An Essayby John Casey
I’m going to try to be serious before Lola gets here. Actually, that’s not fair. In a lot of ways Lola is more serious than I am. Certainly more focused. Last week I thought she wanted me to be her mentor. Now I’m pretty sure I was flattering myself.
Mentor. The American Heritage Dictionary, the OED, and the other OED—Online Etymology Dictionary—all mention Mentor, the character in the Odyssey who’s a friend of Odysseus and who guides Telemachus in his search for his father. Sometimes Athena disguises herself as Mentor and lends a hand. But all three dictionaries reach further back and suggest that a common noun came before Homer’s naming of a character. If you Google “mentor, etymology” you find either the Indo-European root men, to think; or Sanskrit, mantar, one who thinks; or, my favorite: “an agent noun of mentos, which means intent, purpose, spirit, passion.”