Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Case of the Period in Dr Pepper

The italics in this post’s title make a world of difference, please note.

People have long speculated what, exactly, gives Dr Pepper its unique flavor — there’s a whole article on Snopes about how the secret ingredient is not, in fact, prunes — but this post will focus instead on someone that has long bothered me: the absence of a period after the Dr in Dr. Pepper. I mean, it’s obviously an abbreviation, right? Why would those branding this soda possibly want to destroy this little, innocent dot?

Snopes explains this as well. It turns out a period once existed in this very spot, until a point in the 50s at which the font squished the letters so that the “r” and period side-by-side looked more like the letter “i” plus a colon. And who wants to drink Di: Pepper?

Have a look:


Not sure when this image might be from, but it’s clearly before the period was flushed out. (Sorry.) Imagine it in a less ornate font whose “r” has a rounder tail. Something like this:

And that’s how you end up with Di: Pepper. (Die, Pepper!) So I guess the removal of that one dot might have been a clever marketing decision, even if the drink was introduced in the late 1800s and American soda-swillers would have had a half-century to learn the name.

In case anyone else’s mind works this way, the S.O.S brand of soap pads suffer from a similar lack of proper punctuation. The reason? According to Wikipedia, the brand name S.O.S. could not be trademarked, but removing that one final period made it eligible to be registered in the U.S. patent office. The source for this claim, however, is a now-nonfunctional website, so I’m left wondering if a single dot could make such a difference in the eyes of the whoever made this decision.

Of course, I wholeheartedly embrace the difference between “The Case of the Period in Dr Pepper” and “The Case of the Period in Dr Pepper,” so I shouldn’t question the power of a slight typographical change. Periods — powerful little nothings.


  1. My sister was once telling my grandmother that she was having a hard time cleaning something. My grandma said, "Use the sauce." "The what?" "The sauce. The sauce! You know, the green sponge." She meant the S.O.S pad. Oh, immigrants.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Puts me in mind of an old episode of "Citizen James". (Very old, in fact, about 1960.) Sid was selling a quack medicine under the name "Dr. Sidney James". When he was stopped by the police and accused of impersonating a doctor, he said, "Look between the D and the R - there's a little dot. That's my name: Derek Robert Sidney James."

    In real life, Alex Paterson of The Orb, born Duncan Robert Alex Paterson, is often credited as Dr. Alex Paterson in a similar way.

  4. I am calling my band "Die Pepper".