Jewish World Review Jan. 15, 2003 / 21 Teves, 5764

Jeff Elder

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Rick Springfield's still moot; the wettest land area on Earth; more | Q: A friend and I recently got into a discussion regarding "moot point" or "mute point." We decided to pull out the trusty dictionary, but alas and alack, what we found confused us more! Please let us know which term is correct. - Lisa Morris, Charlotte, N.C.

A: You lasses aren't a-lackin' nothin', if ya ask me, Lisa.

The correct term is "moot point." But it is a little confusing.

Etymologist Michael Quinion says "moot" comes from the same source as "meet," and originally had the same meaning. In medieval times, it referred specifically to a judicial assembly. Something that was "mooted" was put up for debate.

Later, moot points were practice cases argued by law students. Somewhere this term evolved from meaning "hypothetical" to "unimportant," which is not exactly the same thing.

And in the end, what started out meaning "worthy of debate" is now often used to mean "not worth debating."

"Mute" is incorrect. Quinion guesses the mistake is often made because moot is now basically a fossil word, used only in this phrase.

I would be remiss (or is a man remister?) if I did not bring up moot's appearance in a memorably cheesy pop song of my formative years. In 1981, former soap opera star Rick Springfield belted out the following unforgettable lines in "Jessie's Girl":

"Ya know, I feel so dirty when they start talkin' cute./

"I wanna tell her that I love her, but the point is prob'ly moot."

Moot? From a teen idol? Where the heck did that come from? Well, he SHOULD get credit for not saying "mute."

SOURCE: Michael Quinion's World Wide Words


Q: What's the wettest land area on Earth? - Eric Fordley

A: That would be Lloro, Colombia, with average annual precipitation of 523.6 inches. Folks there never know WHEN to wash the car.

The wettest spot in the United States is Mount Waialeale, Hawaii, with 460 inches a year.

Donate to JWR

The driest spot in the world is Arica, Chile, with average annual precipitation of 0.03 inches. Think they get that all at once, or a drop a month? The driest spot in the United States is Death Valley, Calif., with 1.63 inches a year.

Ever notice how many songs are written about the rain? Must be somethin' about a storm that gets songwriters feelin' poetic. (Maybe it's just harder to walk to the bar, so they HVE to stay home and write.)


"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain," "Fire and Rain," "Fool in the Rain," "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" "Here Comes the Rain Again," "I Love A Rainy Night," the gospel great "It's Beginning to Rain," "Itsy Bitsy Spider," (Whaddaya mean that doesn't count? Of course it counts.) "Kentucky Rain," "Laughter in the Rain," "Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain," "Purple Rain," "Raindance," "Raindrops," "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," "Rainy Night in Georgia," "Singin' in the Rain," "Stormy Weather," and "Who'll Stop the Rain?"

And that's just a drop in the bucket.



On sitcoms:

1. What sitcom pig played the piano, drank soda from a straw and watched Walter Cronkite? (NOT Archie Bunker.)

2. Who was Norm's maligned, never-seen wife on "Cheers"?

3. Who was Theo's best high school buddy on "The Cosby Show"?

4. Today, this Junior is married to Sarah Michelle Gellar. What show starred his dad?

5. Charles Douglass invented a contraption that had a huge impact on sitcoms. What?



1. Arnold Ziffel on "Green Acres."

2. Vera

3. Cockroach

4. Freddie Prinze was on "Chico and the Man."

5. The laugh track

Appreciate this column? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.


01/06/04: The reason behind the coin ridges; where 'baby corn' comes from; more
12/29/03: Can the colorblind see rainbows?; What causes moles? What's the difference between moles and freckles?
12/22/03: It's all lunch to me
12/04/03: The sad poem in a romantic comedy; Why do some coins, like quarters and dimes, have ridges?; more
11/25/03: Diner lingo; How do chickens know what size eggs to lay?; a computer input device is called a mouse, what is the plural?; more
11/19/03: Did Betsy Ross sew the first official American flag?; Do the 9 numbers in our Social Security number have special meaning? Will they run out of numbers or have to re-issue them?; more
11/11/03: How to be a Nielsen rater; Why did Charles Schulz name his comic strip "Peanuts"?; Was Chef Boy-ar-dee a real person?; Why are Georgetown University teams called the Hoyas?
11/05/03: Decoding the laws of buoyancy; What actually happens when you crack your knuckles?; origin of the expression "three sheets to the wind
10/30/03: Buttoning on the 'correct' side; when you breathe on your hand it feels warm, but when you blow on your hand it feels cool?; Why do dogs eat (and enjoy eating) dirt?; more
10/23/03: 'American Pie' explained; Why are tennis balls seamed like baseballs?; more
10/14/03: Origins of comic strips and hush puppies; a college football quiz; dogs that don't bark
09/24/03: Why do snooze alarms go off every 9 minutes?
09/17/03: Glad You Asked: Fun with college football
09/09/03: What's so great about Wiffle Ball?
09/03/03: What kinda wine goes best with heartache?; What did people do before alarm clocks were invented?; which has more caffeine: coffee or tea?
08/26/03: These inventors were just toying with us
08/12/03: Why do wheels appear to turn backward on film?; showdown over high noon
08/07/03: Wood'n you know it? Money doesn't grow on trees; all we are is dust in the wind
08/05/03: Where have you gone, Calvin, Opus and Cow?; fine feathered friend pecking on itself
07/31/03: How a dashing hero became a notorious traitor
07/29/03: Little red caboose rolling outta sight; From my 'I'll be a monkey's uncle' file
07/24/03: Road scholar: A lesson on asphalt; when identical twins marry
07/23/03: The sweet science of Life Savers' sparks; how do Pop Rocks work? ripping newspaper

© , The Charlotte Observer Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.