July 14, 2009

"Judges are like empires,"

declared Mr. Schumer, presumably misspeaking, before John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, switched to football imagery (the “kinds of plays you will call if you are promoted to the coaching staff”).
Senator Schumer was drawing on Justice John Roberts's often-quoted comparison between a judge and a baseball umpire (as did several other Senators during the Sotomayor hearing, which led the New York Times to wish "someone, please eject that analogy.")

Senator Schumer obviously misspoke, but let's see if the two words are actually related. Umpire should actually be numpire, it is related to the Middle French adjective nonper ("non peer", peerless). So, instead of "an umpire" it would have been "a numpire". Empire, on the other hand, is related to the Latin verb imperare (to rule). Without the transference of the "n" to the article, the two words would a lot less similar, and perhaps Senator Schumer would not have mixed them up.

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