The Desk

January 12, 2013

Vocabulary Builder: Peek, Peak, and Pique

Filed under: Vocabulary Builder — Yvonne LaRose @ 12:22 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Homonyms are such tricksters. They sound like their sib[ling]s and cousins but they mean entirely different things. Those who are familiar with the family of homonyms find it difficult to have anything profound to say about them. Each one has a different meaning associated with a different matter but they’re spelled differently while they all sound the same. Unfortunately for the one who isn’t familiar with the family, Word will tell them they’ve spelled the word properly but won’t tell them that it’s the wrong word in relation to the concept they’re attempting to relate. Use of the wrong homonym tells the reader who is being enticed (and is familiar with the family) that the speaker still has a lot to learn.

The good part of having a lot to learn and misuse is that the speaker is open to learning. That is a definite saving grace. Another that accompanies that is learning the differences quickly and applying use of the correct word in the correct situation – no subsequent misuse of that family of terms.

So let’s take a look at today’s group of homonyms.

We sometimes “peek” at or into something. What we’re doing is peering into a thing that’s being kept secret for some reason. Maybe it’s a gift. In the alternative, there may be a keyhole opening through a lock or some other aperture and we’re attempting to find out what’s on the other side. Having that knowledge would definitely help us know whether what’s on the other side is worth pursuing or not.

Then we reach a “peak” and wonder where to go next. In this instance, we’ve reached the top of something, be it a mountain or hill, a performance level, or even something that’s stacked so high that it can no longer support additions.

Which brings us to “pique.” As you can tell from the spelling, it comes to us from France and means raising an interest in something. It also means being stung with insult or irritation about something. Interesting word that “pique.” These days, it’s mostly used in reference to having one’s interest aroused. If we look at it from the Latin and relate it to Spanish, we realize it’s closely related to the term “picador” which is the word used for the person who jabs a bull with barbed picks that stir the animal to action and make it angry enough to charge in order to defend itself. So let’s pique someone’s interest but not their ire.

The other thing we should do is be mindful of what words have homonyms and make certain the correct word is being used lest we expose how new it is to our vocabulary.

Sponsored Link: Dictionary of Homonyms (Wordsworth Reference)

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