Pierce is not Peirce
4 years, 2 months ago Posted in: Blog, Semiotics 0
Pierce is not Peirce


The above seems an obvious statement but it has been haunting me for years, creating some personal embarrassment. How can I mention to people that Peirce is not Pierce without appearing too academic, intellectual, pretentious or pedantic? How can I say to my peers that Peirce should not be pronounced Pierce (as in ‘Pierce Brosnan’) but Peirce (as in ‘purse’)? I do recognise that Pierce Brosnan has a ubiquitous presence in our mental media library and that he has subconsciously influenced our phonetics. I am not suggesting that the general public should be versed in the Algebra of Logic, but I do think that as semioticians – due to the nature of our profession – we should be aware of this phonetic lapse, especially when talking about one of the semiotics’ biggest stars. I know that while we are talking about Peirce, we are mentally associating the same Peirce, but for the sake of Peircean’s theory, I thought I just ought to mention it.

Peirce is often mispronounced as Pierce (peer-s).  C. S. Peirce is descended from John Pers, who moved to America from England. There is not a clear background on how the spelling changed, but the pronunciation remains. Therefore, Peirce is pronounced Pers, which rhymes with the English word “purse”.  Just a quick note on this: I learned it the hard way.

Post By Lucia Neva (25 Posts)

Lucia is a graphic designer and anthropologist, with deep expertise in the use and exploration of methodologies for the analysis of the visual through design principles and anthropological thinking. She counts more than 10 years of experience as a graphic designer, semiotician, and researcher delivering cultural and design insight, and semiotic strategies for companies in a wide range of sectors.

Lucia Neva is based in London but works around the world.

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