The entry below, from Oxford Dictionaries online, shows an etymologically pre-English pronunciation of mandarin: the French mandarine.
mandarin2 Pronunciation: /ˈmand(ə)rɪn/ (alsomandarine /-riːn/, mandarin orange) Definition of mandarin noun 1 a small flattish citrus fruit with a loose yellow-orange skin. 2 the citrus tree that yields the mandarin. 3 Citrus reticulata, family Rutaceae
Through the French mandarine [~EEN / ~`ɪn] and the Spanish mandarín [~EEN / ~`ɪn] / mandarina [~EENa], the word comes to us from the Portuguese mandarim [~EEM / ~`ɪm]
Those precedent pronunciations, today still practised in those three languages, demonstrate precedents for the [~EEN / ~`ɪn] pronunciation, so it’s not solely an Oz phenomenon. It also seems common in Englishes such as Kiwi and Cockney.
"STYLE is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn." — Gore Vidal "STYLE is knowing what sort of play you're in." — Sir John Gielgud
I've moved this thread into the main forum as it has outgrown the "Quick Questions" forum.
"In considering the use of grammar as a corrective of what are called ‘ungrammatical’ expressions, it must be borne in mind that the rules of grammar have no value except as statements of facts: whatever is in general use in a language is for that very reason grammatically correct."
[Henry Sweet, 1891.]
But Craig - why would people, in the first place, have said "mandarine orange" - when "mandarine" didn't yet mean anything?
Having got used to "mandarin" as short for "mandarin orange", then they added an "e" to match things like "tangerine". And some people, who still say "mandarin", didn't bother. So the easier route is "mandarin" is it not?