6

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?

  • 8
    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. – childofsoong Apr 5 '16 at 23:42
  • 3
    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 Apr 5 '16 at 23:48
  • 2
    @bib I've heard and used moot regularly all my life. – Anonym Apr 5 '16 at 23:54
  • 4
    The two words are not homophones, by the way. Moot is pronounced (mo͞ot), and mute is pronounced (myo͞ot). – rhetorician Apr 5 '16 at 23:56
  • 1
    @Anonym So have I, but it is not a term used by most in everyday speech. – bib Apr 6 '16 at 0:00
3

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

7

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

  • 1
    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 Apr 6 '16 at 9:45
  • 1
    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 Apr 6 '16 at 13:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.