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Apr 16, 2012
This week's theme
Words that have meanings in multiple parts of speech

This week's words
paragon
countenance
gloze
tarry
bluff

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

There's a well-known (and possibly made-up) newspaper headline:

Teacher Strikes Idle Kids

What's going on here? Is it a case of teachers hitting indolent students or of teachers asking for better wages? It's an instance of the malleability of the language that some words can act like one of those flip animations: what you see depends on what angle you see it from. In the above headline words take either of two roles (strike: noun/verb, idle: verb/adjective).

Here are a couple of other examples:

Reagan Wins on Budget, But More Lies Ahead
British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands

Newspaper editors often have to come up with succinct headlines at short notice. You can't fault them for having a little fun on the job. This week is your chance to play being a newspaper editor. All the words to be featured in A.Word.A.Day this week have meanings in more than one part of speech.

Can you make a newspaper headline using one or more words from this week? Mail them to (words at wordsmith.org). For more inspiration, see crash blossoms. See results.

paragon

PRONUNCIATION:
(PAR-uh-gohn)

MEANING:
noun:
    1. A model of excellence or perfection.
    2. A match or an equal.
    3. A perfect diamond weighing 100 carats or more.
    4. A very large round pearl.
    5. A type size of 20 points.
verb tr.:
    To compare, parallel, rival, or surpass.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Middle French paragone/peragone (perfect diamond), from Old Italian paragone (touchstone), from Greek parakonan (to sharpen), from akone (whetstone), from akme (point). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ak- (sharp), which is also the source of acrid, vinegar, acid, acute, edge, hammer, heaven, eager, oxygen, and mediocre. Earliest documented use: 1548.

USAGE:
"Mom, a paragon of manners, stresses the importance of offering sincere gratitude before asking for more."
Don't Be Fooled; Chicago Tribune; Mar 24, 2010.

"The Cavaliere ... paragoned her in his song to all the pagan goddesses of antiquity."
Edith Wharton; Crucial Instances; 1901.

See more usage examples of paragon in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best -- and therefore never scrutinize or question. -Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist, biologist, author (1941-2002)

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