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

Jeff Elder

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Rick Springfield's still moot; the wettest land area on Earth; more


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | 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

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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.

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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.)

There's:

"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.

___

QUICK QUIZ

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?

___

ANSWERS

1. Arnold Ziffel on "Green Acres."

2. Vera

3. Cockroach

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

5. The laugh track

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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.

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