Easily Confused Words: Empire vs. Umpire

Empire and umpire are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Empire (pronounced “emm-pie-uhr”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, in government: it means a large area of lands or multiple countries ruled by an emperor. History has known many empires: The British Empire, the Napoleonic (French) Empire, the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Egyptian Empire, just to name a few. Today, only Japan’s monarch is called Emperor in the English language. Most other countries with monarchs are referred to that person as King, Queen, Prince, or another title.
  • As an adjective, in fashion: it describes a dress style that became popular in the early 1800s in England, Western Europe, and the US. The waistband is positioned not at the actual waist, but slightly above the waist; sometimes, right under the breast area. [In French, this is called an “awmm-peer” waist.]. Cutting dresses and tops with this “above natural waist” trait is still common in women’s fashion.
  • As a noun, in business: a corporation with a lot of divisions, or a person with a lot of business or branding interests under their leadership can be described as an empire.
  • As a proper noun, in US pop culture: “Empire” is a successful television show about a fictional recording corporation and the drama experienced by the people involved.

Umpire (pronounced “umm-pie-uhr”) has multiple meanings, but they relate to the sport of baseball.

  • As a verb, it means to make calls in baseball.
  • As a noun, it means the role in baseball of the person who makes the calls.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Umberto had built quite an empire for himself a music producer in just five short years. Now it wasn’t just music, it included fashion, home interiors, liquor, and resort brands. He liked his work, it was glamorous, the money was excellent.

But one of his favorite things was playing umpire for local little league team tournaments. No one knew it was him. He used an alias name and dressed incognito to avoid upstaging the kids.


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