Is Your Interest Peaked or Piqued?
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.