Jerome Weeks offers another tale from the crypt:
A 17th century English lit doctoral candidate has completed her dissertation on Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist. Early on in her studies (yes, the gender makes this seem sexist, but I’m just reporting the anecdote as I heard it) she moved away from the university because of something—oh, let’s say she had to live with her parents. So she completed her work by mail. This was not that uncommon 25 years ago, and probably even less so today with the internet.
At any rate, it’s the day of her defense, she returns to the department and faces a jury of professors—who quickly realize that in all this time, no one has explained that Pepys’ name is pronounced “Peeps.” But the professors are embarrassed as well, to have one of their Ph.D. candidates get this far and never to have spoken to one of them directly. So our plucky candidate has the unnerving experience of hearing her mentors nervously coo at her for several hours.
Everytime she says “Peppis,” one of them would softly go … “Peeps.”
Maybe it actually happened. Maybe it’s academic folklore. But Jerome says he had one confirmation of the premise: He told the story to an English professor who admitted he hadn’t realized how the name was pronounced either.