Professional Style

Moot

April 2013
Spot the Error

Gerald’s plans on how to spend his year-end bonus became mute when his company announced that no bonuses would be awarded.

Mute? Really? The word mute means silent, and that just doesn’t work in the “bonus” sentence above. You can mute your television so you don’t have to listen to commercials. You can mute your phone so the person on the other end can’t hear the toilet flush. But you can’t mute plans. Instead, the plans above became moot.

Funny word, I know … moot. Mute sounds so much more refined. But you can say it; I know you can. Pucker your lips, bellow like a cow, and end with a “t.” Mooooooot. Not bad.

The etymology of moot is kind of interesting. The word comes to us from medieval England where moots were councils or assemblies convened to debate issues. Later, moot courts (which hold mock trials) were introduced as training grounds for law students. Since the outcomes of these courts were (and are) completely inconsequential, arguments that are irrelevant are said to be moot. Today, moot has gone from something worthy of debate to something not worth debating.

In the end, however, all I really care about is that you say it properly—mooooooot. Good, Bessie.

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