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Which Word Wednesday: Peak, Peek, and Pique

By March 27, 2013 language One Comment

Happy Which Word Wednesday, my friends! There has been a lag here as of late due to some heavy project deadlines. I’ve missed being here! And I’m sure your linguistic tank is tapped dry by now, so I’m giving you a triple-dose with a threesome: peak, peek, and pique. This tricky trio crossed my path in an editing assignment with a sentence something like this:

My interest was peaked!

As in, this grabbed my attention. But peaked is not the word that fits—it often gets shoved into this slot, poor thing. That must be so uncomfortable. So let’s help him by looking at the definitions from The Oxford American Dictionary:

peak
noun :: the pointed top of a mountain
verb :: reach a highest point
adjective :: greatest, maximum

peek
verb :: look quickly, typically in a furtive manner
noun :: a quick and typically furtive look

pique :: verb
stimulate interest or curiosity

Oh, homophones. You make our language so quirky. Here we have three words that sound exactly alike. We need the context of a conversation or the word typed on the page to know which meaning is intended.

Going back to my sample sentence—“My interest was peaked!”—to apply the definitions, we find that the use of peaked would mean that your interest had taken a trek to the top of the mountain. To say that something grabbed your attention or interest, you need to say: “My interested was piqued!”

peakpeekpiqueA memory hook helps to keep these words in place. Here’s how I do it:

peak has an A for apex, relating to mountains that have peaks

peek has double Es for see, as in a sneak peek

pique has a Q for quicken, which is what happens when curiosity is awakened

What’s my WWW verdict? Interest can peak when it’s piqued after getting a sneak peek. Just know what’s happening to your interest and you’ll be fine.

What’s your verdict? Do you struggle with peak, peek, and pique? Do homophones make you crazy? Have you missed WWW?! Do share in the comments.

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www2013Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.

Image Source:
Corne. Cartoon. The Wrong Word Dictionary. Oak Park: Marion Street, 2005. 174. Print.

  • naughtbutgood

    What a great memory hook! I cringe every time I see “peaked my interest.” Another one I’m surprised to see often is lose/loose, i.e., “I hope our team doesn’t loose.”

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