Talk:moot point

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This is yet another case of a normal shift in meaning being resisted as "incorrect."

First, the more modern sense is not exactly the opposite of the older sense. Both imply that the subject is debatable, but differ on whether such debate is worthwhile. Indeed "that's a moot point" is often used as an attempt to head off an imminent debate.

Second, the newer sense has a perfectly good pedigree. As the linked article points out, it comes from the law school institution of the moot court. It's not at all unusual for a word to acquire disparate senses through such meandering paths. A stock example is cup, which can mean anything from a football tournament to part of a bra. Is any of these "incorrect"? Of course not.

The only notable thing going on here is that the one sense is regarded as "incorrect", for largely arbitrary reasons. If historical fidelity were really a measure of correctness, large swaths of current usage would be incorrect.

As to the alternate mute point, this is a bit more debatable (I'd tend to think it's a moot point in both senses :-). It's certainly used, so if that counts for anything, it should be included.

Be all that as it may, we should make sure that moot is noted for usages like "The point is moot." (which I believe confines itself to the newer sense, but that bears investigation — certainly that would be a good first cut). -dmh 22:46, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

From what I can gather, this is another one of those differences between the world's varieties of English. Here in the UK, for instance, 'moot point' always means something contentious and undecided and not something that doesn't matter either way. For the latter, we'd tend to say 'that's academic', but the impression I get is that Americans would say 'that's moot'. Matthew 87.194.29.244 08:49, 18 August 2006 (UTC)
I would disagree somewhat. I live in the UK and yet I have heard occurrences of the US usage here (heck, I sometimes use it myself). I wouldn't be surprised if this usage was becoming more widespread, and possibly heading for dominance on this side of the pond too. Of course Matthew wrote his post over two years ago so my reply may, in fact, be moot (? who knows any more) Emma 14:49, 06 March 2008
From http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/moot-point.html Some may disagree with the above meaning and argue that it means 'a point open to debate', rather than 'a point not worth debating'. That former meaning was certainly the correct one when the term was first coined, but that's going back a while.
I'm from the UK. I don't think I have ever heard the term used in what is claimed to be the original sense, so I'm removing the "dominant in the UK" claim.

Laurence Humphrey, the president of Magdalen College, Oxford, wrote Nobles or of Nobilitye, a manual of behaviour for the English nobility, in 1563. In that he wrote: "That they be not forced to sue the lawe, wrapped with so infinite crickes and moot poyntes."


"mute point" is not a misspelling. It is a correct spelling of an altered pronunciation. Whether that pronunciation and its corresponding spelling are correct, and whether we count the mondegreen as incorrect or simply as a re-analysis, are, erm, moot. -dmh 15:45, 12 October 2005 (UTC)

removed text[edit]

Another example: A law regarding the specifications for wagon wheels on stage coaches that are used to transport money would now be moot since there are no stage coaches used to transport money anymore. However, it may still be quite useful to debate the logic used in cases that relate to such stage coach wheels for purposes of developing one's legal skills and even to provide a logical approach to a more current issue. Some of the logic found in a stage coach case may still be applicable to other types of cases, although not within the original context in which it was presented.

--Connel MacKenzie 19:55, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Senes labels[edit]

The first sense determined by an assemby should be marked "historic" unless evidence can be provided that it is still used (somewhere.) --Connel MacKenzie 20:22, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

Deletion debate[edit]

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An important collocation whose quotes are worth salvaging for moot, but a SoP nonetheless that offers virtually nothing that cannot be covered in moot. Circeus 05:13, 7 May 2009 (UTC)

Keep, SoP yes but it's a set phrase rather than two words put randomly together. The example above would be chocolate chip -- that's just a chip made out of chocolate, but it's also a set phrase. Mglovesfun 14:05, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
Delete. I don't think it's much of a set phrase, since I equally often see "The point is moot." Equinox 15:05, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
Keep In 3 OneLook legal dictionaries, Websters 1913, and AHD. Also a contranym that users probably need help with. See WorldWideWords. DCDuring TALK 15:40, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
Isn't it moot that's the contranym?—msh210 15:52, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
I'd love to keep this, since, per DCDuring, people may look it up. So let me try to see whether we can somehow get it to fit into the CFI  :-) . Here are some options:
  • Keep as a redirect to [[moot]]. WT:REDIR seems to forbid this, but is not quite explicit.
  • Keep under the "Once one goeth black" test, since moot used to mean only "debatable" whereas moot point means only or largely "undebatable point".
  • If moot point means only "undebatable point", then keep under the "fried egg" test.
That last is the strongest argument for keeping imo, assuming its hypothesis is met.—msh210 15:52, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
In the 99 uses of "moot point" at COCA, only 1 (academic) use seemed to me to be clearly meaning "open to/worth further discussion", as opposed to "no longer worth serious consideration/good only for idle discussion". So, it would all depend on what the meaning of only is. DCDuring TALK 16:49, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
Maybe moot point is idiomatic, but I can't find anything in CFI about set phrases. (A chocolate chip is not chipped out of chocolate, nor shaped like a chip. It's not S-o-P.)
Why don't we list common or set-phrase S-o-P compounds and derived terms under the component entries without linking? Then “moot point” could be easily found under both moot and point by searching. Michael Z. 2009-05-07 16:40 z
If you mean a chip like a small stone, yes it is! Mglovesfun 20:53, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
Naw, a stone chip is typically a small, angular stone fractured or chipped from a larger (as opposed to a round pebble, perhaps). Similarly, wood chips are the result of chopping, cutting, carving, and so on. Chocolate is often chipped, for example when you break a bar of it, but the small bits resulting from that are not what we conventionally call chocolate chips. Chocolate chips are formed from hardened droplets, with flat bottoms. Michael Z. 2009-05-08 06:35 z
The reason might be to keep our entry as short as possible. DCDuring TALK 16:49, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
I'd like to keep it, per being a set phrase. Which brings me to the point that WT:CFI should IMHO better be extended to allow set phrases. The only problem I can see with this is how to recognize a set phrase using a verifiable and easily decidable rule, other than the commonality of the collocation. A provisional solution is to let set phrase undefined, and let people argue about what is and what is not a set phrase per case-to-case basis. This arguing is going to provide candidate differentia from which a definition of set phrase for the purpose of WT:CFI can be built. There is at least one axiom that constrains the meaning of set phrase: a term may be a set phrase and yet be a sum of parts or border on being sum of parts.
Once we allow set phrases, the fact that certain dictionaries have the term will support, though not prove, the hypothesis that the term in question is a set phrase.
One criterion showing that "moot point" is a set phrase, along with the commonality, is that "moot" does not combine freely with other nouns, but only with "point", provided I am correct in this assumption. For contrast, "blue cup" can be also common, just that, unlike "moot" in "moot point", "blue" combines freely with nouns denoting physical objects. --Dan Polansky 21:55, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be an easy case. COCA has 226 uses of "moot" followed by a noun. 19 are single instances, some possibly erroneous; 4 involve Proper noun "Moot". 100 are of "moot point(s)"; 47 are of moot court(s), nearly 75% of the core usage. But "case" (23), "issue" (10), and "question" (18) also get significant usage, though "case" seems to be mostly from a single academic article. It is not yet unproductive, at least in written works, especially in a legal/legislative context. DCDuring TALK 00:15, 8 May 2009 (UTC)
I should have done my research first; thank you for the COCA numbers. So the criterion of lack of free combination is not so simple as I had wished. Yet, the other combinations of "moot" that you mention may be further candidates for set phrases. Like, for "moot case", there is this quotation:
'The term "moot case" has been used on various occasions to describe issues that are or ...'[1]
suggesting to me that the term is in need of explanation. The same term is used by [2]:
"The old prohibition on the decision of moot cases is now so riddled with exceptions that it is almost a matter of discretion whether to hear a moot case."
--Dan Polansky 09:30, 8 May 2009 (UTC)
FWIW, if we use the broader context form: you get 140 use of moot within four words of "point". "Issue" returns 50 hits, "question" is 55, and "problem" is 11. Yes it's a set phrase. So are silent film and picky eater. Neither of these three has any sort of elements that cannot be deduced by looked at the two words separately in a dictionary. Circeus 03:16, 8 May 2009 (UTC)
The term "silent film" should get an entry. In Czech, it is called "němý film", literally translated back to English as "mute film" or "dumb film", as "němý" stands for "mute, dumb (not having the power of speech)"; in German, it is Stummfilm. "Should" of course means not with reference to the non-SoP criterion; it is this criterion that I am criticizing for being too stringent, ruling out too many entries.
The German case shows that per the non-SoP criterion, whether a term makes it into Wiktionary depends on such happenstances as whether it is written together as one word. Like, there is a potential discussion about "silent film", but not about "Stummfilm" and "headache", which is but an ache of head.
One more note on the non-SoP criterion: the criterion asks whether the meaning of the term can be derived from its parts. But there is the other direction, which asks whether the term can be derived from the meaning. It is this other direction that likely fails for non-native speakers, as is the case with "silent film". Once you present me with the term "silent film", I correctly estimate that it means "film accompanied by no sound, as produced during the early times of film". But when you present me with the definition "film accompanied by no sound" before I have seen the term "silent film", I have difficulties coming up with the term "silent film"; based on the Czech and German terms, I would probably improvise "dumb film". This is not the case will freely combining adjectives such as "blue" in "blue cup".
This criterion of the other direction, from definition to term, also applies to "headache": while I can estimate the meanining of "headache" from the meanings of "head" and "ache", I cannot estimate "headache" from "the pain in the head" unless I already know the term "headache". --Dan Polansky 09:35, 8 May 2009 (UTC)
While I see the argument (I actually made the same with regard to cherry blossom~), this opens the door wide to a multiplication of increasingly improbable entries (i.e. "talk with irony", "be ironic" for ironiser) based on whether the foreign word is a set phrase or not. Circeus 16:14, 8 May 2009 (UTC)
I agree that terms like silent film should have an entry. That particular combination implies many things not present in the simple combination of the two words, such as a range of dates, a style of acting, the fact that it will be black-and-white, etc. That said, moot point does not carry such additional connotation. I can say "That is a moot point" or I can say "That point is moot." This entry ought to be deleted, as far as I can see. --EncycloPetey 21:11, 9 May 2009 (UTC)
These are encyclopedic facts about silent films, not defining characteristics of the word “silent film”. Although mentioning some of them may help the dictionary reader, it may not. I've seen silent films made in the 21st century. Michael Z. 2009-05-11 05:41 z
Delete unfortunately. I do like the collocation, but there's just no way to measure their worth. Idiomatically, it fails. DAVilla 08:02, 10 May 2009 (UTC)
Agreed. Delete as per EP and DAVilla. While we're about it, I would approve the creation of "silent film". -- ALGRIF talk 12:18, 10 May 2009 (UTC)
I should have read DCDuring more carefully. The meaning has changed over time, to be the opposite of what it once was. An almost certain keep. DAVilla 13:35, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Except that it hasn't, the evolution is that of moot, "moot point" has not "evolved" by itself by any definition of "evolved". Circeus 03:15, 19 May 2009 (UTC)
Their histories seem intertwined. Moot could have derived its modern meaning from the use in this very phrase. DAVilla 19:11, 20 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Keep, important common collocation. Ƿidsiþ 21:23, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

Kept.RuakhTALK 14:46, 26 July 2009 (UTC)