As far as I know, it wouldn't be strictly wrong to use either word in the same context at any one time. However, I have always felt that there has always been a subtle difference between the two.
In my experience, whenever I have felt the need to have empathy or empathise with someone it's invariably because a person has suffered some sort of loss or misfortune similar to those I have had and, as a result, I know what it's like to be in their shoes so to speak.
On the other hand, whenever I have had cause to have sympathy or sympathise with someone, it's invariably been when a person has had suffered the sort of loss or the kind of misfortune that I don't necessarily have experience of and, no matter how sincere my condolences were, I couldn't begin to understand how that person felt.
So, on that basis, if you were then to ask me whether I sympathised with Paul Jewell after Sunday's game at The Grove on Sunday for example, I would say no and in this particular case there are two reasons for that.
Firstly, because as a Gooner, I know damn well that nobody would have had an ounce of sympathy for the Arsenal had things happened exactly the other way round on the day.
Secondly, I think that Jewell, like Sam Allardyce, is very much a hypocrite. He is not averse to having a cheap dig at either Arsenal or our manager whenever the mood suits him knowing full well that it is bound to score points with the institutionally prejudiced, anti-Arsenal little Englanders in the press and the media.
What's more, Jewell (like Allardyce) has come out and said both to the press and the media that Arsenal and our boss "bad losers" and "whingers", etc. Mind you, having witnessed what he perceived to be a series of injustices against his team en route to their eventual defeat, I didn't exactly see him turn the other cheek and accept defeat gracefully on Sunday.
Instead, as soon as the final whistle went, he came stomping on to the pitch and angrily confronted the referee, Phil Dowd, pointing, gesticulating and no doubt effing and blinding in a manner that would make Bernard Manning blush.
Now, here's the thing. I'm not saying that Jewell didn't have due cause to be beside himself with anger. But, whilst I could genuinely understand the things that were at the root of his angry tirade at Dowd, I can only say that I empathise with him rather than sympathise with him.
I thought Wigan put in the kind of display that was a throwback to the kind of displays they were putting week in and week out up and down the country this time last year. I'll even go as far as saying they were every bit as unfortunate to lose to us as they were to lose to the PRF on the opening day of last season.
Wigan deserved something from the game without question and Jewell will say probably up until the day he dies that we got away with murder thanks to the officials. And, top of his agenda will have been the penalty that wasn't. What was my view of it? Well, before I answer that, allow me to put a different slant on the incident.
Let's pretend that I'm Andy Gray or Alan Hansen for a minute and it wasn't Flamini playing as an auxiliary full-back but someone like Gary Neville or Patrice Evra involved in the act of bringing down Emile Heskey in that instance.
Whilst Gray was absolutely in no doubt that Flamini was guilty of conceding a penalty, I can just imagine what he would have said if Heskey was brought down in a similar way by either of those two at Old Trafford. He would have fudged the whole damn issue big time.
Gray wouldn't have declared outright that it was a penalty he would have said something like this "If you put your hands on a player like that when he's through you are asking the referee to make a decision".
And then, he might have used his get-out-of-jail-free card and said something clichéd like "all the big teams get the rub of the green in those situations; it's just the way it goes". And, if asked, I would bet everything I owned on Hansen saying pretty much the same thing.
Now, how did I see it? Well, Flamini is not exactly built like the side of a house but he amazingly mustered up strength with one hand on the shoulder to send a big lump like Heskey spinning through the air like a top and crashing to the ground like great redwood tree.
I honestly expected the ref to point to the spot. After all, we all know that the days when a defender had to commit something bordering on actual or even grievous bodily harm in order to concede a penalty went out with the ark.
Ronaldo got one at Shite Hart Lane when little more than a gust of wind sent him flying last week, didn't he? And of course, our own Phillipe Senderos gave away a penalty and got sent off for doing little more than tapping on the shoulder of that frail waif of a striker, Yakubu, at the Riverside last week. It's just a sign of the times, right?
Wrong. On this occasion, Wigan's penalty claims were waved away, Flamini stayed on when he probably would have been sent off on another day and moments later, he went up the other end and played a big part in the equaliser, albeit from what was proved to be an offside position. Then of course, Tomas Rosicky got the winner with what was a vastly overdue first Premiership goal of the season.
The final whistle goes. Cue the post match pandemonium. Jewell does his party piece on the pitch and rants at the referee. He then continues his rant when interviewed by a Sky reporter after the game and there is certified sense of uproar amongst the press and the media over the whole thing.
Funny that. I didn't see anyone in the press and the media in uproar the weekend before when ManUre played the Tiny Totts and Ronaldo dived to win the penalty he got for them. I didn't see widespread condemnation of the referee over the fact that Gary Neville got away with a rugby tackle on Pascal Chimbonda or the fact that Paul Scholes somehow stayed on the pitch for the full 90 minutes without getting so much as a caution despite the fact that he committed no less than FOUR blatantly obvious bookable offences.
Come to think of it, I didn't see anyone offering any sympathy to Wenger back in November after the game at West Ham when the Arsenal were denied a blatant penalty or when he was clearly provoked into losing his cool by Pardew the Plum after the Hammers got their winning goal.
You see, it's clearly alright in the eyes of the press and the media for someone like Jewell to have cause for complaint and express them in no uncertain terms to all and sundry without the slightest whiff of a mocking reproach from them.
However, when it comes to Arsene and his club there is no such thing as two-way street. Irrespective of whether he has legitimate cause for complaint or not (and I will admit he hasn't always had a right to complain), he is shouted down, told to stop whinging and just accept things as they are every time.
It's alright in the eyes of the press and the media for someone like Pardew to openly goad Wenger on the touchline after a goal is scored and deem it that Pardew was showing "passion" and "letting off steam after the pressure he had been under ". Yet, when a frustrated Henry, sarcastically has a bit of a pop at Chris Kirkland after Arsenal had got back into the game in spite of the keeper's blatant time wasting antics, he is accused of being disrespectful.
Just for the record, I do actually agree with the fact that Henry should have been above all the shenanigans with Kirkland. But that's a little beside the point.
As a Gooner, I know what it's like to see my team get a real shafting from a referee. Someone like Jewell may accuse a ref of costing his club £50 million but at the same time, I have seen the Arsenal lose out on league titles and in FA Cup finals because of inept refereeing in the past.
Someone like Jewell may have had legitimate cause to bemoan the fact that his team didn't get what they deserved and to be fair to him I wouldn't disagree with that. But, in Wenger's time alone, I've seen the Arsenal play in dozens and dozens of games like that.
And you know what? Whenever we have been genuinely shafted out of games or whenever we have had the misfortune of not getting what we truly deserved from a football match, nobody gives a damn and nobody fights our corner.
Now, as an Arsenal fan, I'm big enough, ugly enough and old enough to say this without a trace of paranoia – besides paranoia is based on fiction or fantasy not fact. And what I've said here is based on just that - fact.
We Gooners all know of the double standards that exist. We Gooners all know that the legions of bigoted, ignorant individuals both in the press, the media and beyond will always dictate that there is a set of warped perceptions and rules for us and a set of more favourable perceptions and rules for virtually anyone that happen to play against us.
The more matches we lose, irrespective of the circumstances, the further we will invariably be from winning trophies. That's what those James Hunt's in the press and the media want. That's what legions of fans up and down this country want.
But you know, this is the sort of thing that only stiffens my resolve to be an Arsenal fan, and a proud one at that. And in my book, I can assure you that I believe that these same people are the ones that have a heavy burden to carry on their shoulders every waking day – not Gooners like me.
Now, it's time to look at the Arsenal's trip to the Reebok for the FA Cup reply against Bolton.
In the wake of what happened at The Grove on Sunday, Allardyce has apparently been mouthing off once again in the media claiming that the Arsenal are adept at time wasting as everyone else. Well, being as Fat Sam is supposedly one of the more technologically orientated managers in the Premiership, I would love him to show me a game where we started employing time-wasting tactics from the first 15-20 minutes of any match onwards.
Wigan, or more specifically Chris Kirkland in particular, were guilty of that on Sunday and I'm sure that any set of fans would get bloody annoyed if they saw a set of opponents were doing that virtually from the start in their own back yard.
But you see, that's Allardyce all over. If Arsene is a whinger, then that fat bastard wrote the book on how to do it. But as I said earlier the press and the media love it when an English manager tries to stick it to a club like us complete with our foreign manager and cosmopolitan line up.
They are quite happy to overlook the fact that Allardyce's squad is virtually as diverse and cosmopolitan as ours and that, like Arsenal, most of his key players are not English. But, that's the point you see, the crazy, hypocritical point.
Allardyce, of course, is an Englishman. So, not withstanding the fact that his side is as top heavy with foreigners or non- English players as ours is, he gets treated like a hero by the same press and media that are regularly making or courting sly digs about Arsenal's lack of English first team players.
Maybe Arsene should actively look into becoming a UK citizen. It's far easier it seems to have a virtually all foreign side and fly under the radar of the ignorant bigots that way.
Anyway, looking at the tie itself, I can honestly say to all of you that I'm genuinely relaxed about this game. After all, even though we are not widely considered to actually be favourites to win this game we will get slagged off in the press if we were to lose anyway.
It's clear that the "smart" money would have gone on Bolton from the moment the final whistle went at The Grove and they had earned the right to take the tie back to the Reebok. In turn, that means that the Arsenal, for once, are the underdogs. And therefore, on the face of things we go to the Reebok with nothing to lose.
I think we need to look at this game not as some kind of traumatic obligation but as an opportunity to ram the words that fat bastard Allardyce and his cronies in the press and the media back down their throats.
I've seen the Arsenal actually win league titles and cups when we have been considered to be rank underdogs in the past. I've seen us come through matches when the knives are being sharpened by the press and the media who are waiting for us to fail. I know that our record against The Trotters isn't great in recent times.
But experience has taught me never to write the Arsenal off in any situation in the past and I'll be damned if I start doing it now.