Thursday, October 30, 2008

Will This Pique Your Interest?

I just read a post on a writer's forum in which someone said "peaked my interest." Since I corrected "peak" to "pique" in a recent edit, I had a moment of self-doubt and went searching. (FYI, "pique" is correct.)

While I was searching, I came across this post and I thought the discussion was interesting. It evolved, as such discussions often do, to analyzing why people are, basically, so wrong all the time.

Many people have the opinion that our schools are not doing as good a job teaching the vagaries of the English language anymore. That doesn't fly with me. First, though my scope is limited, I see the opposite in my own kids' schools. Second, the people *I* see using the wrong word (or bad spelling or grammar) all the time are not in their early 20s. They're my generation or older, which would indicate that either schools didn't teach us any better back then, or people ignore what they're taught. Maybe it's a little of both.

But one person pointed out that people will often hear the homonym and never see it, so they guess wrong when trying to write it. I think that's a huge part of the "problem." At least as far as the general public goes. I mean, think about it. We live in a world now where millions of people are communicating through text. Blogs, independent "news" sites, e-mails, text messages, IMs. Twenty and thirty years ago, no one read or wrote as much as we do today. People would use a word or phrase correctly but never see it written. So errors like pique/peak and (one of my pet peeves) "you've got another thing coming" instead of "think" will happen far more often.

In that context, it's a little more forgivable. But I can't say that about the writer portion of the population. I know which one is correct because I've read thousands of books in my life. Presumably, people who want to write are also readers, and if you're a reader, generally speaking, you should be absorbing what you're reading. Mistakes are inevitable--I know I make my share--and it's not possible to know everything, but it's a constant surprise to me that people don't seem to try.


Anonymous said...

I hate "you've got another thing coming." I never had a thing in the first place. I have plenty of thinks, however.

How can it be so easy to confuse?

"You think *that's* easy to confuse? You got another think coming."

Plain to me.

The pique/peak thing bugs me, too, however, I have been known to confuse rein and reign (or I'm just typing too fast). I DO confuse lay and lie all the time. I always have to look them up.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Apparently, Judas Priest is why it's so easy to confuse. LOL

Lie and lay are HARD, and that's because lay is the past tense of lie, so that invites more crossover. I have a sticky above my computer with:

Lay, laid, laid, laying (to place)
Lie, lay, lain, lying (to recline)

The one I don't think I'll ever stop having trouble with is bring/take.