Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme

“Moot point,” not “mute point”

with 111 comments

I haven’t heard this myself, but my friend Celeste has and it’s so hilarious it deserves a blog entry.

Apparently Celeste has heard people say, “It’s a mute point.”

That’s “mute” pronounced “mee-yoot” as in remaining silent.

The correct term is “moot point” and the correct first word, its spelling, and pronunciation is “moot.” Like adding T to the end of what a cow would say.

And what is meant by “moot point”? A moot point is one that need not be decided, due to a change of circumstances. Very interesting, because the word “moot” by itself means “debatable, or subject to discussion,” the opposite of its use in the legal context. The shift in usage is slowly happening, starting here in the United States.

But what’s this about a “mute point”? As Celeste reports to me, some people say this thinking it means, “Let’s put the mute button on and cease any discussion on this.”

Wouldn’t it be funny if the term evolves this way to become correct? After all, with the ubiquity of remote controls and mute buttons, a “mute point” may make more sense than a “moot point” to someone who’s not a lawyer.

For today, however, it’s wrong. Say “moot point” and try not to stick a “y” sound in there.

Written by wellaontheweb

2006 Sep 25 at 02:52

111 Responses

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  1. …. Help! — Is it, “toe the line” or “tow the line”? (And, from where does this little oft used metaphor come?)

    Rod Smith

    Rod E. Smith, MSMFT

    2006 Sep 27 at 07:20

    • It’s tow.

      ellen

      2009 Jun 26 at 09:42

      • “Toe the line” is an idiomatic expression meaning to conform to a rule or a standard. Phrases which were once used in the early 1800s and have the same meaning were toe the mark and toe the plank

        OutlawX

        2012 Sep 4 at 13:16

    • No, its “toe the line” It refers to the two lines on the floor in the house of Lords in London that are exactly two and a half sword lengths apart. If there was an arguement and the participants crossed that line they were told to “toe the line”

      Matt

      2009 Jul 12 at 02:04

      • argument

        Webster

        2009 Aug 3 at 20:36

      • No, it’s “tow the lion”. It means to uphold the dishonesty of the institution.

        Warren

        2010 Jun 22 at 11:55

      • (according to Wikipedia) There is no record of a time when Members of Parliament were allowed to bring swords into the Chamber. Historically, only the Sergeant-at-Arms carries a sword as a symbol of his role in Parliament. There are loops of pink ribbon in the Members’ cloakroom for MPs to hang up their swords before entering the Chamber to this very day as a result of this rule.

        The most likely origins of the term go back to the usage of the wooden ships in the Royal Navy. Barefooted seamen had to stand at attention for inspection and had to line up on deck along the seams of the wooden planks, hence to “toe the line”.

        Thane

        2011 Jun 3 at 16:02

      • Meaning

        To conform to an established standard or political programme.
        Origin

        There is some confusion between ‘toe the line’ and the frequently seen misspelling ‘tow the line’. The ‘tow’ version is no doubt encouraged by the fact that ropes or cables on ships are often called lines and that ‘tow lines’ are commonplace nautical items.

        The earlier meaning of ‘to toe the line’ was to position one’s toes next to a marked line in order to be ready to start a race, or some other undertaking. In the 19th century, we wouldn’t have been limited to lines when it came to placing our feet, but would have had a choice of what to toe – a mark, scratch, crack or trig [a line or small trench]. These were all then in use in ‘toe the …’ phrases. The earliest version we know about is from The Diverting History of John Bull and Brother Jonathan, 1813, by ‘Hector Bull-Us’ – known to his family and friends as James Paulding:

        “He began to think it was high time to toe the mark.”

        Pauling was using the figurative rather than literal meaning of the phrase, i.e. to ‘toe the mark’ was to conform to a set standard.

        Going back to the original, literal ‘toeing’ of a line; there are many circumstances where one might place one’s toes up to a line – the start of a sporting event, standing in formation on parade, etc, etc. So, which is the source of the phrase?

        Toe the line – House of CommonsOne explanation that is often repeated is that the phrase derives from the British House of Commons. Arguments in the House are often heated. To deter members of opposing parties from attacking each other, two parallel red lines are marked, two sword-lengths apart, on the floor of the house. MPs are expected to stay behind these lines when a speech is in progress. Members, of course, no longer carry swords, but the tradition remains. Visitors to the House of Commons are very likely to hear this tale related by a tour guide. Counting against this supposed derivation is the fact that the current Commons Chamber dates from only 1950, when the building was rebuilt following WWII bomb damage. Paintings of earlier Commons chambers, from the times when members might actually have worn swords, show no such lines. The parliamentary link may be strengthened in some people’s minds because of the ‘toe the party line’ usage, which relates to orthodoxy in politics.

        Another possible source is prizefighting. The scratch was the line marked across the ring in early ‘toe-to-toe’ boxing bouts. Anyone man enough to enter into such a contest was ‘up to scratch’ (see also: start from scratch). This version of the phrase was known in the USA by the early 19th century, for example, this piece from the Gettysburg newspaper The Peoples Press, from October 1835, in which the public was invited to put up or shut up in a wager about an election:

        Come gentlemen “toe the scratch” or hereafter forever hold your peace.

        Other early examples of ‘toe the …’ have a nautical connection. In the 19th century, sailors were expected to prepare themselves for group punishment by standing in formation on deck and ‘toeing the line’ between boards – also called ‘toeing the crack’. This usage is the earliest that I’ve found for ‘toe the line’ in print – from The Edinburgh Literary Journal, January – June 1831:

        “The matter, therefore, necessarily became rather serious; and the whole gang of us being sent for on the quarter-deck, we were ranged in a line, each with his toes at the edge of a plank, according to the orthodox fashion of these gregarious scoldings, technically called toe-the-line matches.”

        Which is the source? Well, no one knows. What is for certain – it is toe, not tow.

        CaPO (@capodtc)

        2011 Sep 18 at 15:41

  2. It’s “toe the line.” The way I understand it, there’s a line that you don’t want to cross so you can only get as far as your toe touching the line, but not going beyond it.

    wellaontheweb

    2006 Oct 2 at 01:06

  3. Thanks!
    This really helped, as I use it in speech often but never required spelling it, until a recent email in which I used it (but wasn’t sure of the spelling).
    But now that the email has been sent, I suppose that’s a moot point! ;)

    Ron

    Ron

    2006 Oct 26 at 17:48

    • HA…. love this … funny

      tony

      2010 Sep 14 at 10:42

    • ha ha ha! HA HA HA! :)

      patricia

      2011 Jan 16 at 02:22

  4. Sorry for the double-post, but I wanted to make a comment on the above comments (“toe the line” or “tow the line”?) as well.
    The phrase “toe the line” is equivalent to “toe the mark,” both of which mean to conform to a rule or a standard. The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002; ed. by Glynnis Chantrell) says, “The idiom toe the line from an athletics analogy originated in the early 19th century”
    It is in reference to a foot race, in which the competitors must keep their toe behind a certain line, until the ‘gun’. (Of course the ‘GUN’ has since been replaced, along with many of out liberties!)

    Ron

    2006 Oct 26 at 18:00

  5. For more of these, see the eggcorn database

    http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/

    madbandril

    2007 Feb 7 at 13:00

  6. It’s funny, I’ve actually used ‘Mute point’ as a sort of lame pun, because I think it does make more sense; I was deluding myself that I had coined it :)

    I think I will continue to use it (although carefully, now that I know I might be mistaken for an illiterate).

    Al

    2007 Apr 3 at 13:51

  7. If an issue is quiet or mute it doesn’t have to become moot in point of fact.

    Bill

    2007 Apr 13 at 10:05

  8. My experience with “toe the line” is to have the courage and loyalty to line up with your fellow soldiers and if you don’t you are a coward.

    SGT Timothy Verkist US Army (Ret)

    2007 Oct 23 at 13:50

    • I thank you for your service!

      Webster

      2009 Aug 3 at 20:41

    • If you’re retired, why does your rank precede your name, and your name precede the US Army? If you are retired, your name will suffice because your view is not of a SGT, US Army. Your name and your opinion belong to you now, son.

      Joe

      2009 Sep 25 at 00:21

      • @Joe: His rank precedes his name because although he is now retired, he still deserves the respect of being a soldier in the US Army. Even though he is retired, he is still, and will forever be, a Sergeant in the United States military. It is common practice among people in the military. He is not claiming the view to be that of the US Army as he plainly states “My experience…” Meaning HIS opinion.

        Jordan

        2009 Oct 2 at 01:11

    • We Love you, Son

      Charles G. Verkist

      2009 Oct 12 at 13:20

      • this is such a sweet comment…love and assurance from the parent to child, regardless of age and accomplishment. the world needs more of that. :)

        patricia

        2011 Jan 16 at 02:26

  9. With all due respect Sgt, you are an idiot.

    Sgt Stadenko

    2007 Nov 29 at 02:14

  10. Wow! I have heard “mute point” several times and seen it written a few times too. I think we need to be careful in encouraging its use, even as a pun. The author of an essay loses all credibility when he or she writes “mute” point.

    Bill

    2008 Jan 7 at 15:28

  11. From my understanding, ‘toe the line’ came from the game of Darts, where you have to butt your toe up against the line! Do you have darts in the US? I only know it as a British pub game, and if not, I suppose this would also be a moot point…? lol

    Emma

    2008 Jan 15 at 09:25

  12. Sgt Stadenko – Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black?…with all due respect, of course! You have proven to be rather misguided on appropriate uses of the phrase, “…due respect”, thereby eliminating your credibility to comment on acceptable uses of language in general.

    By the way, I happen to know Sgt Verkist is as far from an idiot as one can get. Your status, on the other hand, is under debate.

    Mensa B

    2008 Jan 15 at 12:00

    • Do you know Sgt. Verkist? He is my son. His father and I love him very much.

      Nancy Verkist

      2009 Oct 12 at 13:19

  13. Where is Mute Point?
    A writer in our local paper actually used mute point in an article. Our local paper has it roots dating back to 1853 and although it is not widely circulated, many in our county subscribe for the wonderful local news and information. Often we get interesting letters to the editor and quirky articles. A few months back there was a photo of a cat on the front page, it had done nothing extraordinary, it was just a cat. Quaint.

    Feb. 21, 2008 – Defunct helicopter school grounds local students
    By Denise Marie Siino
    “For Seed, it’s a mute point. ‘Why waste a bunch of money paying a lawyer to maybe get a few bucks out of a class action suit? It’s time to move on.’ “
    Contact Denise Siino at (530) 344-5062 or e-mail her at dsiino@mtdemocrat.net.

    http://www.mtdemocrat.com/story.php?id=101.3

    Darrin McNeice

    2008 Feb 21 at 09:49

  14. I got into a huge argument with a friend about this once, sparked by the song “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. In it, he signs, “I wanna tell her that I love her / but the point is probably moot” (leave it to Rick Springfield to use legal jargon in a love song). My friend insisted that he was saying “mute,” and I actually had to print out the lyrics for her to believe me (ironically, the first set of lyrics I found had it spelled “mute,” too). She put up such a fight over something she didn’t even understand! As a studying lawyer, and a grammar advocate, this is one of my biggest pet peeves. This, and “nip it in the butt” instead of “nip it in the bud.”

    GodivaEyes

    2008 Mar 6 at 11:55

    • Hi…..
      The saying “nip it in the bud” what does that mean anyway? Does it refer to pruning plants/flowers somehow that you know of?
      My understanding of this saying is it basically means “take care of an issue now before it gets out of control or too big to deal with. Is that your understanding?

      Also the “mute/moot” thing……you made a comment that eluded to a legal term……nevermind it makes sense now that I think of it.

      Thanks,
      Dave

      Dave

      2010 Aug 10 at 15:20

      • I think you mean alluded.
        I don’t think the the comment avoided capture to a legal term!

        Robski

        2010 Nov 24 at 10:18

  15. I have seen “mute point” used too many times to count, and by people who normally write well enough that you’d think they’d know better.

    Cindy

    2008 Mar 19 at 17:01

  16. What I wonder is whether it makes a difference. While I would normally side with the language lovers, why must we stick with this bizarre phrase? Obviously the words ‘moot’ and ‘mute’ have very different meanings. As long as person’s intended meaning matches the term they use, what is wrong with either?

    Stuart Coulter

    2008 May 29 at 16:39

  17. [...] Posted by lrrp How about my favorite born-triteism, mute-point? “Moot point,” not “mute point” “Language Rules!” __________________ The art of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing [...]

  18. My favorite here is from a “Friends” episode.

    Joey says, the point is “moo”.

    Chandler corrects him: “you mean it’s moot”.

    Joey contradicts: No, the point is “Moo”. It’s like a cow’s opinion, it doesn’t matter.

    Mark Joppru

    2008 Jul 10 at 12:05

    • I ALWAYS think of that “Friends” episode when I hear this expression! ha ha ha!

      patricia

      2011 Jan 16 at 02:33

  19. You are correct to an extent…please note that of the many definitions the context most use this word as an adjective it takes on new meaning…it means deprived of practical significance.

    Karen

    2008 Jul 17 at 10:56

  20. “toe the line” is from English naval jargon from were sailors were required to line up for inspection along a line – the edge of a plank in the deck

    bob

    2008 Aug 12 at 15:20

  21. I believe we have two meanings here. Moot point means debatable but of no value. Even law students that debate a point know this as their outcome of the debate as no actual value as it does not apply to law. On the other hand Mute point means a point that is silent. It is silent because No one is interested to hear the point being put forth. So it is silent. Now mute point may be a pretty much new phrase as moot point is a well established but misunderstood old english phrase. Moot point is a point up for debate. Mute point is a point to remain silent. Different understanding of different phases that sound nearly the same. And most people in the USA do not understand moot point. And most people in the USA use mute point to refer to a point to be left silent.

    Larry

    2008 Sep 20 at 02:56

  22. Larry you are ignorant to the term. There is no term mute point. Moot point is the only proper term. Mute point is at best a vulgar term. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt as to what a vulgar term is.

    David

    2008 Sep 24 at 15:14

  23. The discussion is all very amusing. I recently had a discussion with an associate where we were interested in knowing how “moot” was originally derived. Was there a lawyer with the name Moot, or a law professor with that name who derived the process of debate as in “moot court”? Any insight out there?

    Paul

    2008 Oct 8 at 11:13

  24. Clive Cussler in “Sacred Stone” uses the expression “mute point”. Momentum is building for mute to become the new moot …

    Bernardo

    2008 Oct 8 at 23:36

  25. The word is spelled “moot” but pronounced just like the (totally unrelated) word “mute”. Originated in the English court system hundreds of years ago, with meaning changing from a point of discussion to an irrelevant argument.

    “Moot” certainly sounds better to the ear, but “mute” is technically the correct way to say it. There seem to be plenty of cases where it is being spelled incorrectly, but reference any dictionary and you should be able to verify the pronunciation.

    GuyIncognito

    2008 Oct 15 at 09:30

    • I don’t get it. If they’re pronounced the same, how could one sound better to the ear than the other?

      DoogieHowitzer

      2012 Aug 16 at 15:28

    • I believe your etymology is correct, but what in the world makes you think that it’s actually pronounced “mute”..? Why would you assume that a word that originated in an English court system would be pronounced completely in disagreement with basic English pronunciation rules?

      “Reference any dictionary and you should be able to verify the pronunciation.” You should take your own advice. The four dictionaries I checked list its pronunciation as \ˈmüt\, which is precisely how the word “moot” looks.

      Nick Harrison

      2013 Oct 2 at 19:51

  26. Speaking of pronunciation, I have a general question for everyone. Why are t’s disappearing from the middle of words in common (i.e. Hollywood) speech? You know – entertainment pronounced “ennertainment”, and dentist is “dennis”. And then there is the addition of random consonants (e.g. “ekspecially” for “especially”). I don’t get it. Am I just being an overly sensitive middle-aged grump?

    Henry

    2008 Oct 27 at 17:56

    • Henry, that is how Popeye speaks. It may be humor you are hearing.

      And this dicussion about comingleing moot and mute is pretty darn funny too. It is scary that it is serious!

      Never the twain shall meet.

      johnny the k

      2009 Dec 17 at 12:30

  27. Henry, how about the increasing loss of G’s in participles and gerunds and such? Scrimpin’ and savin’ and nothin’. Obama is a terrible offender in this regard, and I think if he’s elected, the dropped G will become permanent, like Eisenhower’s “nucular” was adopted by a whole generation that includes George Bush.

    Chet

    2008 Oct 30 at 06:28

  28. Eghhh… I HATE it when people say “nucular”. It’s possibly my second-biggest pet peeve. In high school, I had a CONTEMPORARY WORLD ISSUES teacher–yes, a guy who claimed he was an expert about modern issues–that said nucular every single day of the semester.

    Also, I would like to know where GuyIncognito got his info; how can a double ‘o’ be possibly construed to sound like “mute”? And I read once that “moot” once meant something along the lines of “meet,” though I’m not sure how that works. Oh, well.

    Danielle

    2008 Nov 8 at 02:28

  29. GuyIncognito: Coming from Canada (where we do tend to articulate our words more precisely) there is a huge difference between the pronunciation of “moot” & “mute”. I don’t know what it’s like in the US, but up here there would be no mistaking the two in conversation. That being said there are lots of grammatically-challenged people up here using “mute” when they are in fact talking about a point which no longer requires discussion.

    Personally I have one big grammatical pet-peeve: ANYWAYS. There is no “s” on the end of “anyway”! And the thing that gets me about it is the usage of “anyways” is the same as “anyway” – just incorrectly spelt and pronounced!

    MaryB

    2008 Nov 26 at 12:25

  30. Actually, There is such a thing as a mute point. No really, there is!

    I program and run a Fanuc robot in my job, and very often, it’s beneficial to create a position where the robot is in the middle of its work area, not beside or committed to a particular peice of machinery. This point is used as a “Halfway point” that you always go back to when traversing across the bay. It’s called a mute point.

    Mark

    2008 Dec 11 at 01:52

  31. Saying ‘Mute point’ is bad; however saying ‘For all intensive purposes’ is much worse … ;-O

    Akhil

    2009 Jan 31 at 16:49

    • I do agree with this… people are just plain idiotic sometimes.

      Samantha

      2009 Sep 4 at 18:43

      • Moot point Smantha. You deserve an award for saying the most with the least.

        johnny the k

        2009 Dec 17 at 12:41

  32. “Mute point” was created by a generation of people that watch TV instead of reading. It stems from people who don’t read hearing “moot point” incorrectly from a TV show or movie, it happens to make a small amount of sense if you think about it so it stuck.

    Bill Bill

    2009 Feb 18 at 22:52

  33. This item was debated tonight on ABC’s Private Practice. Great post.

    Jess

    2009 Mar 12 at 21:36

  34. I would like to add something to this. People with Dsylexia will spell how they pronounce….they use images rather the phonetics to spell. So this person may have heard the word as Mute not Moot and imaged it. They may read or hear it pronounced differently but they will continue to embrace that image. Spell check has been a good send because the image is corrected with another image.

    Sam

    2009 Mar 19 at 09:45

  35. MOOT POINT is the correct terminology. Howvever the defined word never rings true to the statements intent. MUTE POINT is a slanged spin on the same term. Yes, the term is used widely and by a number of professionals. And yes it is (defintion wise) correct.

    Had this debate today with a Grammartyttrriaccally correct friend. LOL. He’s almost anal about words and their correct usage even to the point of correcting slang in phrase usage that is constantly evolving into new uses because it’s… slang. Yeah.

    Darth Furious

    2009 Apr 3 at 19:44

  36. I frequently argue about this with friends of mine.

    My stance on this one is that I’ll say moot point as I always have, although I thought it meant simply useless, as I thought moot was a synonym for 0 as a concept.

    Apparently not.

    But on the topic throughout these comments –

    Language gets bastardized. it always will. itch and scratch are now interchangable. As will these two things eventually. Casually pointing this out is one thing. Especially if you do it privately. But slapping someone with this and getting all smarmy about it makes you a jackass.

    I mean, really… how similar is the american english language to the british english?
    And how many other examples of this are there?

    Things will always evolve like this. Great to know the etymology and help stop people from looking like morons, if they’re clearly not morons.

    punkonjunk

    2009 Jun 17 at 17:11

  37. Punkonjunk, you’re right on. Language continually evolves. I read a book about linguistics years ago. The author/title escapes me, but I recall his discussion about “linguistic chauvinism”. This phrase always comes to mind whenever some “smarmy jackass” corrects those more relaxed about their useage.

    Of course, we’re all guilty of linguistic chauvinism to some extent, just as we are with other types of chauvinism. The enlightened intellect will acknowledge it in themselves and others, and move on without making it a big deal.

    I will admit though, that it bugs the HELL out of me when people use “mute point”! LOL

    Bennett

    2009 Jun 18 at 20:26

  38. [...] Posted by jpcedotal That is an opinion just like mine. I am not gonna argue a mute point. GAAAACCCCKKK!!!! …what circumstances have changed, which render further discussion [...]

  39. This entire forum is hilarious. I am currently enrolled in a Linguistics course and a google search of the question “Moot Point vs. Mute Point” brought me to this page. In my book, entitled “How English Works” by Anne Curzan one of the questions is: Some speakers of American English now say “mute point” instead of “moot point.” Why might they do this? First of all, there is no incorrect way to say ANYTHING. Grammar is a formulated system of language that is ever-changing and evolving. Did you know the word “bird” used to be “brid”? And that the pronunciation of “ask” as “aks” isn’t incorrect either. “The Modern English verb ask can be traced back to the Old English verb acsian, the form used throughout England through the eighth century. So in the early Old English verb, the sound/k/ occurs before /s/. During the ninth century, the metathetic form ascian (with the sounds reversed) appeared, the sound /s/ moving before /k/. It gradually replaced the older form, although this process took several centuries. In other words, “aks” is the older form and “ask” is the newer form. Then, the English poet Chaucer, writing in the last quarter of the fourteenth century, used ask and aks (axe) interchangeably”… and so on and on and on. Words and their pronunciations can cater to specific social setting and geographical locations. Words and their meanings are only what people make them. Look at completly made-up words from the past ten years, “bootlicious” or “wiki” (from wikipedia), both of which are in the now in the OED no matter how “incorrect” or “inappropriate” they may seem to those of us who consider ourselves scholarly. Or other words that have changed in meaning in the past ten years like “cougar” (from a cat-like animal to sexally attractive older woman) you get the idea. Overall… I think that people speak differently according to the situation or location they are in. You may speak more professionally and academically in an interview but let your guard down and slang come out when you’re sitting around at home.

    Samantha

    2009 Sep 4 at 18:42

    • That’s very sensible Samantha, and helpful. I heard the word ‘mute’ substituted for moot twice this week. Asked around the office and we couldn’t decide so I googled it and voila!

      Francesca

      2009 Sep 8 at 00:57

      • That is all well and good but the mis-pronunciation should not change the definition. I had a friend who axed alot of questions-seriously. He couldn’t say the word correctly but I knew what he meant. Mute for moot may be a similar situation. I will postulate that alot of people do not know how to spell moot if they’ve never seen it and substitute the word mute instead. M-O-O-T is a weird looking and sounding word.
        Mute is spelled phonetically incorrect, otherwise it would be spelled mewt, so why couldn’t (hypothetically) mute be construed to sound like moot and this whole dicussion is actually about spelling and not usage? ha ha ha. I laugh but I’m serious.

        johnny the k

        2009 Dec 17 at 13:25

    • Actually, Wiki is a borrowed word from another language, not a made up one. It’s from the Hawaiian, wikiwiki meaning fast or swift!

      Robski

      2010 Nov 24 at 10:35

  40. Look, people follow word usage much as they follow religous beliefs; not because (in the case of words) the usage is correct but because of frequency and not researching (learning) the rules (or definition) of its usage. Similaryly, Religious practice for most people, I think, is the same; unless one really bothers to search their own spiritual needs they pretty much “toe the line” and follow the beliefs of their family tradition, the culture within which they grew, or their peers.
    Primarily, it comes down to whether one wants to be intellectually lazy and go with the crowd or maintain a level of learnedness and know what one is saying before one says it.
    Don’t even get into phrases like, “for all intents and purposes”. LOL!

    donmagel

    2009 Sep 9 at 11:01

  41. [...] said “mute point” when it should be “moot point”. See here for [...]

    Chip's Technical Blog

    2009 Sep 15 at 20:28

  42. Moot happened already. Mute did not.

    Joe

    2009 Sep 25 at 00:29

  43. [...] Posted by atcfisherman salvation is a mute issue. It's moot. Moot. Not mute. “Moot point,” not “mute point” Language Rules __________________ Confessional Lutheran Christianity: Christ-centered, Cross-focused. [...]

  44. “Moot point”

    Moot -
    1. open to discussion or debate; debatable; doubtful: a moot point.
    2. of little or no practical value or meaning; purely academic.
    3. Chiefly Law. not actual; theoretical; hypothetical.

    Makes perfect sense, way more sense than “mute point”…

    1. silent; refraining from speech or utterance.
    2. not emitting or having sound of any kind.
    3. incapable of speech; dumb.

    Something “becoming a moot point” means that it is no longer of value, any further discussion is purely academic because the result either way is meaningless.

    Something “becoming a mute point” makes no sense whatsoever, to say that the point is silent is too huge of a stretch. A “point” is not a sound, it’s an idea, so how can you silence it unless you metaphorically stretch the definition of sound. I could see saying “they muted the point” if someone suppressed speaking about an idea, but that’s not the general usage and you still wouldn’t say, “they turned it into a mute point” even in that case.

    James

    2009 Nov 9 at 13:52

    • An Eskimo Moot is the legal mechanism where disputes between people are discussed and debated by the whole group. Its purpose is to allow the parties to put forward their arguments which are then debated by all leading to a ruling by the majority concensus.

      I do not know if this is the origination of the word Moot but it has defined the word for me for many years.

      SRC

      Sumrescogitans

      2010 Jan 17 at 06:04

      • Even colors can be muted, so your attempting to make some literal reference to the word mute…is relatively futile.

        Asuigeneris1

        2012 Nov 12 at 04:10

  45. I’m a court reporter and a complete freak about the use of our language. I could take many of your opinions, bind them together and see myself. I particularly liked this thread, very amusing and interesting.
    I used the word “smarmy” recently and my friend had no idea what it meant. I have never heard anyone outside of Eastern NC use that word.
    We also have to consider that, not only is the English language a bastardization of many, many languages (Which is a discussion my kids and I have all of the time) but that it was not even formalized until dictionaries became widely used. Read the notes from Lewis and Clark sometime. The person in here who explained the difference in aks and ask (two of my peeves) was correct. However, they were used interchangably because there was no standard.
    My pet peeves…. prepositions at the end of sentences, the incorrect use of the letters c and k (as in Kash and Karry Stores) and the use of the words irregardless, nucular, realator, and jewlery!!!!!!

    Pamela

    2009 Dec 30 at 19:15

    • Hey, Pamela:

      How about “misunderestimate”?

      James

      2010 Jul 10 at 07:16

  46. You spelled “Definately” incorrectly. Replace the “a” with an “i”.

    K

    2010 Jul 28 at 11:37

    • And “Alot” is two words and “Americas should have an apostrophe in the context of the title. Makes me think the author was Poking Fun.

      M

      2010 Oct 13 at 16:46

  47. Larry and James go most of the way to defining “moot” yet the entire story hasn’t quite been told. “Moot” indeed means debatable although in a hypothetical context; but as applied in MOST present-day usage the operative phrase that enters is “no longer of importance” or “no longer meaningful.” In a sense, it’s almost the opposite of the original intention of “moot.” This subject is taken up on at least one URL: see http://www.thefreedictionary.com/moot. Note carefully the last sentence of the explanation as it relates to the history and careful application of the word.

    vjb

    2010 Aug 26 at 18:24

  48. I work for a newspaper in rural Iowa and have been hearing “mute point” left and right. I was trying to decide whether to change it in direct quotes when I googled and found your post. I’m still up in the air about it. It’s kind of cute…

    M

    2010 Oct 13 at 16:43

  49. My pet peeves are LOOKIT (whatever that means), BURGLARIZED (when they mean BURGLED) and INSURE (when they mean ENSURE)

    Leeburr

    2010 Oct 20 at 16:43

    • “I’ve been burglarized!”……….”They turned you into a burglar?”

      jimmy emcee

      2010 Nov 19 at 18:17

      • Wow. This made my day! Thank you, fellow grammar snobs! Especially you, Jimmy.

        Lizzie

        2011 Mar 6 at 21:32

  50. Anoher fine example of people using words they heard without fully understanding their meaning. A coworker of mine did something similar as he said ” but they didn’t know it was a facade” however he said fa- kade, which sounded like a sex aide.

    jimmy emcee

    2010 Nov 19 at 17:58

  51. I stumbled upon your discussion with hopes that intellectual, yet entertaining, arguments were to be had. I was about 25% correct. For ever factual statement, there were two idiotic. A the end of he day… who care’s? You can’t say that “the point is moot” is any more correct than ” the point is mute”, as idioms, colloquilisms and general slang is evolving our language at a constant rate. So, ironically, the point is moot. (Or mute. Because i feel they are both, with seperate definitions, accurate)

    jimmy emcee

    2010 Nov 19 at 18:13

    • I’m trying to work out which of his own categories jimmy emcee’s posting belongs in.

      Or are we looking at irony in action?

      I’ve learned to be careful with irony. Too many people I’ve met think it’s something ferrous.

      Robski

      2010 Nov 24 at 10:57

  52. Why it matters

    Words evolve. Probably neither a good nor bad thing, in the long run. But while they are changing, We have uncertainty. What precisely did you mean by that statement? It does not help communication when someone does not get your meaning, or considers you to be an idiot using malapropisms. In law, a meaning must be precise or the law cannot be upheld. This is so important that where there is any possible ambiguity, or rooom for argument, the law will give a definition of a word.

    A very good example in New Zealand was the law stating that “no person shall smoke in a public place that is an enclosed space”. “Person” is defined, “to smoke” is defined, “public place” is defined and “enclosed” is defined.

    Alan

    2010 Dec 14 at 00:42

  53. [...] of course, there’s the moot point. In my opinion the reason that this phrase is so commonly mistreated is that “mute point” on some level makes sense—mute=silence, mute point=silent point. This is [...]

  54. This is the most pompus & arrogant forum I have ever run across. Are you people viewing yourselves in a gold-trimmed mirror while seated in a quilted leather chair, viewing but not reading a $15 investing magazine between conciously choreographed puffs of cigar smoke? Lol – say your worst, your not impressing anyone.

    Gruber

    2011 Jan 19 at 02:25

    • Indubitabley

      Jeb

      2011 Jan 20 at 01:23

    • How did you make it this far reading this forum, may I ask? Did you deflate your own head enough to see a computer screen at a normal level or must you have special screens installed in your home? YOU’RE not impressing anyone either.

      (It may interest you to know: I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.)

      Lizzie

      2011 Mar 6 at 21:46

    • Furthermore, I’m not entirely sure what kind of person would be inspired to quilt a leather chair. I also need not CONSCIOUSLY choreograph cigar puffs. Realistically I would also like to add that I’d spend my $15 dollars elsewhere. Perhaps on quilts for my chairs or more cigars.

      I hope I have helped redeem your opinion of the writers of this blog. Your opinion means everything to us, we hold you in the highest respect.

      Lizzie

      2011 Mar 6 at 21:55

      • I cringe when I hear educated persons using words incorrectly. I googled “moot point” vs “mute point” because I want to use the correct form and not embarrass myself in front of those educated. While in this case, it may not matter as much but our language must be specific to communicate effectively. If we carelessly go around substituting one word for another in our verbal discourse it will most likely end up in our written words as well. My impression is that most people who make these substitutions because they don’t really know what the word or words mean. With this said, effective communication is necessary in our civilized society. Thank you to those who care enough to make the information available.

        myghee

        2011 Sep 26 at 11:30

    • Gruber – ‘Lol – say your worst, your not impressing anyone.’

      That should be ‘you’re not impressing anyone.

      I can’t believe I turned my attention away from the mirror for even a second to correct you on that, though if I have educated you in some way and stopped you making a complete fool of yourself in future my work here is done.

      Neo

      2011 Sep 28 at 11:30

  55. Let me first start my comment by saying im terrible with grammar, spelling, articulation, etc. However, I’ve known and used the phrase “moot point” in the past. The real problem I have is keeping my sanity at work. One of my co-workers decided he wanted try and sound smarter than he really is, and started saying “mute point”. Since I don’t particularly like the guy, I didn’t correct him. Now the phrase “mute point” has spread through the work place like wild fire! I may have to post this web page up on our bulletin board for damage control.

    tony

    2011 Oct 11 at 16:23

  56. If “mute point” is used to mean a point that is silent or needs to be silences, then wouldn’t it be correct? It isn’t about who looks smarter. If a person can use a word in a different way and still be correct, doesn’t that make them a little smarter?

    Jeannette

    2011 Nov 25 at 00:28

    • Well, sort of… However… There are (sometimes, often?) unfortunately such things as Dictionaries of Standard Words and Meaning in all languages with which I am familiar. Until The OED, Random House or Merriam’s has weighed in favouring such usage, I am afraid that, other than as a joke, such would be “officially” in-correct, un-grammatical, err… simply wrong. :)

      However… I DO propose that the adoption of “mute point” would be quite useful. We could wipe-out the conflicting meanings of “moot point” and leave it only to its original meaning of “arguable”.

      Due to its indefinite definition I carefully avoid the use of “moot”. And when other’s use it I carefully ask them which meaning they intend. Not being a wise-arse when I do so — it just that the choice reverses the meaning of their sentence. (Of course, there are times (bosses, politicians…) that the speaker does not wish to be held to a solid meaning of what they have said…)

      mark

      2012 Aug 17 at 22:42

  57. Wow, all the way back to Sept. 2006…”toeing or towing the line”.
    Amazing to read that people who are strangers can pass judgment or criticize one another in such a way.
    Peace on earth!

    Michel Lemieux

    2012 Mar 1 at 11:10

  58. I feel I have a moot (arguable) point on the adoption of the (non- existent) term “mute point”.
    We should adopt “mute point” to mean “a point that has nothing to say”. Since “moot point” can mean “decided” or can mean “arguable” we have confusion right there. If we were to reserve “moot point” for “arguable” we could then adopt “mute point” for the other sense of meaning… only then people would have to listen carefully to tell if you’d said “mute” or “moot”… but that could still be less confusing than things now stand. Thus “mute point” would serve for “decided”; as there’d be no point in discussion and it would be appropriate to “shutup about it…”.

    mark

    2012 Aug 17 at 22:26

    • I say the person should say, “Please, let’s stop that conversation now. I don’t see any reason to further discuss.” and keep moot for the lawyers.

      Don't Use It

      2012 Oct 4 at 11:23

  59. Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo
    News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Appreciate it

    live football

    2012 Sep 23 at 20:53

  60. First of all, I feel people who use this expression need to use it with caution. To tell a woman that “Your point is moot.” is not a very smart thing period! Don’t do this! LoL Are you telling me it’s arguable or irrelevant? Either way, you are not a lawyer or professor! Got it! Let’s leave it at that. No wonder the word is evolving as it can mean the opposite of what the person is stating. Save this one for the lawyers will you!

    Don't Use It

    2012 Oct 4 at 11:20

  61. This is hilarious.
    And, I so relate to
    your grammar
    policing. People just don’t
    care anymore
    if they spell correctly.
    It seems missing
    punctuation and
    convenient abbreviations
    are the
    lazy layman way.

    mia

    2012 Dec 8 at 11:35

  62. “Moot point, not mute point Language Rules” was a great blog
    post. If only there was a lot more blogs like this one on the actual world-wide-web.
    Well, many thanks for your personal precious time,
    Jamika

  63. “Moot point, not mute point Language Rules” was a perfect article.
    If it owned much more pics this would certainly be perhaps even far better.
    All the best ,Felicia

  64. Lord, I love this string. I have one more addition….when someone says “Walla”, like “Voi la”. Even my 7 year old know that this is French, and not some screwy English bastardization, like off-ten.

    Irene May

    2013 Apr 29 at 07:31

  65. Rrrrgh. My boss says “mute” point and it drives me nuts but it’d be wise for me to NOT forward this page to her. Maybe I’ll just keep bringing up something that is a MOOT point and just say it over and over again.

    Bob

    2013 Aug 8 at 13:15

  66. […] and for a blog post that clarifies the wrong usage of the phrase ‘mute point’, please click here. Note 2: ‘To mute’, as a verb, means ‘to keep something in a silence mode, for […]

  67. “Toe the Line,” NOT “Tow the Line”

    by Tina Blue
    August 14, 2003

    I saw it again today, this time in a comment on an article on a political website. It referred to reporters who mindlessly “tow the administration’s line.”

    Um, that should be “toe the line.”

    A lot of people who don’t know the origin of the phrase picture someone pulling a rope, cord, or some other “line”–”tow the line”–as a way of working for whomever the “line” belongs to. Thus, if the administration has a “line”–i.e., a “party line”–then those who side with the administration help to pull it (“tow” it) along.

    Wrong.

    The phrase “toe the line” is equivalent to “toe the mark,” both of which mean to conform to a rule or a standard. The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002; ed. by Glynnis Chantrell) says, “The idiom toe the line from an athletics analogy originated in the early 19th century” (514).

    The specific sport referred to is foot-racing, where the competitors must keep their feet behind a “line” or on a “mark” at the start of the race–as in “On your mark, get set, go!”

    So one who “toes the line” is one who does not allow his foot to stray over the line. In other words, one who does not stray beyond a rigidly defined boundary.

    Shannon Varney

    2013 Nov 12 at 10:57

  68. Great website! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am taking your feeds also deeffdafeffk

    Johnb638

    2014 Jul 26 at 23:01

  69. No, it’s “Tow the Lion”. It refers to the carriage of Lions by trailer as in circus shows.

    D

    2014 Aug 31 at 20:12


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