On the train up to see the fireworks in Carlisle this year I heard a chap say to his friend, you know the word Engineer that means a man who’s ingenious, it’s Latin you know. I looked it up on Wikipedia and he was fairly close to the mark.
Latin ingenium (c. 1250), meaning “innate quality, especially mental power
Later this week I heard a couple of people use the phrase, “it’s over engineered” in a derogatory way meaning overly complex, difficult to maintain or particularly convoluted (perhaps like a Heath Robinson invention or Rube Goldberg machine). However, I have to object to this definition, for me “over engineered” means that something was perhaps more sturdy than it needed to be or was capable at running at 110% without breaking. Looking at the Latin, it should mean even more than this, an over engineered machine should be one of higher quality or that has had more metal power applied to it. By this definition an over engineered solution should be easier to use, quicker to build, simple to maintain and last longer, when it’s finally decommissioned I’d expect it to be fully recyclable. For me this is quality and hence this is over engineering.
Unfortunately the definition of words is set by the lowest common denominator and not by those of ingenuity….