Q&A: Is “sponsee” a word?

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Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week we’re seeking a sponsee…

Q: Hi AWC, would you like to see a picture of the child I sponsor?

A: Sure, why not.

Q: Here ya go.

A: Isn’t that a photo of your actual daughter?

Q: Absolutely. And she’s costing me a lot more than $1 a day, I tell you.

A: Riiight. So did you actually have a question?

Q: Yes I do. What should I call my daughter?

A: People usually go with what’s on the birth certificate, but you’re welcome to come up with a nickname.

Q: No silly. I mean that if I’m sponsoring her, what does that make her?

A: So many things we could say right now…

Q: Let me rephrase. Does a sponsor have a reciprocal word for the person being sponsored? We recently got an email from Jenny W wanting to know the same thing.

A: It’s a good question. Employers have employees, franchisors have franchisees – even abductors have abductees. The list goes on with this one.

Q: I was abducted once. But they let me go before they got the ransom.

A: Can’t imagine why…

Q: Anyway, so does “sponsor” have a matching word?

A: Oddly, despite the existence of amputees, divorcees, grantees, interviewees, kidnappees, licensees, mortgagees, transportees and even tutees (yes, that’s really the name of someone taught by a tutor) – there is no “sponsee” or “sponsoree” that exists in the English language.

Q: Are you SURE about “sponsee”? I’ve seen it floating about on the internet.

A: Yes, and you should totally believe everything you read on the internet.

Q: Point taken.

A: Look, it’s a word that pops up because people feel like it SHOULD exist. But officially at least, it’s not an accepted word. The Macquarie Dictionary and other leading dictionaries don’t go near it.

Q: What about Alcoholics Anonymous? What do sponsors call the people they sponsor?

A: They call them alcoholics.

Q: Well, it is anonymous I guess…

A: Seriously though, AA has “members” – so this would probably be the word to use.

Q: So let me try another example. Imagine if little Johnny knocked on my door tomorrow at around 4pm and it was raining and he said he was having a walkathon for his school to raise funds for their new outdoor basketball court, and would I like to sponsor him. Are you telling me that I would have no word to describe his role in this?

A: First, thank you for that unnecessarily elaborate example. Second, we didn’t say there aren’t ways to describe it – just that the words “sponsee” or “sponsoree” would get you laughed out of grammar camp.

Q: That reminds me of a group I do actually belong to. We’re called Apostrophes Anonymous and we meet every third Tuesday to share stories of apostrophe abuse. I feel like I am among friend’s there.

A: Um, shouldn’t that be… never mind. So anyway, words you could use to indicate a person or organisation that is on the receiving end of sponsorship would be “beneficiary”, “recipient” or even “protégé”. Sometimes those don’t fit though, so it’s a case of simply saying “the sponsored party” or similar.

Q: I love sponsored parties. You can have as much cake and as many balloons as you want, and if you’re lucky they’ll order a DJ. It’s so much fun and you don’t need to pay for any of it.

A: You’re beginning to ramble, so that might be time to end this week.

Q: You’re right – time for a message from our sponsors.

A: We have sponsors?

Q: Oh actually, no. They all left after we accused them of being fake news…

If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!


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