Self-Contradictory Word Of The Day

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Quick! What is the definition of the word moot? I’ll use it in a sentence.

Upon reflection, Hezekiah realized that Ezekiel’s argument was a moot point.

If you said something along the lines of “irrelevant”, then you’re wrong. Or perhaps, right. You see, moot is one of those strange words that can be self contradictory. Originally, moot started off as a noun. It was a legal term for a hypothetical case argued by law students. Sometime around the mid 16th century, it changed affiliations and became more commonly used as an adjective.

Thus, in my example above, Hezekiah believes in his heart that Ezekiel’s argument is worthy of debate. However, around the 19th century, people started to use the word to mean “of no particular significance or relevance”, which is the typical usage today. How confusing is that for the foreigner who looks up the word in the dictionary and finds both definitions? Context is everything. Perhaps we can submit the english language to ECMA for standardization.

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4 responses

  1. Avatar for Omer van Kloeten
    Omer van Kloeten June 14th, 2004

    There's an expression in Hebrew that goes "Haval Al Hazman" (KHäväl äl häzmän [1]). It originally meant "Waste of time", when describing anything. Modern slang also added another interpretation for it which means the exact opposite - "must be done", "must have", etc. (mostly spoken with excitement).

    Another example in modern day English could be "bad", which means the exact opposite of the original term in slang.

    And I never did know what moot really stood for. Thanks :)


  2. Avatar for Molly
    Molly June 16th, 2004

    Surely a "hypothetical case" by a Lawyer or one studying to be a lawyer is "irrelevant" to most people!

  3. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked June 16th, 2004

    Ha! Well not for two of my close friends who are both lawyers.

  4. Avatar for asf
    asf April 17th, 2007