Which Half is Mute?

I snapped this photo while having a quick dinner at the Fernwood Inn before an event at the Belfry Theatre. It’s the lower-right corner of a TV set showing Monday Night Football. As far as I could figure, there was no sound issuing from the TV:

Harris Green, 6-Oct-08

Interface designers never fail to surprise me in the ways they can screw up. What do you suppose ‘1/2 Mute’ means? Because, as it happens, mute means ‘speechless’. So you really can’t be half-mute, can you?

I’m reminded of a story about a decade old, which I recount with affection, not mockery. My aunt come over to our house. She’d just arrived, and turned to notice our TV. “Oh,” she said, “there’s a mute on the screen.” In fact, the TV had been muted, and was displaying ‘MUTE’ in the lower-right corner.

An a related note, I tried to search for a URL for the Fernwood Inn. Claiming that I was headed for the Fernwood Inn, Google pointed me to an Australian fitness centre. The following screenshot illustrates the unusual error:

fernwood inn victoria, bc - Google Search


  1. My tv has half-mute. I find it handy to monitor when the commercial returns and the program resumes but you don’t really hear the commercial content precisely enough for it to distract.

  2. My wife and I have wished for that feature, although I agree that it needs a better name. Remember, it’s possible for the volume to be on zero, too, which would make any mute setting redundant.

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