Derived from Ingenious
Since I arrived in Australia in 1983, the spelling of engineer and its confusing usage has always bothered me. Let me elaborate: When we hear the word engineer, in English, most people think of engines because people, who work with engines are called engineers.
Then, there is this other snobbish lot who came out of university who don’t want to get their hands dirty. They are called engineers, too, even though, they couldn’t hold a spanner.
In German, the word Ingenieur has no etymological relationship with engines. Due to its notorious mispronunciation by English speakers, Ingenieur sounds remotely like engineer (albeit the phonetic spelling of Ingenieur is /ɛ̃.ʒe.njœʁ/ while engineer is /ˌɛnd͡ʒɪˈnɪə/…), however, Ingenieur is not derived from engine, which in German is Motor… Ingenieur stems from ingenious.
The etymology of engineer is described by Oxford Dictionaries as follows: “In Middle English, designers and constructors of fortifications and weapons were called: ingineer.” (…which sounds more like it!) At the time of Middle English, the French called this fellow: engigneor, derived from medieval Latin ingeniator, from ingeniare ‘contrive, devise’, from Latin ingenium.
… and here, a Focus on the Word Ingenieur in other Languages:
For languages not using the Latin alphabet, the pronunciation of their words is shown in square brackets. Highlighted words are derivatives of ingenious.
|Gaelic||einnseanair||Hindi||[abhiyantā] + injiniyar]||Irish||[innealtóir]|
|Japanese||[Gijutsu-sha], [gishi] + enjinia||Jèrriais/ Jersey island||înginnieux||Ladino/ Jewish-Spanish||injeniero|
|Mandarin||[gōngchéngshī] [jìshī]||Min Nan/ Chinese dialect||[ki-su]||Marathi/ Western India||imjiniyara|
|Swedish||ingenjör||Tagalog/ Philippines||inhinyero||Sorbian/ East-Germany||inženjer|
I like the Scots spelling of ingeneer which is derived from ingenious and for most people, it is easier to pronounce than Ingenieur. Even after living in Australia for over 30 years, it is still hard for me to adopt the local attitude: “Close enough is good enough.”
Distilling the above table, let’s construct an English word for Ingenieur:
|1||14 out of 20 spellings start with an I closely followed by an N||IN******|
|2||6 spellings are followed by J or G, either of them pronounced ‘J’,||ING*****|
|3||all of those following assembly 2, continue with an E||INGE****|
|4||All have an N after that||INGEN***|
|5||8 out of 20 continue with a Y or I, but both pronounced ‘I’||INGENI**|
|6||the occasional E is absolutely superfluous, which I ignored, hence, 6 = 5||INGENI*|
|7||most have an R near the end, let’s add one for a final embellishment||INGENIR|
The proper international spelling of the word Ingenieur is ingenir. However, since the world becoming more Anglicised, I propose to replace the second ‘i‘ with ‘ee‘ and suggest:
From now on, in my writings, I will use this spelling and its derivatives.
Having said all the above, not before too long, this debate will be superfluous because the future word for ingeneer will be gōngchéngshī which is written in simplified Mandarin
You may as well get used to it.
Above all: Enjoy!
Ingeneer … now you know
23 March 2015
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