Is Your Interest Peaked or Piqued?

212

A comment on my Facebook page recently stated that I had “perked the interest” of a reader.

I can see how the writer could confuse piqued with perked. Besides the similarity of sounds, the verb perked, which is almost always used with the particle up, means “to thrust up the head” or “to gain in vigor or cheerfulness,” and that works with the expression. It implies that interest has been aroused from lethargy. I actually like it.

But it was probably not intentional — just an eggcorn that happens to work. The more common error with this expression is equally understandable — to confuse the homophones piqued and peaked. The traditional idiom is to pique one’s interest, with pique meaning “to provoke or arouse.”

Like perk, however, peaked can also make sense in context. Peak means “to bring to a maximum value or intensity,” and this is certainly what one might mean when saying, “my interest was peaked.”

Peak is also a far more common word than pique in everyday parlance, so it’s not surprising that people confuse these two words.

In fact, I bet many people mean peak rather than pique when they use this expression in spoken communication — not that their interest was aroused, but that it was brought to its highest point. And this, of course, raises the question of correctness. If a speaker or writer means peak in an expression that traditionally uses pique, is it an error?

I think not. It’s only an error if the speaker writes peak and means pique. But that can be hard to discern, so I say, whenever possible, give the benefit of the doubt.

*****

If this article has piqued, peaked, or perked your interest, please tell me about it in a comment below.

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

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  138. marie
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    your blog post popped up while I was doing a search to make sure I was using the correct word. I thought it was an interesting question to ponder, whether to use “peak” instead of “pique” because of what meaning you’re trying to convey. Sometimes the perfectly accurate word or phrase (whether it’s a big word or something like ‘peak’ your interest) fails to communicate what you intend because it’s not simple enough to be grasped. If it COULD be confusing, then it isn’t worth it. Just my rule of thumb to throw out there. :)

  139. Yolanda
    Yolanda09-27-2013

    Very interesting. However, I agree with Ryan in that the use of peak may appear inarticulate. I think I will continue to use piqued even though my interest may actually have been be peaked. Thanks!

  140. Ryan Belcher
    Ryan Belcher09-09-2013

    Interesting. I would think the main concern with using peaked is that other people may think you are inarticulate. Maybe that would be an issue if you were writing a college entrance essay or some such.

  141. Syreeta
    Syreeta09-09-2013

    I don’t recall anyone ever using the word piqué, and I did think the expression was peaked. I am learning a lot from this page, thanks!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko09-09-2013

      Glad I could help you with that, Syreeta. And thanks for the kind note.

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