What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

21 May 2012

Peaked, Piqued, or Peeked?

Today's post is brought to you by Dictionary.com.

Pique (verb): to excite (interest, curiosity, etc.): Her curiosity was piqued by the gossip.
Peak (verb): to attain a peak of activity, development, popularity, etc.: The artist peaked in the 1950s.
Peek (verb): to look or glance quickly or furtively, especially through a small opening or from a concealed location; peep; peer.

This is a peak. Not a pique. (It's also
the home of Stargate Command.)
You'll notice these aren't in alphabetical order. I put "pique" first because I'm not convinced that everyone knows it exists. I see this on the internet all the time: "It peaked my interest." Does the writer mean that the object in question caused his or her interest to reach an apex and then decline? Not usually.

I imagine that English will evolve so that "peak" comes to replace "pique". ("Peek" seems to be left out of these mixups. Thank goodness.) Until then, the words are not interchangeable. If something captures your interest or curiosity, then you've been piqued. If you've reached the full extent of your curiosity and it's fading away, you've peaked.

Unfortunately, I have no good way to remember the difference between these words. But I do think we should all learn them so that careful readers aren't pointing and laughing when we confuse them. Proofreading is your friend!

Did you know there was a difference between "peak" and "pique"? Is it now going to drive you crazy when you see it on the internet?


Anonymous said...

I did know the words and the differences. I've given up being upset about wrong usage....

Carole Anne Carr said...

Being an English woman I did know the difference, our language peppered with French words due to the many invasions of our island. But I still don't know the meaning of so many words in the dictionary! :0)

JEFritz said...

I think I did a post on how these words confuse me. Do you really think pique will turn, spelling-wise, into peak? Maybe, but I'd rather hope we won't be homographing any more words (verbing them, however, is still okay). We don't need to make English even more difficult.

Grahame said...

Yes. Yes, it really bugs me when people use "peak" instead of "pique." But coming from me, you probably would have figured that. :-)

Su said...

@Delores: Good choice!

@Carole: My English teacher this past semester said we have more words in English that are not of English origin than ones that are. Most are co-opted from Latin languages, and a lot of our legal words are French, again due to their repeated invasions of Britain.

@JE: I'm not sure that I think it will turn into "peak", so much as I think people will just give up on knowing the answer.

@Grahame: Not even a little bit surprised. :)