Pique, peak, peek

2007-01-05 08:14:00

I just saw this in a blog post yet again -- and from someone who is otherwise quite a good writer. I guess now is as good a time as any to bring back the English Fascist.

It's not "peak [someone's] interest." The correct word is 'pique.'

'Peak' is an intransitive (can't take an object) verb that means "reach the highest possible level," e.g., "The shrillness of Geddy Lee's shrieking peaks in the 'Temples of Syrinx' section of 2112."

I guess the connection there is that a 'peak' is high, so you use that word to indicate that someone's interest (or whatever) has been 'heightened.' It's completely wrong, but I guess I can see how someone would wind up there.

Sadly though, I've also seen the same misuse with 'peek,' another intransitive verb which of course means "to take a little look." That one is not just wrong, it's bizarre. ("it peeked my interest"?).

The word you want here is 'pique' -- a transitive verb that means "to excite, arouse, provoke [something]." Hence, "pique my curiosity" means "arouse my curiosity." (As a noun it means "resentment or irritation" -- a separate definition.)


Lee Eschen (2007-01-27)
PS: There ought to be a reminder that one needs to include the HTML formatting tags in one's text. Without them, it looks like it was written by a drunken sailor. Lee

Lee Eschen (2007-01-27)
Well, I'm glad there is at least one other person left in the world who knows something about the English language. My own pet peeve is the "your"/"you're" disasters. I once saw, many years ago, in a very expensive double page spread ad in Reader's Digest (the widest circulation & the most expensive), the word "your" used where "you're" was the correct usage. I don't even remember the ad specifics, except for that gruesome grammatical gaffe. I've been waiting years to use that particular alliterative allusion. Have a great day, Matt! Lee Eschen

pmerv (2009-05-04)

I love your alliterative allusion, 2 years later. Apparently not a hot topic but my pet peeve is “its.” Even wrote a little poem about it. Might as well post it, maybe someone will enjoy it.

It’s its (or is it it’s?)

“Its” is such a tiny word Yet causes trouble, It’s absurd. Is it “its” or “it’s”? You have to choose. How can you tell Which “its” to use?

In a general way, With one major exception, Apostrophes denote Possession: Bird’s nest, cat’s meow, Horse’s hay, man’s cow.

But the rule for its Is not the same. “Its” is possessive Although it’s plain— Its ball; its bone; Its bag; its brain.

And as for it’s, Its’ fancy friend, (Keep reading now until the end!)

Like “can’t” or “we’re” Or “goin’ fishin’,” This apostrophe Denotes omission And stands for the “i” Which was taken out Of “it is” to make it Nice and short.

So remember this verse When you use “its’”again To decide when it’s fancy Or when it’s plain. And never cry out With a groan of pain, “I’ll never get it, It’s ‘its’ again!”

pmerv (2009-05-04)

The website destroyed the formatting of my poem. If anyone cares, copy and paste it into a word document and make a new line at each capital letter. The lines should all be very short.


This is the blog for Matthew Eernisse. I currently work at Yammer as a developer, working mostly with JavaScript. All opinions expressed here are my own, not my employer's.


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