“Four years ago, I couldn’t spell engineer/injuneer, and now I are one” is a joke saying suggesting that an engineering education doesn’t necessarily require much English. There was an original cartoon (possibly from the Bachelor humor magazine at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) that showed a graduate in cap and gown, with a sheepskin in one hand and a slide rule in the other.
“Just think — four years ago I couldn’t even spell injuneer and now I are one” has been cited in print since at least 1960. The joke has been said by other professions besides engineering.
The R1 (later called XCON, for eXpert CONfigurer) program was a production-rule-based system written in OPS5 by John P. McDermott of CMU in 1978 to assist in the ordering of DEC’s VAX computer systems by automatically selecting the computer system components based on the customer’s requirements. The development of XCON followed two previous unsuccessful efforts to write an expert system for this task, in FORTRAN and BASIC).
McDermott’s 1980 paper on R1 won the AAAI Classic Paper Award in 1999. Legendarily, the name of R1 comes from McDermott, who supposedly said as he was writing it, “Three years ago I wanted to be a knowledge engineer, and today I are one.”
OCLC WorldCat record
Six weeks ago I couldn’t spell preacher, now I are one : the early ministry of Richard “Dick” Hettrick
Author: Theo E Boyd
Publisher: Independence, Mo. : Theo E. Boyd, 1926]
Edition/Format: Book : English
SOME PEOPLE THINK the cartoon of a grinning character in cap and gown, sheepskin in hand, observing “Just think — four years ago I couldn’t even spell injuneer and now I are one” is a big joke. But not me. I work for the injuneers.
12 January 1961, Jet magazine, pg. 43:
That newly promoted Army sergeant and his loud, proud boast to chums in a Windy City bar: “Just think, two years ago I couldn’t spell the word sergeant, now here I are one.”
27 February 1962, The Progress (Clearfield, PA), pg. 4, col. 4:
These items remind me of a cartoon I once saw which states “Six Munts Ago I Culdn’t Eve Spell Ingineer and Now I Are One.”
(Letter by Robert L. Schucker, Clearfield, PA—ed.)
Yesterday I couldn’t spell “injuneer,” and today I are one. This was the caption on a cartoon passed around the drafting rooms a decade ago. I am certain you saw it and got a little chuckle from it.
26 December 1969, Seattle (WA) Times, John J. Reddin’s “Faces of the City,” pg. A4, col. 3:
“Yesterday I couldn’t spell ‘technician,’ now I are one.”
28 May 1970, The Brazosport Facts (Freeport, TX), “Arti-Facts” by Marguerite Davidson, pg. 8, col. 4:
The ecology story is the enthralling one. As Dr. D. J. Kihan joked at the beginning of his talk tothe AAUW on Monday night on this subject,” Five years ago I couldn’t spell it and now I are one.”
12 July 1970 The Brazosport Facts (Freeport, TX), Progress ‘70, “Portrait: Bob Schwebel: a drive to get things moving,” pg. 2, col. 3:
Schwebel also recalled another inner circle joke among veterinarians about the difficulty people have spelling and pronouncing the word veteriniarian. He said a sign posted on a bulletin board at Texas A&M reads: “Six years ago I couldn’t spell it, now I are one…”
Google News Archive
5 December 1970, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, “Mark My Words” by Jim Fiebig, pg. 6A, col. 2:
“Three months ago, I couldn’t even spell enjuneer,” said the sign over the bar, “and now I are one.”
16 January 1972, Gastonia (NC) Gazette, “You oughta be in horror movies” by Evie Staunton, pg. 31, col. 4:
“It’s like that old joke, two months ago I couldn’t spell salesman and now I are one.”
20 July 1977, Seattle (WA) Times, “Eddie Krueger—future superstar?” by Craig Smith, pg. H3, col. 1:
BOTHELL—There is an old joke that goes: “Two years ago I couldn’t spell salesman and now I are one.”
Getting Sued and other Tales of the Engineering Life
By Richard Meehan
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
“Four years ago I couldn’t even spell engineer, now I are one,” reads the caption.
American Railway Engineering Association
In reflecting on an appropriate subject for this dedicated group of railroad engineers, I was reminded of that cartoon of the recent engineering graduate, holding the diploma in one hand and a slide rule in the other saying—“Four years ago I couldn’t spell engineer, and now I are one.”
10 September 1989, Fresno (CA) Bee, “High-tech gains spur worker pain”:
The old college joke used to go like this: “Before I couldn’t spell engineer. Now I are one.”
7 March 1993, Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), “Industrial enginners use new methods on problems” by William Charland:
“Technoids!” “Nerds!” “Propeller-Heads!” Over the years, engineers have been accused of owning narrow skills. There used to be a standing joke about engineering grads at the University of Minnesota. “Four years ago I couldn’t spell ‘engineer,’ and now I are one!”
Last week I couldn’t spell “firefighter” - now I are one.
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: American fire journal, Vol 46 (4) (April 1994)
Emotions for Engineers
01 May 2007
I Are Engineer
Where I went to college, we used to say on graduation day, “Last year I couldn’t even spell engineer, now I are one.” It’s pretty funny to me and points out the irony of engineering in the US—that engineers are supposed to be calculating machines, never mind the so-called soft skills.