To begin, I must admit that I am somewhat of a pedant when it comes to grammar. (and correct spelling, but that's another story.) It's not that I never make mistakes, but I try to make as few as possible, and if someone (anyone!) points them out, I try to correct, and subsequently avoid similar mistakes.

Anyway, it has recently become a pet peeve of mine when people say something like, "... and that peaked my interest in ...", rather than the homonymous1, "... and that piqued my interest in ...."2 I mean, really - if you are going to try and sound all slick-like, at least try to be slick and correct!

Of course, this incorrect usage is quite widespread; witness the results of some altavista3 searches:

  • word count: peak * interest: about 2000
  • word count: pique * interest: about 4000

I can accept the possibility that the word "pique" does not mean what I think it means; the only dictionary that seems to back me up is The American Heritage Dictionary, accessed via (Even Webster 1913's definition of pique does not coincide with mine, although it does talk about excitement and stimulation, while his entry for "peak" just talks about hills and whatnot.) Am I just imposing my American grammar on everyone else, or am I voicing a valid complaint? (oh, the inner turmoil!)

Also of relevance is the infamous their/they're/there debacle.


1 Cletus the Foetus points out that a more precise word to use here would be "homophonic", but I prefer the ring of "homonymous".

2 Thanks to Phinslit for informing me that quoted phrases ending in "..." at the end of a sentence should be terminated like any other phrase at the end of a sentence, by adding a period. So "...."

3 When I wrote this in 2000, people were still using Altavista's search engine occasionally. Doing similar searches with Google on 2005-09-18 shows approximately the same ratios; 2:1 to 3:1 in favor of "pique". One bizarre thing that I noticed was when I searched for "piqued * interest" with quotes and got this:

Results 1 - 3 of about 404,000 for "piqued * interest". (0.13 seconds)