Geek Smithology

January 21, 2009

English Lessons (…2 in a series) – A Mute Point?

Filed under: Pedantry by Nathan @ 11:06 pm

As a software developer, you occasionally hear a conversation like the following:

“You know, this resume looks good, but she doesn’t have a degree”
“Yeah…but seven years of experience”
“True, I suppose it’s a mute point”

Well, not really. First off, mute as an adjective means “characterized by the absence of sound; quiet.” So while you could say that with so much experience, the point that someone should have a degree becomes silent, or no longer necessary.

However, there is an even better word. The word that is supposed to be used, which is “moot”. The definition of “moot” as an adjective is “subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty, and typically not admitting of a final decision”.

So replace mute with moot in the conversation above and you’ll see that someone is saying that while education always matters, when a person has a lot of experience, the relative merit of education in the interviewing decision is lessened.

But not silent.

December 19, 2007

English Lessons (…1 in a series) – You Don’t Wreck Havoc

Filed under: Pedantry by Nathan @ 7:54 pm

“He wrecked a lot of havoc”
“If the <local sports team>s lose again I’m gonna wreck havoc”

You can’t wreck havoc. You can play havoc with something. You can even just plain havoc something (although that’s a little archaic.) Havoc means destruction, so wrecking havoc is like wrecking wreckage, and that’s just silly.

What you really want to do is wreak havoc. Wreak, an extremely rare word that is used almost exclusively in this context, means “cause.” So next time you build a snow fort that has outlived its usefulness, feel free to go to town. Er, I mean feel free to wreak havoc.

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