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A Word, Please: A common typo that might pique your interest

January 28, 2012|By June Casagrande

Some typos make you look bad. But some of the typos that make you look bad put you in such good company that, in the end, you don’t look so bad after all.

Take, for example, a Twitter post (or “tweet” as we technonarcissists call them) written a few months ago by an AMC network staffer offering a “sneak peak” at an episode of the show “Breaking Bad.”

“Breaking Bad” is a smart show that, I can only presume, has smart viewers. So a “sneak peak” instead of “peek” in promotional copy is more likely to get noticed than a similar typo on, say, a “Work’ It” promo or tattooed on Charlie Sheen’s forehead.

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I winced a little at the error, then thought nothing more about it. A few months later, however, an even more respected entertainment industry player made the same mistake. The brilliant writer/director Judd Apatow in a Twitter post announced a “sneak peak.”

His brainy fans didn’t miss it.

“I think you mean ‘sneak peek,’” a user named StealthMountain replied. Apatow was sufficiently amused that he rebroadcast the reply to all his followers, throwing in a quip about being on medication.

Not long afterward, I was among the recipients of an email sent by a state university extension program that offers courses in writing and copy editing. The email subject line enthusiastically announced a chance for a “sneak peak” at a new online learning program that includes — yup — copy-editing classes.

What are the odds that the person who composed that email — a university staffer overseeing professional copy-editing programs — didn’t know the difference between a peak, which is a high point, and a peek, which is a quick or furtive glimpse at something? Not likely.

I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that the brain behind “Bridesmaids” and “Freaks and Geeks” is also clear on the difference. And without even knowing who made the “Breaking Bad” Twitter typo, I’d bet that he or she suffers from no confusion whatsoever about the difference between peak and peek.

I have no doubt that all three of these people have been using “peak” and “peek” correctly in many contexts for many years. But when you put the word “sneak” in front of it, suddenly the brain’s urge to form patterns takes over.

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