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October 14, 2011

I see there’s a film out called Escapee – a thriller, about somebody who escapes from prison. And therefore they call him an escapee. But hang on – why do they call him that? Usually the suffix -ee denotes the object of an action or process – the recipient, the person it’s done to. Thus, an interviewee is someone who gets interviewed; a trainee is someone who gets trained; an evacuee is someone who gets evacuated; an employee is someone who is employed. If there is an escapee when someone breaks out of prison, it ought to be the prison governor. The person who escapes is the escaper. Sadly I am not the first person to make this point. That honour belongs to Flann O’Brien.

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