Friday, April 4, 2008

Soda vs. Pop vs. Coke

If you read my comments section on the last post, you might have noticed I said "sodas." I only realized it after I had published the post. This just illustrates what I've been saying all along: living away from the Great Northwest is affecting my English. We don't say sodas where I come from. We say "pop," generally, but not very many people here say that. My British friend teased me about it last time I said I was "going to buy a pop." I actually came across the following US map a few months ago that shows the county distribution of the different words used to describe carbonated drinks.

I'm not sure how accurate it is, but it's interesting at least, and it seems like it's probably accurate for the part of Northwest Oregon where I'm from, and I see that in Mississippi nobody says Pop, which would explain the waitress' response when I tried to order one last summer. She laughed and said "Pop! honey, I hav't herd that in a Laawngg time!"

So, what do they say in your neck of the woods? Can you corroborate any of the other states' usage? I'm particularly interested in what you east coasters have to say about it.

Speaking of interesting regional language varieties, wikipedia has lots on the subject. Just type in American English.

Some of it's hard to understand if you don't have some basic linguistic vocabulary knowledge, but the section on English words that went out of style in Britain but survived in the United States is quite interesting. For instance, did you know that faucet, diaper, candy, eyeglasses, skillet, and crib are all Americanisms? One of the most interesting ones, I think, is the use of gotten as the past participle of got. I say that, but not consistently, and I always thought it was just really bad grammar and I couldn't imagine where I had picked up such a construction! Turns out it's just an archaic usage that has survived in my part of the country. Wikipedia doesn't say a whole lot on that one, but if you ever want to read a great book on the development of the English Language world wide, I would recommend The Story of English, by Robert McCrum, et al. I also hear that Bill Bryson's book on the history of English is quite interesting and easy reading.

Well, friends, there you have it: my daily post. I am currently making chocolate-dipped orange biscotti, fending off the flu which I can feel is crouched and waiting to pounce on me, and writing an outline of my upcoming presentation on Bantu Education in South Africa between 1948 and 1968. Ta Ta! Have a good day and I shall speak to you all tomorrow!


  1. Soda, definitely, but I grew up in to solidly olive green areas. One other version I've heard that is not shown on your map is "tonic."

  2. POP, POP, POP, and POP. Where I grew up is surrounded by blue. I fascinated to see other portions outside of the northwest with blue, as well, because I really thought it was just another wierd NW thing.

    Although, being here in Germany has changed my vocabulary to either soda, coke (working with Southerners will do that), or just plain drink to appease the masses.

    Sursumcorda, where is tonic commonly used to refer to soft drinks?

  3. I have no definite answer. I would probably say soda, maybe pop, but not coke - most likely I'd say "soft drink." I put it down to my influences, which fall into all color shades - Grandpa from blue Oregon, Grandma from yellow Cali, most my relatives living in red South Carolina (with some in blue Colorado and yellow NY), and my longest and linguistically most influential US stay in Blacksburg, Montgomery county, Virginia, which is, if you look at the map, the pale yellow county with two dark blue neighbours to the north, pale reds to the west, east, and north-east, dark red to the south (Floyd county, home of the Friday Night Jamboree), and a fellow yellow in Roanoke and Salem. I remember some fellow students making fun of the Massachusetts guy, but mostly for his dropped 'r' and the "bubbler" he drank from - not so much for "pop."

  4. Aubrey, I've never actually run into "tonic" for soda (as opposed to "tonic water," which is a different thing, as in gin-and-tonic, and I believe is distinguished by containing quinine, or at least it used to be). I heard of it through my college roommate, whose influences were primarily Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Some brief research indicates it's pretty popular in Massachusetts, though I never heard it during the 18 months I lived there.

  5. The "other" drinks are here, and would corroborate Massachusetts as the Tonic State. I do wonder at who the respondents are, given the wild variety of "other" responses, from "Kristina is HOT" to "Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster," by way of "Liquid Crack" and "Luigi is hotter than Mario"... My favorite is "Luke."