This phrase is probably one of the most misused in the English language. Often, people will say a mute point instead. There are a few reasons for this, I believe:
- It’s used more in discussions than in written English, so many people don’t know how to spell the word.
- Mute is a much more common word, and kind of makes sense in the context: if a point is moot, it doesn’t need to be mentioned, so it’s mute, or silent.
- What the bloody hell does moot mean anyway?
That’s an interesting question actually, because it’s not quite as simple as you might imagine. The Oxford English Dictionary’s second listed meaning for moot is having little or no practical relevance, which is how it’s commonly used, e.g.
Whether they were the better team or not is a moot point: the match is over and they lost.
But the first meaning in the OED is subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty. Which of course is the exact opposite of how we mostly use the term. How on earth could this be? To solve this mystery, we have to delve deep into the origins of the word moot… Continue reading