THE BIG BANG THEORY is an endlessly rewatchable show: aside from the fabulous characters and the intertwining of their personal lives, the dialog is chock-a-block full of humor of all sorts, from the zany to the kind that requires the viewer either have a reasonable IQ or access to the Internet to look things up. And there’s so much sexual humor, blatant and innuendo.
The humor might be called contemporary slapstick, but it often reminds me of the same type of slapstick that found its way into the underground comix of the late 1960s and early ’70s. If writer and artist Gilbert Shelton had morphed from an acid-dropping, longhaired, San Francisco hippie into an acid-dropping, man-bun-wearing, Silicon Valley type, he might have reconfigured Fat Freddy, Freewheelin’ Frank, and Phineas of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and made Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, and Rajesh into the Fabulous Furless Geek Brothers.
Sheldon’s definition of the word ‘moot’ as ‘rendered unimportant by recent events’ caused me to pause and ponder what he meant.
Just as The Big Bang Theory has its own science consultant for the various charts and diagrams that the guys constantly scribble onto their ever-available whiteboards, it also seems they have a consultant for some of the more obscure aspects and minutiae of life and how it’s lived. Rarely are they in error, even about the subjects of their joking. 1
But they do get things or two wrong occasionally.
The Collected Adventures Of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers is a compilation of strips written and drawn by Gilbert Shelton that originally appeared in The Rag, an underground newspaper in Austin, Texas. This is essentially Freak Brothers #1 and is among the biggest selling underground comix of all time.
Rendered unimportant by recent events
The opening scene of “The Agreement Dissection” (season 4, episode 21) has Sheldon needing immediate access to the toilet in the apartment he shares with Leonard. The door is closed and Leonard can be heard showering, so Sheldon knocks for permission to enter. The brief (and of course humorous) exchange begins with this exchange:
Sheldon: “Leonard, are you in the shower?”
Leonard: “I can’t hear you—I’m in the shower!”
Sheldon: “I asked if you were in the shower, but that’s moot now.”
Sheldon: “Moot—rendered unimportant by recent events.” 2
I paused the disc when I heard moot defined that way? I thought, “Wait! That’s not what moot means!” But it may be one of many meandering mismeanings ascribed to the word by people who use it without taking a few moments to look it up and get it right!
So, if you’re one of those people, I have taken the time for you. Below find the primary definitions of the word moot from four well-known and well-used online dictionaries (listed alphabetically):
• Cambridge Dictionary: of a matter being considered that has not been decided and can therefore still be discussed.
• Dictionary.com: open to discussion or debate; debatable; doubtful.
• Free Dictionary: subject to debate; arguable or unsettled.
• Merriam-Webster: open to question, debatable; subjected to discussion, disputed.
Each of the sources offered secondary definitions because moot has other meanings, such as “of little or no practical value.” This is where some of the confusion concerning the word’s meaning comes from. 3
If you know those other meanings for moot and want to use moot with one of those other meanings, keep in mind that most readers do not know those meanings.
Most readers will interpret your use of moot to mean debatable and if debatable doesn’t work in the context in which you are using, most readers will assume you do not know what the word means.
Further Adventures Of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers is a compilation of previously published strips written and drawn by Gilbert Shelton that picks up where Collected adventures left off. This is essentially Freak Brothers #2 and is among the biggest selling underground comix of all time.
If you absolutely must use it
So, for those of you who care about actually communicating your meaning with your choice of words—that is, you want what you’ve written to be understood by tour readers—here are Neal’s Rules for Moot Usage:
1. Don’t even use the word moot—use whatever else you think it means.
2. If you absolutely must use it, use it to mean “debatable” and nothing else.
Finally, I did not consider the legal definition of moot, as that can be considered nomenclature. And there is moot as a noun: “assembly of freemen, from 12th-century Old English gemot, being a meeting (especially of freemen, to discuss community affairs or mete justice).”Sheldon's definition of the word 'moot' as 'rendered unimportant by recent events' caused me to pause and ponder. Click To Tweet
FEATURED IMAGE: The fantabulous caricature of the original five main characters of The Big Bang Theory at the top of this page is by Jsoleb. From left to right: Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons).
1 The science consultant is David Saltzberg, who teaches physics and astronomy at UCLA.
2 This could have been used by the Big Bang writers to play on Cheech & Chong’s old “Dave’s not here?” routine.
3 In fact, the first thing I did was type “rendered unimportant by recent events: into Google to see if it pulled some arcane source for the definition. Nope, the only thing it pulled up were countless references to Sheldon’s use of the word moot.
As the rendering of Kaley Cuoco in the image above is not particularly flattering, I thought I would close this piece out with an image that was—and this one will do nicely.