Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tragedies of English Language Use

#1 in a continuing series.

Although I am, by no means, infallible, there are a number of misuses of certain words and bits of grammar in the English language that drive me crazy in the same way that nails on a chalkboard can drive some people to tears or the ability of the common person to navigate an uncontrolled intersection can send others running for the hills. I thought it might be fun to come on and post about certain instances when I run across them, more for the pure cathartic release of the act than to try and position myself as some high mucky-muck who knows his English better than you do.

And just so you know the ground rules, I'm not going to come on and point out that someone failed to distinguish between and 'it's' and an 'its' cuz that's like pointing out the sky is blue to someone who is lying in the grass looking up at the clouds. No, I'm only going to post something when it really stands out, like the use of the word moot.

I recently read a post by someone (who shall remain unnamed) on their blog (which will also remain unnamed) where they used the word moot. We've all used it at some point, and 99% of us probably used it in the way which we've all become accustomed to it being used - incorrectly. More often than not the word moot is used as in the phrase, "the point is moot," or, "this is a moot point," and is usually intended to mean the argument/discussion of a topic has come to an end. Something within a given situation has essentially trumped whatever point you were trying to make, therefore there is little point in continuing with the discussion.

As the definition below shows, the true meaning of the word is anything but:

moot [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.

[Origin: bef. 900; ME mot(e) meeting, assembly, OE gemōt; c. ON mōt, D gemoet meeting. See meet]

The definition above was cribbed from

I used to use it like everyone else, but ever since it was pointed out to me, it stands out like a sore thumb whenever I see it used improperly. Kind of like when someone tells you that you can see Harrison Ford's reflection in the glass panel between him and the cobra in the snake pit. Once you know it's there and seen it, you can never un-see it (that is unless Spielberg and Lucas go in and digitally remove it - which they did, by the way).

I'd be curious to know of any language transgressions that just irk the hell out of you. If you've got a good one, drop it in the comments.

With that, I take my leave of you to go and watch special features on my newly acquired copy of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Onwards and upwards!


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