A peek at pique

peek_pique_peakRecently, I was in the middle of writing an article for the Berthoud Surveyor newspaper.  I wanted to point out that someone was strongly interested in a topic.  I thought I wanted to say that his interest was peeked—or is it peaked—or is it piqued.

Time to look up the right word.

Peak is the topmost point of something.  In Colorado we talk about the peaks that are “14-teeners.”  This means their altitude is 14,000 feet-plus. It also can be used for the peak of a career.

A peek on the other hand is a glance or a quick look. Some would even say a furtive look is a peek.

Lastly, there is pique. I wanted this word. This word is used for someone who is excited or curious about something .


Autobiography or memoir — which is it?


Autobiography or memoir? This question arose at a recent writers’ critique group I belong to.

When do you use autobiography and when do you call your work a memoir?

Autobiographies tend to cover the author’s life completely offering one’s life history. They tend to be factual using the who, what, when, where, etc. template.

Memoirs tend to focus on a point in a person’s life. The style of writing is usual more literary and creative.

The word “‘memoir” is used in the sense of remembrance or reminiscence. In both cases, the stories are true.

The above information was gleaned from websites. One of our writers’ critique group posed the question about autobiographies and memoirs to a noted writer at a recent Northern Colorado Writers conference.

Chuck Sambuchino, writer/editor at Writer Digest Books had a slightly different view of autobiographies and memoirs. Sambuchino said:

An autobiography is reserved for someone famous like a President, movie star, athlete, etc. and is about his/her whole life from childhood to whenever he/she became famous or his/her whole life if it’s someone like Ronald Reagan who has passed away.

A memoir could be someone famous, but doesn’t have to be and it’s about a short period in their life.  For example, someone could write a memoir about being prisoner in Africa or time spent in Africa, etc.





Artist or artisan?

The community where I live is known for its artists.  The main thrust of art in Loveland –The Sweetheart City—is bronze sculptures.

Artist vs artisan

A recent discussion I heard used both the words artist and artisan. So, today I will investigate the difference between an artist and an artisan.

What’s the difference between an artist and an artisan? It seems this question relates to what is art and what is craft.  Not an easy distinction.

This  question is equivalent to the issue of what constitutes art and what is designated as craft.

It seems the term for the creator of art is artist.  This is a gender-neutral term.

The French form of the word, artiste, came to apply more broadly to creative professionals, especially performers.

On the other hand, those dealing with the creation of crafts have gender-specific labels — craftsman and craftswoman.

The Latin ancestor of this term is artire, which means “to instruct in the arts.”

Titivate — look sharp now


Titivate is the word today.  I got this one from one of the Words By Bob readers.  She said the word was used in a television.    She thinks it was used incorrectly, and the interviewer was looking for the word tittilate.

Here are some definitions of titivate:

To make small improvements or alteration  to (one’s appearance etc.)

to add some finishing touches to.

to make smart or spruce

Synonyms for titivate include beautify, deck out, embellish, gussy up, prettify, smarten and spiff up

The word comes from a modification of earlier spelling– tidivate .  It may come from the word tidy  and-vate.  Some suggest it follows the pattern of words like cultivate and renovate

Alternate spellings are tidivate, tiddivate or tittivate

Lemniscate — it just keeps going

Lemniscate is not a term most of us use but we have seen the figure the term represents.


A lemniscate is a figure-eight shaped curve.  Many, like me, refer to it as the infinity symbol.

The label lemniscate makes sence because it comes from the Latin word lemniscatus—meaning decorated with ribbons.  This in turn relates to the Greek Island of Lemnos.  On this island, ribbons were worn as decorations.   Some think the word derives from the wool that the ribbons were made of.
The first usage of the word leminscate was in about 1781.

New Latin lemniscata, from feminine of Latin lemniscatus with hanging ribbons, from lemniscus

Carhawk — what is it?

carhawk_definitionCarhawk or car-hawk is the word for today.

This word comes to me because I heard it talked about  on a podcast I listened to yesterday called A Way With Words.  If you are into words–a word nerd–like I am, I suggest you give it a listen.

The other factor that made carhawk relevant is that it has snowed here in Colorado every day for the past few days.  Additionally, the temperature has been below zero when we wake up in the morning.

Carhawk is a play on words for the term Mohawk–as in Mohawk haircut.  As you may know, this Native American-style haircut is basically a strip of hair down the middle of the head, with the rest shaved.

It refers to how your car looks after you wipe the snow from the windshield.  On some cars, like my van, it is next to impossible to reach the center of the glass.

This strip of snow that remains is a carhawk.

I submit that it could also be called a snowhawk.

Horologe — not as bad as it sounds


Horologe was a clue in a recent crossword puzzle I completed.

This word, horologe, was new to me so I thought I should blog about it on WordsByBob.com.

The definition of horologe is any instrument for indicating time—especially a sundial or an early form of clock.

Next time you do a crossword puzzle, you can answer this clue with ease.