Marine Fish, Materiel? Material? A Former Technical Writer Investigates

So I just read an article that stated the inhabitants of old Scotland probably had as the mainstay of their diet meat and marine fish. What? asks I. Aren't all fish marine, as in, "of the water?"

Then technical writer DH appeared on my shoulder. "Remember materiel," she whispered in my ear.

How well I do remember materiel. On my first day as a technical writer--while still a student!--my boss plopped a 500 page technical report from the Army. "Edit this," he said.

I stared at that technical ream of paper in fear. What did I know of Army things? "This is what you're going to school for. You can do this," one of my inside voices said. I picked up my red pen and started reading. (In later months, I would switch to #2 pencil--the red pen made me feel as if I were yelling.)

A few pages in, I came across the word "materiel." My hand swiped up, my wrist cocked, but I held my fire. I knew only the material on my back or the materials needed for an art project, but this was a brave new world I was entering--a world wherein "materiel" might be a word. I cracked open my new Merriam-Webster and found materiel somewhere after material but before mateship. Glad was I, having harkened the internal editor, and gladder still for not having made an embarrassing edit on my first day.

Not all fish are marine fish; marine fish are saltwater fish, as opposed to fresh water fish. I will rest easy tonight with this new knowledge.


Charles Gramlich said...

I too would have thought Marine fish to have been redundant.