisions" are not spoken aloud. Buried under 20 pages of verbiage, maybe they won’t come back to mock us.
As lawyers, we expect our listeners will glide past a worn-out ring of technicality when we say "employer and employee," "payer and payee," "grantor and grantee," or "benefactor and beneficiary." It’s almost legally normal, but probably not really sociable, to rattle off "settler and settlee," "donor and donee," or "maker and makee." You lose your audience when you utter "executor and executee," "trustor and trustee," or "devisor and devisee." Minds cast off to imagine prisoners and eyeshades. Only the analytically brave or anti-romantic blurt out, "testator and testatee" (or is it "testee" — a client worn out from litigation and fees). An insurance "adjustor" argues money with claimants, and, we hope, they are not feeling like "adjustees." When are "probationers" seen with "probatees," and does recidivism make them "reprobate(e)s?"
Speaking about a "deportee" sings it clearly, thanks to Woody Guthrie. I suppose we are spared an Immigration and Customs Enforcement cop being dubbed a "deporter." Sadly, the plight of "refugees" remains prevalent as we rally to seek peace and justice, harkening to stem acts of terror by terrorists ("refugors").
A flabbergastor (perhaps in some instances he could be seen as one whose critical outpourings hit you as coming from a tyrannical arbiter?) may get named otherwise. I am not sure what you should be called when you are forced, as in the Flatlanders song, to "walk blind-folded backwards through the discombobulator."
Legal drafters can resist mechanical compulsion. We can avoid "stipulator and stipulatee," "ejector and ejectee," or "remediator and remediatee."
Perhaps it does us credit as lawyers that we try not to be the "obfuscator" and work to help "relators" and "emptees." Quality may flow from a variety of construction. D
Dennis P. Walker is an attorney with Irwin & Boesen, PC. He may be reached at email@example.com.