those fabulous furless geek brothers (rendered unimportant by recent events)

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.


Geek Brothers: front cover of the underground comic THE COLLECTED ADVENTURES OF THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS.

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.”
Leonard: “What?”
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.
• 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.


Geek Brothers: front cover of the underground comic FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS.

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

Geek Brothers: caricature of the five main characters of THE BIG BANG THEORY.

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.


Geek Brothers: photo of Kaley Cuoco, star of THE BIG BANG THEORY.

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.



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Flat­tering im­ages of Kaley Cuoco….I bet that wasn’t the hardest work you did all day

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