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Originally a legal term, it derives from the Old French nonper, odd number, and it initially denoted a person whose role was to arbitrate between two others. What sports term is it?

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Answer: umpire

The word entered English circa 1400 as noumpere. The n was dropped almost immediately due to faulty separation: a noumpere being heard as an oumpere.


First one I got since starting MooT a month or so ago. Maybe it's because I am back, at least for the holiday weekend, in the environs of my Alma Mater, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Hal Fischer, chapel hill, nc

The correct answer to the question as spelled in your email, [what sport's term ..] would be either tennis, cricket, or baseball, or any of the many other sports in which the arbitrator is called an umpire.

[Mootguy: None of those derive from the Old French nonper, so I don't see how they could be correct answers.]
Deborah Gibson

The answer could be a number of things, but in the U.S., "baseball" would be the best answer. … Love your stuff. Hope you're having happy holidays!

[Mootguy: See the above response.]
Doug Stuart

There are other examples of faulty separation, such as a nuncle > an uncle and a napron > an apron.
Margaret Eaton, Dunedin, N.Z.

This question and its answer are totally logical….
Tom Voltz, Easton, PA

It's curious to see the linguistic voyage that "umpire" had to travel with its multiple metamorphoses when the word in French for "uneven, odd" (in reference to numbers) is simply a visual close cousin: "impair".
Stephen, MA

I hope I can clarify what two respondents have, directly but without explanation, said. I don't know how you punctuated the origonal email, but had you used the word "sport" in the *posessive*, the question could be translated as "... of *what sport* is this term?" or "*what sport* possesses the term that is derived from the French ..."

[Mootguy: The original punctuation was "sport's term," which I changed when someone pointed out the error. Though at the time, I didn't think it really made much difference. However, now, on reflection, I can see how that leads to baseball, tennis, etc. — i.e., any sport that has an umpire — being correct answers. I hate apostrophes! I also hate the tilde, but for different reasons.]
Jeremy, Seattle, Washington

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