Paeon, Paean, and peon

I recently commented on a blog post, Celebrating Courage, Creativity and Grit by Silkannthreades.  I wrote that it was a paeon to some talented bloggers.  Thanks to Grammarly, I realized that paeon may have been mispelled.  (Of course I realized this as soon as I hit send.)  I had to reply to my own comment and acknowledge that paeon was a typo and the real word was paean.  (I can’t type but at least I have a decent vocabulary.)

According to the dictionary:

A paean (pronounced PEE-in, sometimes spelled pean) is a fervent expression of joy or praise, often in song.

A paeon (pronounced PEE-in or PEE-on) is a four-syllable metrical foot in prosody. Anyone who doesn’t analyze poetry will never have use for the word.

A peon (pronounced PEE-on) is an unskilled laborer or menial worker. Today, use of the word is most common in Indian English, where it’s used to describe any worker and presumably doesn’t have negative connotations. In American and British English, peon has an insulting tone. No one, in the U.S. at least, wants to be a peon.

The first two words have origins in the same Greek term; peon comes from the Medieval Latin term for foot soldier.

 

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