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I wanted to have a word to refer to the thing being thrown, so I decided to use the word "throwee". I can't find this word in online dictionaries, so I guess this word does not exist in the English language.

However, I really like this word and I would like to continue using it in my written communication. I'm not a native speaker, but from my experience with the language, "xee" means "object/person being xed" (where "x" is a verb, e.g. "employee" - "person being employed").

So, what do you think? Is the word "throwee" acceptable? Is it OK if I continue to use it? Should I use a different word?


To provide context, I'm a JavaScript programmer. In the JavaScript programming language, there exists a throw statement, which throws values of various types (e.g. strings, numbers, objects).

// code examples
throw 123;
throw "Invalid argument";
throw new Error;

An usage example would be:

If the throwee is a Number value, then... .

which is more terse and IMO more readable than:

If the value being thrown is a Number value, then...

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In my opinion, "the value being thrown" is much more readable than "the throwee". I'd recommend avoiding it. –  J.R. Aug 5 '12 at 14:37
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Not the computer meaning: in common English there is "projectile" ... an object propelled through the air, esp. one thrown as a weapon. –  GEdgar Aug 5 '12 at 16:58
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"If the projectile is a Number value, then...". I like that. :P –  Šime Vidas Aug 5 '12 at 17:03
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I saw "throwee", and thought "the person having something thrown to them". I wouldn't understand it to mean what you want it to mean. –  AlbeyAmakiir Aug 5 '12 at 22:30
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throw in Javascript creates an exception. You should say "If the exception is of type Number, then..." –  jozzas Aug 5 '12 at 22:50
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7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Neither the OED nor the Corpus of Contemporary American English nor the British National Corpus has any record of throwee, but a Google search produces some 40,700 pages containing it. Use it only if you think your intended readers will understand it. Many general readers, I suspect, would not.

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Throwee (also spelled throwie) in urban slang means a type of graffiti art, simple in form but more complex than a tag. Many of the Google results may have to do with this usage. Take the same search to Google Image Search for examples. –  MετάEd Aug 6 '12 at 15:40
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40k pages is also next to nothing. In comparison, the programming-specific term println has 22 million pages. –  Rex Kerr Aug 6 '12 at 15:42
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Throwee may be a very useful word for a midget-throwing contest.

Other than that, -ee should be restricted to people only.

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I would suggest projectile or missile in the general case, but of course in the case of exception throwing this isn't appropriate. At our codeshop we talk about 'the thrown exception'.

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Even if programmers will recognize "throwee" and, after a moment's reflection, realize that it refers to what is being thrown and not the code which is doing the catching, it's nonstandard and therefore awkward. You may prefer the short form, but you don't have to puzzle out what it means when you read it; anyone who does will prefer the long form (and that will be the majority of your readers who read it the first time).

Brevity does have its appeal, though. So use alternate phrasing instead:

If a Number value is thrown, then ...

(And is "value" really adding anything to that sentence? Are there any non-value Numbers?)

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Yes, there are :). The term "Number" is ambiguous since it can refer to both a primitive Number value, and a Number object (an instance of the Number "class"). It is for this reason, that the ECMAScript standard (the specification for the JavaScript programming language) defines the term "Number value". Note, though, that this applies only to the upper-cased term. The lower-cased term "number" can be used alone, and it is used as an informal synonym for the term "Number value". However, I prefer to be formal in my writing :). –  Šime Vidas Aug 6 '12 at 1:15
    
@ŠimeVidas English has a fine word for the ugly “number value”: numeric value. –  tchrist Aug 19 '12 at 15:27
    
@tchrist The term "Number value" (notice the capitalization) is an official term defined in the JavaScript language standard. (Follow the link in my comment above.) In the context of JavaScript, "Number value" should be preferred over "numeric value". –  Šime Vidas Aug 19 '12 at 16:02
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There are multiple contexts here that I will try to answer.

  • programming: 'throwing' is essentially an 'exception' process. The target of a thrown exception is either
    • a catch block (if you are referring specifically to Java like exceptions
    • an exception handler (for the generic concept of code or a process that receives/catches/handles something that is 'thrown'.
  • the action of throwing with the arm
    • receiver or target is where the thrown object is intended, the first is active, the second passive
    • throwee is a questionably legal creation with the '-ee' suffix. It's not unpopular, people will know what you mean, it's not at all technical, and it is very informal.
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Yea, based on the responses here, I decided to not use "throwee". I think I'll use the terms "thrown value" or "exception value" in the future. (E.g. "If the thrown value is a Number value,...", or just "If a Number value is thrown, ...".) –  Šime Vidas Aug 5 '12 at 15:59
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To me, throwee sounds like the opponent of somebody demonstrating a martial-arts move, or maybe the height-challenged participant in a dwarf-tossing competition.

More precisely, I believe the suffix -ee is almost always used for people. For example, we use the word kidnappee when talking about kidnapped people, but there is no corresponding word *stealee when talking about stolen property. I would recommend against using the word throwee in this context.

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Chris Barker, an excellent semanticist, looked into the semantics of -ee nominals. He confirms your hunch about animacy, as well as reporting several other findings. semarch.linguistics.fas.nyu.edu/barker/Research/barker.ee.pdf –  Daniel Harbour Aug 5 '12 at 19:06
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In the context of programming languages, you are referring to an Exception. "Exception" is a widely-understood term; "throwee" is unacceptable as a synonym.

If you are concerned that it's still not clear enough, "Exception object" or "thrown object" is unmistakably clear.

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In some other programming language, that would be true. However, JavaScript's throw statement allows any value as its operand, including primitive values (like strings, and numbers), and non-error objects (objects that cannot be referred to as errors or exceptions). This is the reason why I decided to use the word "throwee" in the first place. –  Šime Vidas Aug 5 '12 at 14:46
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It's still called an exception in Javascript; for example the page I link to uses it exactly as you want to use it. –  tenfour Aug 5 '12 at 14:59
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+1 for "thrown object". That works in programming languages and in the physical world. –  TecBrat Aug 5 '12 at 15:40
    
@TecBrat "Thrown object" does not work in JavaScript, however, since the thrown value can be a primitive (non-object) value. –  Šime Vidas Aug 5 '12 at 15:48
    
@tenfour Yes, you are correct. The term "exception" does refer to the thrown value. –  Šime Vidas Aug 5 '12 at 15:50
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