Podcast moot

Printable Version
Pronunciation: mut Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective

Meaning: 1. [Noun] A public meeting, especially one convened for judicial or legislative purposes. 2. [Adjective] Arguable, debatable, open to debate, not settled, as a moot question. 3. [Adjective, Law] Undebatable, of no significance because irrelevant or already decided.

Notes: Today's word is what some have called a 'contronym', a word with two meanings that contradict each other. Outside North America, the adjective means "arguable, open to debate" while in North America it means "not debatable". The noun is seldom used in North America but is still alive in other dialects of English: "Town officials were called together in a moot to discuss enforcement of the new statute." The comparative of this word is mooter while the superlative is mootest.

In Play: We are primarily interested in the adjectival meaning of today's word. In Britain you might say, "Whether Franklin could carry the can of paint to the roof on his head without spilling any was a moot question that Franklin did not want to settle that particular day." Here the question is open, unsettled. In the US, however, someone is more likely to say, after the accident, "Whether Franklin could have made it to the roof without spilling any paint had Rory not shaken the ladder is a moot point." Here the point is no longer relevant since Franklin is currently sitting on the ground covered with paint.

Word History: Today's Good Word meant simply "meeting" in Middle English, when it was spelled simply mot. The adjective moot is a 16th-century legal term that derives from the noun in its sense of a hypothetical case argued as an exercise by a meeting of law students. Originally, a moot question was one that is arguable or open to debate. But in the mid-19th century people also began to look at the hypothetical side of moot as its essential meaning, and they started to use the word to mean "of no significance or relevance". Thus, a moot point, however debatable, became one that has no practical value.

Dr. Goodword,

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