"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." – Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride
Has something ever piqued your curiosity? Have you ever peeked inside a box you weren't supposed to open? Or have you simply reached the peak of your patience?
Okay, that was pretty much a bunch of gibberish, but hopefully it illustrates some of the ways that "pique," "peak," and "peek" are used. These words are today's topic because, once again, I encountered the phrase – nay, the incorrect phrase! – "to peak one's curiosity" and it left me in a fit of pique.
Confused? I promise, it will get better. Maybe.
Incorrect: My curiosity was peaked by the note in my lunch bag.
Correct: Her sultry voice piqued his interest.
As a verb, "pique" means to arouse interest or to excite. "Peak" (as a verb) means to reach a limit or maximum, such as, "He peaked in his third season as a pro."
Incorrect: She left in a fit of peak.
Correct: His pique over the demotion lasted for months.
The noun "pique" means resentment, or as www.merriam-webster.com puts it, "a transient feeling of wounded vanity." (I really like that definition!)
Incorrect: She peaked inside the foil-wrapped box.
Correct: Sammy's pet mouse peeked out of its little house.
I haven't seen this misuse very often, but I have seen it. "Peek" means to take a quick look. "Peak" does not.
And last, but not least, the one that I was certain I knew until I researched it:
Incorrect: The elderly man looked pekid.
Correct: The doctor noted that the patient appeared peaked.
Until last week, I would have sworn on a stack of dictionaries that this usage was spelled "pekid" because that's how it's pronounced. Wrong! The correct word is "peaked" (pronounced 'peek-id' or 'peek-ed'), meaning wan or pale.
There's more to cover in the "peak," "pique" and "peek" realm, but I won't bore you here. Instead, take a minute to peruse a dictionary and see if that word really means what you think it means.