Answer: Moot

Monday, 22 May 2017 16:31
randi2204: McCoy with all the things he says he's not in TOS (star trek - mccoy is not your)
[personal profile] randi2204 posting in [community profile] fandom_grammar
We were asked, What is the origin and correct usage of “moot?” Moot has a variety of meanings, so correct usage can be a bit tricky.  Let’s dig right in with some help from the characters of Star Trek.



The origins of moot lie in Old English, though similar words existed in Old Low Frankish, Middle Dutch, and Middle High German.  In Old English, moot could be either a noun or a verb and had two slightly different derivations.  As a noun, it descends from the word gemot, which means meeting.  A moot was an assembly of freemen, usually to discuss community affairs.  Lord of the Rings fans may recall that the gathering of Ents where they discussed the possibility of fighting Saruman was called an Entmoot.  This is not a coincidence; Tolkien not only studied Old English, he used it as the basis for some of the languages he invented.

As a verb, moot can mean to suggest or bring up for debate.  It derives from the Old English word motian, which means to meet, talk, or discuss.  So, if one is attending a moot or is mooting, then one is part of a discussion or debate.

Nowadays, moot is not widely used in either of these senses, as evidenced by Captain Kirk’s reaction:

The officers from the Enterprise watched as their hosts scurried past them to assemble in the amphitheater.  “What’s going on, Uhura?” Kirk asked, watching as the last few natives squeezed through the door.

Uhura frowned at her tricorder.  “Our guide called it a moot, Captain.”

“A what?”

She sighed discreetly.  “A town meeting, probably to discuss us and what we could mean for their future.”

Kirk flashed her a grin.  “So.  They’re… mooting.”

Uhura rolled her eyes.


Now comes the fun part—moot can also be used as an adjective, and as such, has two very different definitions, which might be where confusion arises.  As an adjective, moot can be used to describe something open to discussion or that is debatable or doubtful.  It can also mean something of no practical value or relevance.  Both of these definitions can be traced back to the 1500s and the practice of law students arguing hypothetical cases in what was called a moot court.  They did this to test their skills, but the law cases, being purely hypothetical, had no real practical value.  Thus, a moot point—probably the most familiar modern usage—can be a point that can be argued one way or the other, or it can be a point that’s more or less meaningless, or academic.

Spock is familiar with moot points:

“Captain, I believe that pursuing this course of action will cause us to violate Starfleet order—”

Kirk waved away the rest of Spock’s argument.  “Whether or not we’re in violation of any Starfleet orders will be a moot point if we don’t make it through this fight alive.”

Spock considered Kirk’s words even as he worked his console.  “I presume you mean that the point will be rendered academic; I believe it will still be subject to debate.”

“I’m not debating this with you!” Kirk shouted, as the Enterprise shuddered under a barrage of lasers.  “Find me a way out of this!”


For the most part, the noun and verb definitions of moot have become disused and archaic, though we still commonly see it used as an adjective.  Since the adjective definitions are very different, it might be best to use a different word to clear up the confusion of what kind of point you mean.  If the point is irrelevant, use “irrelevant” or a synonym.  If the point is one that can be debated, use “debatable.”

Let’s address one further point—that of pronunciation.  Moot is pronounced so that it rhymes with hoot, as in the cut tag above.  I had a co-worker who always said “a mute point.”  I suppose if he’d stayed silent, it would, indeed, have rendered the point moot.

Sources:



23/5/17 05:38 (UTC)
nywcgirl: (Default)
[personal profile] nywcgirl
In Dutchbmoot means piece, een moot vis, a piece of fish...

23/5/17 18:18 (UTC)
whymzycal: a plane with really big props (mad props)
[personal profile] whymzycal
I'm here to express my love for your icon. And for this excellent explanation of "moot." That's all.

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