RE: Semantic(s)

Subject: RE: Semantic(s)
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: 'Dana Worley' <dana -at- campbellsci -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 15:46:42 -0700

Dana Worley wrote:

> On Thursday, March 18, 2010, Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Health wrote:
>
> > But doesn't it mean arguable in the sense that it's only arguable by
> > people with nothing better to do, is purely academic, not worth
> > bothering with, etc?
>
> Not really. Historically, a moot discussion in a court of law was a mock
> court or
> hypothetical case. You *could* argue they had nothing better to do :) But
> as an
> adjective a moot point means it is open for discussion or debate, and as a
> verb, to
> moot a point is to present the point for discussion.
>
> And then there's also the definition of being of little practical value.
>
> My take on it is if you want to avoid ambiguity, don't use moot since you
> could mean
> the point is arguable or not worth arguing.

The American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) defines the adjective thusly:

1. Subject to debate; arguable: a moot question.
2.
a. _Law_ Without legal significance, through having been previously decided or settled.
b. Of no practical importance; irrelevant.

And it adds this usage note:

The adjective moot is originally a legal term going back to the mid-16th century. It derives from the noun moot, in its sense of a hypothetical case argued as an exercise by law students. Consequently, a moot question is 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, is one that has no practical value. A number of critics have objected to this use, but 59 percent of the Usage Panel accepts it in the sentence _The nominee himself chastised the White House for failing to do more to support him, but his concerns became moot when a number of Republicans announced that they, too, would oppose the nomination._ When using moot one should be sure that the context makes clear which sense is meant.

That backs up Dana's advice.


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
303-223-5111
------
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom
303-777-0436
------






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Follow-Ups:

References:
Semantic(s): From: Janet Swisher
Re: Semantic(s): From: Dana Worley
RE: Semantic(s): From: Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Healthcare, consultant)
RE: Semantic(s): From: Dana Worley

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