Mea Culpa: a peek at peak pique confusion

Our weekly self-critical look at stylistic and grammar glitches, by John Rentoul

Saturday 30 October 2021 21:30
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<p>The film set where the fatal shot was fired </p>

The film set where the fatal shot was fired

In an article about the death of Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer, we said that the person in charge of the guns on the film set was the daughter of a Hollywood firearms expert, and that “her interest in following her father’s footsteps had only piqued in recent years”. Thanks to Sue Alexander for pointing out this unusual confusion between something that piqued her interest, and her interest having peaked.

Pique, from the French for “to prick”, means to stimulate interest or curiosity, but it would usually be used in the form “had only been piqued”, whereas this sentence sounds as if we meant to say that her interest “had only peaked” in recent years.

Deep fried: The language is always changing, and I admit I hadn’t noticed it, but we are in the middle of a transition in our cricket coverage from “batsman” to “batter”. We currently use both words interchangeably. As someone who became used to chair and spokesperson when I worked for the New Statesman in the 1980s, the change seems natural, if not overdue, to me.

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