Peak, peek and pique: these words are called homophones—words that sound the same, but may be spelled differently and have different meanings. And they seem to confuse a lot of people by what I see daily on social media.
That said, I remember writing something for StyleBlueprint years ago, and I incorrectly used “peak.” It was supposed to be “pique.” We missed it, and I was embarrassed. A reader commented, and I hurried to get back to my computer and get that blinking, neon sign of a typo corrected! Red faced. How had I missed that? Well, it’s the same way we make most typos: our brains and our hands sometimes just aren’t in sync. I mean, we’re all smart people, right? But I will say that after seeing the prevalent incorrect use of peak/peek/pique over the past few weeks, and one by someone who is part of a major Southern publication on social media (OUCH!), I feel the need to share the way I remember which is which.
I made up all these mnemonic devices when I was a kid, and they’ve stayed with me. I promise that they still pop into my mind when I write. For the whole peek/peak/pique usage, if you remember these clues, you’ll never get it wrong again, unless you have brain drain like I did when I published my mistake right here. Hopefully, yours won’t be published … I’m still embarrassed!
Peak, Peek, Pique
The peak of a mountain. Peak usage. Peak fares. A widow’s peak. So the pointed top of something, right? I remember this because this way of writing “peak” has an “a.” And an “a” capitalized looks like the peak of a mountain: A.
This means a quick look, as in “peek-a-boo” or “Don’t peek!” I remember this one because the two “e’s” side by side 1) look like eyes and 2) have the letters to spell “eye.”
To cause interest: “Her curiosity was piqued.” Or to feel irritated: “After a moment of pique, I was able to catch my breath and answer in a steady voice.” In both instances, what I came up with as a kid and still pops to the front of my mind today is this is “fancy pique.” Use the fancy way of spelling it! Totally lame, I know. But it worked for me then and still does today. Another one would be to think when curiosity or interest is piqued, I want to ask a question, and “pique” ends with “que,” which starts “question.” Someone told me that one along the way, and it’s a good one, as well.
Now, please stop tweeting, updating Facebook and writing under your Instagram photo the wrong one. This oftentimes laborious English language deserves better!