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Tag: words

Moot or Mute point? A Mote’s Point.

A mute is someone who doesn’t speak, they are mute on the matter, indeed they are mute on every matter.

I mute the television when the ads come on. Likewise, a mute might also mute the television if the phone rang and they wanted to hear what the other person was saying, though in no way could they respond – making their answering the phone somewhat moot.


Adj. Without consequence. Of little significance.

We have:

  1. a moot idea, an idea that has no inherent usefulness;
  2. a moot desire, that does not necessitate fulfilment;
    Or more classically:
  3. a moot point, that has little bearing on matters.

A mute point, is always incorrect.

It is either the point made by a mute, in which case you’d write “a mute’s point”. This I suppose is in the world of possibility though unlikely in a rhetorical sense.


It is a point that is silenced, in which case you’d write “the point was silenced”. This expression however screams of the misunderstanding of moot. For, rhetorically speaking, points are not silenced so much as they are made moot.

Moot 2.0

Or course all of this is only half right. Or, at least, made right through common usage in the USA, Australia, and elsewhere.

The verb, to moot, past participle, mooted, its adjective moot, and noun, mootedness, all mean something quite different from the above.

The OED defines it as “subject to debate”.

We can best see this meaning when we say, the point was mooted, meaning the point was raised for discussion or argument. A moot point in this context is in fact a point that is debatable, open for question, and indeed has consequence and significance.

Why the two quiet opposite meanings?

The Free Dictionary describes how a moot was used in legal training to mean a mock judicial proceeding set up to examine a hypothetical case, and that over time the meaning of moot shifted from being the making of an argument to the making of a hypothetical argument, or an argument without consequence.

Indeed this not the first time the meaning has shifted. Previously a moot (from the Middle English Mot or mote) meant simply a gathering, or a meeting to discuss and argue. Moot, meaning to raise for debate, stems from this previous meaning, just as moot meaning without consequence stems from the meaning of a legal training moot, being mock and hypothetical.

We see then that context is crucial, so one might say:

The point was invariably moot when God stepped out of the clouds and told us the truth;

or equally,

I mooted the point as I wanted to hear all sides of the case;

or if one was writing historical horror fiction (set in England),

The moot had gathered these last five years, and though time had blunted their fear, they were still no closer to forgetting the horrors of that day.

A Mote

A mote is a small flec of dust. It can not be mooted in any sense of the word. Though it can get in the eye of a mute. In which case it is quite annoying.


The Free Dictionary. (2016). moot - definition of moot in The Free Dictionary. Retrieved from
Oxford Dictionary. (2016). moot - definition of moot in English | Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford Dictionary. Retrieved from

Input, Imput – get it together people – putt putt

It is clearly input. But why?


I can put something, which is to say that I can place it, or give it, or present it.

Why? Put is a verb. Only.

  • I put the crown onto the frog. The crown however is not the “put”, it’s simply the crown.

I can however input something – type it in, place it in, draw it in – and I can also have input.

Input is a verb and a noun.

  • I input my blog into the inter-webs. Or. The inter-webs input is my blog. (note: no apostrophe s (‘s) on interwebs as it’s not possessive) 

The “in” is not a prefix!

If it was a prefix it would change the meaning of put to mean “not” put, as that is what the prefix “in” does.

For example:

incapable, not capable
incapacitated, without capacity
inconceivable, not conceivable


input, not put. Is wrong, as input is absolutely guaranteed to be put.

We get a better sense of how it’s come about from its antonym output, being stuff that’s come out.

Both of these words are, of course, compound words the joining of two words to create a new meaning.

Other examples include: backyard, courthouse, anywhere, thunderstorm, cupcake and, of course, inter-webs.


Imput then is clearly not a word, even though you see it everywhere.

Putt Putt

Putt putt is a kind of golf where you putt only. The object is to putt it only once each turn.

In-putt-putt is not a word form (neither is inputtputt, inputt, or ingolf).


Boswell, W. (2016, January 30). What does the term “Interweb” really mean? Retrieved November 29, 2016, from
Rube Goldberg machine. (2016). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from
Elowyn. (2008, August 15). Your Imput Needed. Retrieved November 21, 2016, from

Mentee, Mentoree, Meant what?

A friend of mine recently disparagingly commented on a mentoring program for their use of the word “mentee”.

To quote: “You’d think a mentoring program would know there’s no such word.”

For those of you thinking I’m being needlessly fastidious and that I’m going to say the word ought to be mentoree, you’d be wrong, as mentoree is not a word either.


It’s true. Both of these constructs reflect the same kind of grammatical over extension toddlers make when they say things like swammed or runned.

It’s as if people have searched through their recollections of word forms and dragged out good old:

  • addressor/addressee
  • departor/departee
  • abductor/abductee

and applied it to mentor.

Well, what’s wrong with that?

It is the nature of the verb that guides the usage of this language form.

In the above examples the or ending words are the doers, and the ee ending words are acted upon, but this is all predicated upon there being a verb there in the first instance:

  • to address
  • to depart
  • to abduct

Let me make this clear. In no way is there a verb to ment .  Meaning that we could have a mentor as one who ments, and a mentee as one who is mented.

The verb form of mentor is, unfortunately, to mentor.

Why is this?

Mentor isn’t a construct like  addressor or adbuctor, instead it comes from Greek mythology. Mentor was Odysseus’s trusted counselor. Indeed Odysseus made Mentor guardian to his son Telemachus, when Odysseus set off to fight the Trojan War. It’s a really cool story. Look it up.

So, what to do?

If you cared enough, you’d be careful about how you called someone in a mentoring relationship. You could say, for example:

  • Mentor and Student
  • Mentor and Young Artist
  • Mentor and Aspiring Teacher

Or my favourite:

Mentor and Telemachus.

Crisis averted.

Ridicule is permitted.

UPDATE March 2nd 2013 –  New blog post: Mentee, Mentoree, Meant Something After All –  on this topic capturing some of the comments below and speaking to the problems of style.

UPDATE July 12th 2013 – New blog post: Mentee, Mentoree – Ngram – Final Word – for those desperate for a “correct” answer.