Monday, December 30, 2013

Puny or

The best explanation I could find of why we say someone is looking peak|ed when they are unwell. You can skim past the 'humorous' intro paragraphs or just read the important bit here:
The full definition in the OED, to which I alluded earlier, gives a clue to the logic of this “peaked”: “Sharp-featured, thin, pinched, as from illness or undernourishment; sickly looking.” And there’s your answer. We refer to a sickly-looking person as “peaked” because illness frequently causes weight loss and a haggard, wasted appearance resulting in “sharp” (i.e., bony) facial features, making the nose, chin, etc., appear to end in sharp points (“It seemed as if my aunt might have gone on for ever, getting a little dryer and her face more peakit, as the years went by,” 1914). ...In general use, in fact, a person exhibiting nothing more than a sickly demeanor or a bilious aura is also often described as “peaked” (“Bill looked a bit peaked after his third helping of clams”).
... Incidentally, this “peaked” is, in the US, frequently pronounced in two distinct syllables (“peek-ed”)...
I had been wondering why that word was used. Now I will just have to wonder why we pronounced it in two syllables. Another obsolete word encased in idiomatic amber. All this was started when my co worker went home sick today. Knocking my desk and hoping to skip that for now.



Lucy said...

We say peaky. It's a word that always makes me smile, though in fact it's rather a bleak idea when you explain it, I'd never thought about it.

Happy New Year to you and Nod and the girls!

Nimble said...

Thanks much! Happy wishes for the new year to you too!