Friends Joey Superman 1500

is the consistent misuse of “moot” is just a moo point anyway?

SEVERAL WORDS ARE MISUSED with great consistently—and often great dexterity—on the in­ternet. “Moot” is one of them. Given that it can be used as a noun, a verb, and an ad­jec­tive, it’s not sur­prising that users get things mixed up and be­come mis­users and even abusers. While its use as an ad­jec­tive is what I want to ad­dress here, I might as well give you the whole she­bang.

Ac­cording to Merriam-Webster On­line, as a noun, moot means “a de­lib­er­a­tive as­sembly pri­marily for the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice, es­pe­cially one held by the freemen of an Anglo-Saxon com­mu­nity.” The word is de­rived from the Old Eng­lish gemōt, a name for a ju­di­cial court.

“Orig­i­nally, moot named ei­ther the court it­self or an ar­gu­ment that might be de­bated by one. By the 16th cen­tury, the legal role of ju­di­cial moots had di­min­ished, and the only rem­nant of them were moot courts, aca­d­emic mock courts in which law stu­dents could try hy­po­thet­ical cases for prac­tice.

 

When I come across moot as an ad­jec­tive on the in­ternet, it is being used cor­rectly to mean de­bat­able about half the time.

 

Back then, moot was used as a syn­onym of de­bat­able, but be­cause the cases stu­dents tried in moot courts were simply aca­d­emic ex­er­cises, the word gained the second sense, ‘de­prived of prac­tical sig­nif­i­cance.’ Some com­men­ta­tors still frown on using moot to mean ‘purely aca­d­emic,’ but most ed­i­tors now ac­cept both senses as stan­dard.”

Then there is moot as a verb, where it means “to bring up for dis­cus­sion, to broach, to de­bate, and, ar­chaically, to dis­cuss from a legal stand­point.” This de­f­i­n­i­tion seems to be a major source of the con­fu­sion among misusers—at last, I think it may be.

 

Friends MooPoint button 1000

Like any good quote, “Moo point” has been mar­keted on a va­riety of ob­jects, no­tably shirts, coffee mugs, and the in­evitable pin-back but­tons. Here it’s get­ting a Christmas back­drop.

It’s like a cow’s opinion

Then there is the ad­jec­tive, whose pri­mary de­f­i­n­i­tion is (a) open to ques­tion; de­bat­able; and (b) sub­jected to dis­cus­sion; dis­puted. This is found in vir­tu­ally every dic­tio­nary. But it has a sec­ondary de­f­i­n­i­tion: de­prived of prac­tical sig­nif­i­cance; made ab­stract or purely aca­d­emic.

When I come across moot as an ad­jec­tive on the in­ternet, it is being used cor­rectly to mean de­bat­able about half the time. But the other half? I’ll be demned if I can usu­ally figure out what the writer had in mind when he se­lected it. 1

And all this brings me around to the episode from the sev­enth season of Friends ” (2000) ti­tled “The One Where Chan­dler Doesn’t Like Dogs.” Joey (Matt LeBlanc) chimes in on a dis­cus­sion about a young man that Rachel (Jen­nifer An­niston) has a crush on. 2

Joey: “All right, Rach, the big ques­tion is, ‘Does he like you?’ Be­cause if he doesn’t like you, this is all a moo point.”

Rachel:Huh! A ‘moo point’?”

Joey:Yeah, it’s like a cow’s opinion: It doesn’t matter. It’s moo.”

Rachel:Have I been living with him for too long, or did that all just make sense?”

Ac­tu­ally, Joey’s dumb de­f­i­n­i­tion of moo is not all that far re­moved from the sec­ondary de­f­i­n­i­tion of moot above (“de­prived of prac­tical sig­nif­i­cance”) and makes a hel­lu­valot more sense than the uses I find of moot on the in­ternet. 3

Given that ‘moot’ can be used as a noun, a verb, and an ad­jec­tive, it’s not sur­prising that users get things mixed up and be­come mis­users and even abusers. Click To Tweet

Friends Joey Superman 1500

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is from an­other episode from the sev­enth season of Friends, “The One With The Hol­iday Ar­madillo.” I chose it be­cause it presents Joey in such a fine light. (Ac­tu­ally, I couldn’t find a re­ally good image of Joey from the “The One Where Chan­dler Doesn’t Like Dogs.”)

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   “They seek him here, they seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him every­where. Is he in heaven or is he in hell? That demned elu­sive Pim­pernel.” – Baroness Em­muska Orczy

2   For readers who are not fa­miliar with Friends, Joey Trib­biani wouldn’t be one of the brighter bulbs on any­one’s Christmas tree. But he is nigh on ir­re­sistible to a good por­tion of the human fe­male pop­u­la­tion of this planet.

3   Now I’m won­dering now if there are mil­lions of writers out there who have this episode em­bedded in their sub­con­scious and its af­fecting their use of the word moot.

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