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.