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What It’s Like to Be a Real Doctor Named Dr. Pepper

When the Dr. Pepper soft drink company asked America, ‘Wouldn’t you like to be a pepper too?’ They answered, ‘I already am.’

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, aside from having my own last name, I imagine being an actual doctor named “Dr. Pepper” has got to be kind of rough, right? Imagine people shouting slogans like, “Wouldn’t you like to be a pepper too?” at you for the rest of your life. That’s gotta suck.

Still, while I’d hate to blame someone for having personal ambition, they didn’t have to become doctors, did they? While they were born — or married — into pepper-dom, they could have chosen to be ballet dancers or truck drivers or computer programmers or professional boxers or literally anything else and they would have forever dodged the scornful moniker of “doctor.” 

So, in a way, they brought this on themselves. And, with that, I want to know what kind of private hell they’ve sentenced themselves to.

On Dr. Pepper (The Soda)

Joshua Pepper PhD, astronomy professor at Lehigh University: Yeah, I do like Dr. Pepper. The good definitely outweighs the annoying.

Pepper Schwartz PhD, sociology professor at the University of Washington: I do like Dr. Pepper, though not being born in the South, I didn’t know about it until way later in my life. 

Shayne Pepper PhD, media professor at Northeastern Illinois University: I actually prefer Coke.

On Being a Doctor Named “Pepper”

Joshua Pepper: When I was a kid, I was just “Joshua Pepper,” so there were all these jokes about Dr. Pepper, Sgt. Pepper, salt and pepper, and it was all pretty generic kid stuff. Also, my father is a scientist just like I am and he has a PhD, so he’s Dr. Pepper too. Most people in my life, though, don’t call me Dr. Pepper, and when I’m teaching students, I ask for them to call me “professor” rather than “doctor” mostly just because they can’t help themselves from giggling.

Shayne Pepper: There have been a few funny moments over the years. One student, when they completed their final exam, left the test on my desk along with a 20 ounce Dr. Pepper. Before that, when I defended my dissertation, a classmate who was managing our department blog Photoshopped my face onto a bottle cap near a Dr. Pepper bottle, and the headline of the blog post read, “Monday saw the culmination of four years of hard work and the realization of a single joke.”

Schwartz: When I became a doctor, I guess I didn’t realize the weight of what I was doing. I didn’t know I was signing up myself for a lifetime of jokes. But, aside from the jokes, I’ve also had some serious annoyances. I was an expert witness in a trial some years ago and an attorney thought he could rattle me by calling me “Dr. Pepper” over and over again — he must have said it 70 times. He actually got admonished by the judge and I just looked at him with steely eyes to say, “Is this the best you can do?”

On Mr. Pibb

Joshua Pepper: Mr. Pibb is okay. It’s not as good as Dr. Pepper.

Shayne Pepper: I really do not like Mr. Pibb. I would prefer Dr. Pepper over Mr. Pibb.

Schwartz: You’d be surprised how often I get asked that question. In fact, I even had a stalker who, every now and then, would call my office phone and say, “Hello Dr. Pepper, this is Mr. Pibb.” But if you’ve got to have a stalker, that’s not the worst.

On What They Think the Mystery “23 Flavors” of Dr. Pepper Are

Joshua Pepper: I don’t know. Maybe there’s some vanilla in there?

Schwartz: Cannabis? I don’t know.

Shayne Pepper: I grew up hearing that it was somehow based on prune juice so I’ve never been able to dissociate the flavor of prunes from Dr. Pepper. I have no idea if that’s actually part of the flavoring.

On the Slogans 

Is It True That “Dr. Pepper Makes the World Taste Better”?

Joshua Pepper: Sure, why not?

Schwartz: I’m going to say “yes” because I’d love them to hire me.

Shayne Pepper: I definitely don’t think that Dr. Pepper makes the world taste better.

Is It “Just What the Doctor Ordered”?

Joshua Pepper: I recommend people drink water, it’s a lot healthier. But, for a treat, Dr. Pepper is fine.

Schwartz: I’m not a medical doctor, but I’d be interested in a study to see if doctors actually recommend it. I sometimes make use of another slogan: “Dr. Pepper, so misunderstood.” I use that in my marriage, when my husband misses the point on something, I’ll say, “Dr. Pepper, so misunderstood.”

Shayne Pepper: It’s perfectly fine if you want a Dr. Pepper to quench your thirst but, again, I prefer Coke.

How About “Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Pepper Too?”

Schwartz: I really like that song. And I’m a Pepper, so I don’t have to be yearning to become one.

Shayne Pepper: I have a T-shirt with this logo on it. My mother-in-law gets me funny Dr. Pepper T-shirts every year for my birthday or for Christmas.

Joshua Pepper: I mean, I am one. My parents even got me and my brother shirts when we were young saying, “Wouldn’t you like to be a pepper too?” It was very fun — and then annoying.

And: “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?”

Schwartz: Oh my God, I’m Jewish! Lots of bad things could happen!

Joshua Pepper: It’s a tough year to ask that question, but I’ll go with an unknown asteroid striking the Earth. 

Shayne Pepper: Well, I’d say a violent insurrection at the Capitol.

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