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I have seen both, and now I am unsure when to use which. To the best of my knowledge "rendered mute" is roughly equivalent to "rendered speechless" and "rendered moot" to "rendered irrelevant". But I have also seen usage that contradicts this. Help?

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    Could you give an example of usage contradicting this? My guess is it's just people making mistakes; the best of your knowledge is spot on. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 23:42
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    Moot is a legal term that many lay folks are not familiar with. Mute is often a backfill to make sense of the expression. I am sure there are instances when mute is intended (as in struck dumb, which has its own problems).
    – bib
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 23:48
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    @bib I've heard and used moot regularly all my life.
    – Anonym
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 23:54
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    The two words are not homophones, by the way. Moot is pronounced (mo͞ot), and mute is pronounced (myo͞ot). Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 23:56
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    "Moot" and "mute" are often erroneously interchanged, most often with "mute" being used where "moot" is more appropriate, but occasionally the other way. In particular, few people understand the meanings of "moot", and either use it inappropriately or substitute "mute" for it in phrases they repeat without fully understanding.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 12:57

4 Answers 4

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Phrase "rendered moot," idiom:

At some point, this whole debate may be rendered moot.

(ODO, moot, adj, 2 - open 'More example sentences')

Phrase "rendered mute," literal/ metaphorical.

Some are deprived of the ability to reason and some made blind and others rendered mute.

When Jesus had cast out the demon, the mute man spoke. The crowd was amazed."

(Jesus the Messiah ..., p.182 GoogleBooks)

The use of mute in the idiomatic sense is a mistaken use of similar sounding words (that seems to be catching up of late).

See also:
enter image description here
Google nGram "rendered mute,rendered moot"


[EDIT]
Oxford Dictionaries Moot Trivia:

The word 'moot' can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon era of British history when a 'moot' was the meeting of prominent figures and nobles from the local society to discuss matters of regional importance.

See also:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/30052/meaning-word-moot-moot
http://www.finedictionary.com/moot.html

http://www.finedictionary.com/Moot%20point.html
versus
http://www.finedictionary.com/Moot-point.html

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/moot
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/moot

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  • Did you notice how "At some point, this whole debate may be rendered moot" clarifies nothing except that we should be looking to a future point? The debate might equally well be rendered "green" or "up" or "sharp" or hot" or anything else. Like too many dictionary definitions - the more so on line - it illustrates only grammar and says nothing about meaning. Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 23:55
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Your intuition regarding the two expressions is roughly correct. There is no definition of "mute" that isn't in some way related to silence or speechlessness.

Confusion may arise from "moot", however, as the American and British usage of the adjective differs. The American "moot" indicates that something has no practical significance. This is more or less the definition you've given. The British "moot", however, indicates that something is open to discussion or debate. With that said, I'm having some trouble finding references to the phrase "rendered moot" in the British sense, so I suspect it may be an American idiom and, therefore, would indicate irrelevance.

With all that said, it's also entirely likely that the contradictions you've experienced are simply results of malapropisms - people using similar sounding words in the wrong places.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mootness

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    You're right about the British definition of 'moot.' A current example regarding the recent Panama Papers and seen earlier today is: "whether Ireland counts as offshore is a moot point." Meaning, yes, it is worthy of discussion / up for debate.
    – Jascol
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 9:45
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    I've read that a part of the misunderstanding comes form the "moot court" used in law schools to train students in courtroom procedures. The issues argued in such a court are, obviously, "fake" and ultimately meaningless, so the sense of "meaningless" has transferred to "moot", leaving it with two contradictory meanings.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 13:01
  • Serious linguists recognise the validity of both senses of 'moot' whether they're based in the US or the UK. And certainly when they're reading a novel halfway across the Atlantic. Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 12:09
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To the best of my knowledge "rendered mute" is roughly equivalent to "rendered speechless" and "rendered moot" to "rendered irrelevant".

You are correct.

But I have also seen usage that contradicts this. Help?

Help comes in the form of a rule: "Nobody speaks or writes any language 100% perfectly, 100% of the time."

The internet is littered with illiteracy, misspellings, poor grammar, tortured verbs, wrong or missing punctuation, and a very large proportion of "wrong words" - of which you have found two.

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Sorry you didn't Post that usage which contradicted anything…

Even so if anyone ever used such a phrase, "rendered mute" would mean mean "made silent." Does that work for you?

Meanwhile "rendered moot" is nothing at all like, "rendered irrelevant".

"Rendered moot" means pretty-much the same as "moot" by itself, which is to say "subject to discussion"; never anything like "… irrelevant."

FYI, "moot" shares ancient roots with "meet" which doubly suggests this, that or something other might be up for discussion at a meeting.

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  • google 'define moot': Subject to debate; arguable or unsettled. Of no practical importance; irrelevant. Cambridge def 2: not important or not relevant, therefore not worth discussing. M-W def 2: not worth talking about : no longer important or worth discussing. It's probably best to read a dictionary before trying to say a word is never anything like its dictionary definition.
    – mcalex
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 3:04
  • @Mcalex If you had - as you clearly did - to look that up, might that say more about the meaning of the term, or your understanding thereof? If you can't speak from your own experience or knowledge, it's prolly best to try to understand several dictionaries before Posting a view. Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 1:07
  • I don't have to look it up. I know both definitions of moot - I like contronyms. I was demonstrating a) how to use a dictionary online, something clearly missing from the answer, and b) the statements in the answer are blatantly wrong, given US, UK and online search dictionaries all agree that moot means irrelevant.
    – mcalex
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 8:39

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