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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's Alive!

I was reading an article about 20 Common Grammar Mistakes That (Almost) Everyone Makes and found myself nodding my head at some of them. Lie/Lay/Lain/Laid/Etc. Yeah. I get so confused with that. I try my best, but I count on editing to catch when I slip.

My other huge, huge issue is Affect and Effect. Gah! No matter how many times I read over the rule and study examples, it doesn't sink in. I've actually rewritten sentences to avoid using either word or I substitute something like impact which I'm sure makes all grammarians everywhere grimace with disgust, but hey, at least I don't have to chose between affect and effect and that's always a win.

But there was one entry, that made me go, uh, no. That was the definition of the word moot. The article says:
Contrary to common misuse, "moot" doesn’t imply something is superfluous. It means a subject is disputable or open to discussion.
I hang around with writers online. A lot of them. I went to school with some really smart people, both high school and college. There are lots of smart people that I work with and have worked with over the years. I have never, ever in all this time heard anyone use the word moot in this way.

English is a living language, that means it changes over time. I submit that the definition of the word moot has made the shift and it's time for the dictionary to be updated. I'm sure I've made the hardcore English gurus gasp in horror, but tough. If you want a language that is unchanging, become a Latin guru. It's a dead language, it will stay the same forever.

As far as English speakers (at least in the US) are concerned, moot means there's no point in arguing over something because it doesn't matter.

Words shift all the time. Look at decimate. I had a judge in a writing contest a long time ago correct my use of it. I used it to mean destroy, she insisted that it means take a tenth of or destroy a tenth of. Look it up on The meaning the judge told me was the correct one? It's marked obsolete!

The people have spoken...and as we've spoken, we've redefined words. Just try and read Shakespeare now without the little footnotes at the bottom of the page explaining what a word meant back in his day. I'm a huge Shakespeare fan and I can mostly understand what he's saying from the context, but the meaning of words has definitely changed.

They're still changing. I'd argue some more, but why bother? It's a moot point. ;-)