An “engineer” by any other name would smell as sweet

Apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, but it seems that right now across the internet, a lot of attention is being paid to how the word “engineer” is defined. Merriam Webster, a fairly respected dictionary, offers three definitions of the word, engineer:

  1. “a designer or builder of engines”
  2. “a person who is trained in or follows as a profession a branch of engineering”
  3. “a person who carries through an enterprise by skillful or artful contrivance.”

The second definition is the one most closely aligned with the definition that the state of Oregon uses:

(2) “Engineer,” “professional engineer” or “registered professional engineer” means an individual who is registered in this state and holds a valid certificate to practice engineering in this state as provided under ORS 672.002 to 672.325.

 What’s the Point?

As Vice reports, a self-described “electrical engineer” contested a traffic ticket on behalf of his wife, alleging that the yellow light sequence of certain traffic lights was too brief, putting the public at risk.

This email resulted not with a meeting, but with a threat. The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying responded with this dystopian message:

“ORS 672.020(1) prohibits the practice of engineering in Oregon without registration … at a minimum, your use of the title ‘electronics engineer’ and the statement ‘I’m an engineer’ … create violations.”

In January of this year, Järlström was officially fined $500 by the state for the crime of “practicing engineering without being registered.”

For further reference, please see Chapter 672 of the Oregon Revised Statutes, which clearly spell out what an engineer is, what they can do, and various other limitations.


Image courtesy Wikimedia. Casey Jr. was also not an engineer.