Saturday, September 26, 2009

Are umpires vampires? from Gordon

Dear Word Snoop,

Has umpire got anything to do with vampire?

from Gordon

PS I hope not

Dear Gordon,

Hmm. Let's take vampires first. (Eeek!) The word vampire is thought to come from a Hungarian word - which is more or less where vampires were meant to have come from - originally meaning "witch" or some similar sort of bad spirit.

Now as for umpire, you can relax (phew). It's from an Old French word "nonper" meaning an odd number. It came to be used for the third person (or odd person) that you might bring into an argument between two others, to decide who was right.

The word travelled across into English as "a noumpere", and then after a while people started saying "an oumpere" and then finally "an umpire".

That's a relief! You can play tennis in safety now. Thanks for a very interesting question, Gordon.

best wishes from The Word Snoop

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