engi– or inge –neer

I was thinking to start a blog about the engineer part of me. It still is a strong part of me, with a time full of adventures, personal changes and experiences. Since I arrived in Australia the spelling of engineer and its usage has always bothered me.  Being an Ingenieur, I like to be accurate, therefore, let’s get one thing straight.

A Word about the Word

Mostly, when we hear the word engineer, in English, everyone thinks of engines. People, who work with engines are call engineers. The engineering officer is the one who deals with engines. Then, there is another lot, those, who came out of university. You would not want to be mixed up with them, this snobbish lot, who did not want to get their hands dirty.  They are called engineers, too, even they could not hold a spanner.

In German, Ingenieur, has nothing to do with engines. Due to its spelling and notorious mispronunciation by original English speakers, it sounds a bit like engineer, but, etymologically, it is not derived from engine, which in German is MotorIngenieur is derived from the word ingenious.

The etymology of the English word is as follows: “In Middle English, a designer and constructor of fortifications and weapons was called: ingineer.”  …which sounds more like it!  At the same time, the French called this fellow: engigneor, derived from medieval Latin ingeniator.

You can see the mixing up of the vowels, which one could blame the French for.  Later, the French corrected it in their own language, but this was to no avail for the stubborn English, who never had a reformation of their language, ever.

An Overview

across a  few central languages

pronunciation etymology Words for engine
English engineer injineer engine engine, motor,  machine
German Ingenieur injeniör ingeniös Motor, Maschine
French ingénieur æjiniör ingénieus moteur, machine
Italian ingegnere injeniere ingegnoso motore, macchina
Spanish ingeniero injeniero motor, maquina
Latin ingeniarius injeniarius in + gignere ‎ motor
Greek μηχανικός michanikós ingenious μοτέρ [motéhr]
Old Greek μηχανή mēkhanḗ ingenious, resourceful
Arabic مهندس muhandiz relating to geometry [maharrak]         محرك

It appears the word engine exists only in English.

The Greek word sounds like mechanic but means ingenious, originating from ingeniare where it means: to contrive, devise.  In Latin ingeniarius is derived from in + gignere or genere means to beget, produce.

 … and most of the other languages around the world:

If words are not written in the Latin alphabet, I replaced them by their pronunciation in square brackets.  The words highlighted in blue are definitely a derivative of ingenious.

Asturian/ Spain inxenieru  Bulgarian [inženér] Czech inženýr
Danish ingeniør  Dutch ingenieur Esperanto inĝeniero
Estonian insener Finnish insinööri Hindi abhiyantā
Irish innealtóir Japanese [Gijutsusha], [gishi], [enjinia] Jèrriais/ Jersey island înginnieux
Ladino/ Jewish-Spanish injeniero Mandarin [gōngchéngshī]  [jìshī] Min Nan/ Chinese dialect [ki-su]
Marathi/ Western India [imjiniyara] Norwegian ingeniør Persian [mohandes] [enjenier]
Polish inżynier Portuguese engenheiro Roman inženjer
Romanian inginer Russian [inženér] Scots ingeneer
Gaelic einnseanair Slovak inžinier Sorbian/ East-Germany inženjer
Swedish ingenjör Tagalog/ Philippines inhinyero

I like the Scots spelling because, as it is supposed to, it refers to ingenious. For most, it would be easier to pronounce than Ingenieur, even it would be more correct.  I have lived in Australia for over 30 years… and I am in the process of adopting the un-German attitude: “Close enough is good enough.”

Summary

Distilling the above table, let’s construct the word:

1 mostly, it starts with an I closely followed by an N IN***
2 followed by J or G, both pronounced ‘J’, ING***
3 Mostly, this is followed by an E INGE***
4 All have the next N INGEN***
5 then a Y or I but both pronounced ‘I’ INGENI***
6 proper spelling of the word is INGENIEER

This demonstrates, the correct spelling of the start of the word is INGENI***, thus indicating, without the slightest doubt: the word does not originate from engine.

In Conclusion

We all are now in total agreement, the proper international spelling of the word is ingenieer, however, for convenience sake, and having the English population in mind, I propose to drop the ‘i‘ and adhering to the Scots spelling and I suggest, for a short while at least:

Ingeneer

However, having said all the above and arrived at a very amicable solution, not before too long, the above debate will be superseded.  Then engineer or ingeneer will be called gōngchéngshī spelt 工程师  … in simplified Mandarin … you may as well get used to it.

Ω

Amadeus W.
ingeneer

23 March 2015
i-believe-i-can-fly-wide-con10

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