Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Literary Lapses 101 #5: Peeked, Peaked, or Piqued?

Thanks to Grace Bridges for reminding me about this one. This confusion is one I see often enough, but I had forgotten about it, and since Grace brought it up a few days ago, I have seen two glaring mix-ups in online magazines.

Easiest one first: PEEKED. When a guy glanced quickly at something he wasn't supposed to see, he peeked. If a girl was blindfolded for pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and could see under the bottom of the blindfold, she peeked. The game babies love to play is peek-a-boo.

The incidents we notice most often with book and other reviews come about when someone writes about interest or curiosity being aroused by something. My personal theory: it is so widely confused because people have often heard the phrases but not seen them written out.

This review has piqued my interest.
Her curiosity was piqued by his bizarre behavior.
My interest peaked a couple of days ago, but now it bores me.
Alice's curiosity peaked when the rabbit popped into a hole; she had to follow him. 

PIQUED comes from Old  French for pricked. It's a synonym for incited, aroused, goaded, stimulated, stirred. It can also mean vexed or irritated, as in Margo was piqued when the governor ignored her. It seems to go in two different directions, but the core meaning goes back to the origin.

PEAKED has to do with a point, an apex, the summit or highest or maximum degree. So, your interest in something or someone may peak, reaching a climax or high point, and then plateau or decrease. However,  your interest is piqued when you first feel excited about something (or someone). Notice the difference in how peaked and piqued are used with curiosity or interest.

And while I'm at it, I thought about this phrase I heard all my life but didn't know how to spell--until I looked it up this morning. If someone looks pale and sickly, my Kentucky relatives always said "he  looks a little [peekid]." It doesn't follow the meanings of any of the three words, so which one do you think is the right word? (No peeking ahead now)

He looks a little peaked is correct. Go figure. (Actually, my aunt would say "a might peaked")

1 comment:

Christy--Southern Sassy Girl said...

Excellent post, Cathi! I notice this stumble quite often in book reviews, and it's very nice that you've clarified things for everyone. :o)