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I have always thought the phrase was "pique my interest" as in: "Her mysterious background piqued my interest".

However, of late, on blogs and social networks, I have seen people using "peek my interest", as in "Disney is starting to peek my interest", and I have even seen "Samsung's latest display peaks my interest in the company".

Which is the correct phrase?

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My apologies. I'd already voted to close this as General Reference before checking on Google Internet, where I was shocked to find 8M hits for peaked my interest. The correct version with piqued gets only 1M more, which just goes to show you should never underestimate people's ignorance. At least the written forms are a bit more respectable, but I'm still rather disappointed to see 4400 hits for the erroneous one (but at least the ratio is a bit more respectable, with 62900 for the correct one! :). But it's obviously not that obvious - so once again, sorry for the closevote. –  FumbleFingers Jan 25 '13 at 1:20
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I wasn't going to look at the beautiful mountain, but the peak, piqued a peek. –  Fraser Orr Jan 25 '13 at 3:44
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It's interesting that the OP decided to answer his own question a few seconds after posting :) –  coleopterist Jan 25 '13 at 3:54
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@MετάEd: I would say 8M incorrect instances on Google (compared to just 9M correct ones) is a lot more than "starting to gain traction". It's not an alternate spelling - it's just ignorant people who don't know the word pique in the first place, so they "eggcorn" it into a word they do know. And just as you'll never find a dictionary saying eggcorn is an alternative spelling of acorn, this one will never serve any purpose apart from being an indicator of limited vocabulary. –  FumbleFingers Jan 25 '13 at 4:29
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@coleopterist: Nothing wrong with sharing the answer even if you are the OP. EL&U is perfectly fit for such knowledge sharing. –  KeyBrd Basher Jan 25 '13 at 7:23

4 Answers 4

Piqued (my interest) = stimulated, captured, awoke [20th century]. The ignorance of the masses is wreaking fundamental changes to our language (the one I am writing in; I don't know about the others). With the proliferation of personal computers and cell phone text messaging, not to mention new arrivals having a different native language and a shaky understanding of our language, millions of barely educated or untutored are having an increasing impact on the language. Authors often pander to the ignorance of their readers, even breaking common compound words into their original parts for the simplistic of mind. Or over-using some words to where they have little meaning in some contexts eg. Totally (try substituting): completely, absolutely, undoubtedly, entirely, wholly, exclusively, fully... We look to others to tell us what is when often we need to remember what was and judge the answers we receive in the light thereof.

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This seems to be the stream of thoughts triggered in your mind by the question, rather than an actual answer. –  itsbruce Nov 11 '13 at 14:59
    
This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. –  Benyamin Hamidekhoo Nov 11 '13 at 16:09
up vote 46 down vote accepted

The correct phrase I believe is "pique" my interest.

At first glance this seems incorrect since the noun form of the word "pique" means "irritation and resentment stemming from a wounded ego". However, the verb form of this word has the meaning — "stimulate or excite" and that is the meaning used in the context of the sentences in question.

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English isn't my first language, but I think there are more pitfalls here than what's apparent at first sight.

I believe that if the meaning is "made me interested in ...", then the correct spelling is "piqued my interest."

But "peaked my interest" is grammatically correct ('peak' is a verb, after all), but with a different meaning: "reached the height of my possible interest in ...", so the phrase:

Disney is starting to peak my interest.

would actually mean/imply something like "Disney is starting to make me less interested", since after you've reached the peak, there's only one way you can go.

If you follow this thought sequence, and start looking at:

Disney is starting to peek my interest.

you end up spooked.

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"peaked my interest", for general use, is not grammatically correct, as the verb "to peak" is intransitive. So my interest can peak (i.e. it can reach its maximum value), but it cannot be peaked. (Apparently there are transitive versions of "to peak"; one is a nautical term; the other I've never heard of.) –  Steve Melnikoff Jan 25 '13 at 12:19
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"peek my interest" is also not grammatically correct, as "to peek" must be followed by a preposition, e.g. "at" or "under". –  Steve Melnikoff Jan 25 '13 at 12:20
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Yes, the only reason to deliberately use either is because a peak or a peek is relevant and you are punning. But such puns are possible with just about any construction that would be incorrect generally. –  Jon Hanna Jan 25 '13 at 12:45
    
@JonHanna: true. However, my impression from the question is that most people are doing this because they're unaware of the correct spelling, rather than in order to make a pun. –  Steve Melnikoff Jan 25 '13 at 13:02
    
+1 because you cover the common turn of phrase, and then go on to make a point about a possible pun that is reasonable and grammatically correct. @SteveMelnikoff's link to m-w shows that to peak can be used transitively for the very meaning in question here. –  kojiro Jan 25 '13 at 13:02

A lot more people write now that it's easy to do. Doesn't mean they know how to write. Many times it should have been "piqued my interest" although "peaked my interest" is often used, meaning that the subject has reached a critical mass to be worthy of being at the peak of the person's interest list. "Peeked my interest" is most likely a spelling mistake. I know a few people born here, some even have a university degree, yet they're still unable to choose the correct form for there vs their vs they're.

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I wouldn't overstate the case regarding people who're unable to choose the correct form for there vs their vs they're. It's unlikely anyone with a degree would ever fit that description. Educated people only make such mistakes because there "writing on autopilot", not because they're unable to choose the correct form when their paying attention (Okay - they might also choose wrong just for the hell of it! :) –  FumbleFingers Jan 25 '13 at 4:35
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@fumbleFingers: Not trying to overstate it. It is true though, even when they try. I have one in the family, it's quite amusing. Year 12 has become much easier to pass and University is now mostly a cash-cow for the government. But anyway, it's the Y generation that use peaked quite often, as it's a cool phrase to use. –  Chris Jan 25 '13 at 5:09
    
The same people also "tow the line" and do things "off their own backs" (both of which are becoming more common). –  MikeJ-UK Jan 25 '13 at 13:15
    
I agree that it is simply a spelling mistake. However, maybe we should start a trend where to have "Peeked my interest" means to have surreptitiously surveyed it? Taking the meaning from the technical term peek and poke. –  user14070 Jan 25 '13 at 14:51
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@Chris: Granted, I probably understated my side there. But I don't think piqued/peaked is really in the same "error class" as there/their/they're. My guess is the vast majority of the former really are down to ignorance as to what the word should be (usually, people don't really know the correct word at all), whereas for the latter it's normally just carelessness. Ordinarily, I think people are much less likely to make those "careless" errors with relatively uncommon/unusual words like pique. –  FumbleFingers Jan 25 '13 at 16:36

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