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What Do You Call It?

I stumbled upon an interesting map recently as I surfed the web. (click on map to enlarge)

picture of soda pop map

Growing up in northwestern Ohio, I assumed that everyone called carbonated soft drinks "pop." You can see on the map how solidly my part of the state opts for that word usage. Then my aunt Janet who also grew up in my hometown moved to St. Louis. On visits back to Ohio, she called it "soda." Then I attended college at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. There I was introduced to all kinds of "pop" I had never seen or heard of — Nehi fruit-flavored pops, RC Cola, among them. And yet the people from Greenville called them all "Coke." To me "Coke" was a certain brand of pop — I guess it's like calling all tissues "Kleenex?"

At BJU, I met students from all over the country. Some of them called pop "soda pop" and still others "tonic," which fits into the "other" category on the map above.

What do they call pop where you live? Is the map accurate for your locale?


"Find your feast in Christ, and let the storms rage." — Drew Conley

=^..^= =^..^=

Some drink at the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle.

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43 Comments on “What Do You Call It?”

  1. #1 Bet
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Interesting map, Rob. I see that Virginia — particularly south-central Virginia where I grew up — is a mixed bag. I haven’t run into too many other people who use the term we did: “drink.” We would say, “would you like some ‘drink’?” and everyone knew that meant whatever soft drink we had. It even seems odd to me though I still use that terminology among the family today. Sometimes we’d use an article: “a drink” and we’d never mean anything other than a soft drink! I’ll be curious if anyone else used this very generic term! I doubt it.

    Rob adds: That is interesting, Bet. I hope you find out whether others call it “drink.”

  2. #2 Rhonda
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 8:06 am

    I grew up in California, but my parents are from Alabama, so we always called soft drinks “coke.” I don’t remember anybody misunderstanding us in California. We did favor coca cola products, however. 🙂 Having spent some time around Bet’s family, I’m familiar with the “drink” term. But her family has lots of unusual terms for food products! Let’s talk about “beans on your corn” and “‘mata’ biscuits” for example, not to mention “flats”! 🙂

  3. #3 Robin
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I grew up in Jacksonville, FL where I never heard anything other than “coke.” It was ALWAYS “What kind of coke do you want?” But after college I lived in central Pennsylvania where I had to be retrained to say “soda.” So now, even in South Carolina, 35 years later, we say “soda.” The term “pop” still makes me giggle……… especially when it’s said with that broad midwest “o”.

    Rob adds: Gotta love that broad, semi-nasal pahhhp! 😀

  4. #4 Kathy Sykes
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Every true southern knows that it is “coke” no matter what it is. 🙂

  5. #5 Kristin
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 8:38 am

    What a cool map! And how odd that, like Bet, I’m also in southern Virginia. Maybe a tad left of central, but I’ve certainly heard it referred to as “drink” too. I guess I fall into the “other” category, because I’ve never called it soda, pop OR Coke (I’m with you – Coke is Coke, and other brands are not.) I tend to refer to it by brand name – Coke, Mt Dew, Dr Pepper, etc. Man, now I’m hoping I’m not the only one that does THAT!

  6. #6 Vikki
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Interesting map, but I have to ask where they got their data for eastern Wisconsin. I grew up in Appleton, which is about 30 miles south of Green Bay, and also lived in Milwaukee for a number of years and never heard it called anything but pop. But on the map it’s pretty solidly listed as soda. We called it pop and it came from pop machines. The only time I ever heard it called soda was from someone from another area and we all thought they were weird for it.

    I also don’t see it listed as soda pop and I know that’s what it’s called in a some places. In fact, I actually heard outsiders call it soda pop more often than just plain soda.

    This reminds me the different ways people refer to those red/amber/green traffic lights. I’ve heard them called stop lights, stop and go lights, red lights, or traffic lights depending on what part of the county you’re from. Drinking fountains too are called bubblers in some parts of the country.

  7. #7 Tammy
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Grew up in Rhode Island and moved to Warren, Ohio in 1970. I asked for a root beer soda and couldn’t believe my eyes when the server brought out the drink. Root Beer but also vanilla ice cream with it. Learned very fast to order pop not soda.

  8. #8 Ron
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Interesting. During my time in the military I lived in different parts of the country and worked with people from all over the country. It became apparent very early on that we don’t all speak the same language in this country as pointed out by your story and maps. Maybe one day you will run across a map for hoagie or is it hero or maybe its sub……

  9. #9 Emily
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I grew up in a “coke” family just outside of Atlanta. Later as a BJU student, I got frustrated with all the confusion and decided I would have to change my ways! My mom, who grew up in Washington state, recommended “pop,” so I consciously made the switch and have stuck with it 🙂

    I made a similar change from “dinner” to “supper” after once trying to make a date for the evening meal at the Dining Common and leaving a friend waiting for me for the noon meal. Oops! 🙂

    Rob adds: I just talked about this in my MLF102 class this past week. Where I grew up in Ohio, we ate breakfast, dinner, and supper, but here at school I had to switch to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Once when I went home on a school break, I asked my mom one afternoon what we were going to have for dinner. She replied, “We just ate dinner!” Oops! Ok, Mom, what are we having for supper….

  10. #10 Ellen
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I call it soda now — not sure what I called it growing up, but I think I called it soda then too. I do find it a little strange when people refer to it as “Coke” and then ask what kind I want. When I am asked if I want some “Coke,” I assume that person means “Coca-Cola” as opposed to “Mtn. Dew” or “Pepsi.” Often I have assumed incorrectly. 🙂

  11. #11 Chris H.
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I grew up in Maine where we always called it all “soda.” Lived in Alabama for a couple years, was surprised when I ordered a “Coke” at a restaurant and they asked me “What kind?” I said, “Classic?” So, looks pretty accurate on the map to me.

    And speaking of Kleenex, I once corrected my wife (I know, I know, already a bad move — note I said “once”) for writing “Kleenex” on the shopping list. I said we should write “tissues” since “Kleenex” is the particular brand. And she pointed out that she only ever buys Kleenex brand, and that if I bought anything else, I would be in trouble….

    So, with brand loyalty in mind, I wonder if the majority of folks in the south who call it “Coke” tend to also only buy Coke? 🙂

  12. #12 Steven B
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Growing up in Kansas, “Pop” was used exclusively by everyone.

    Noting that the Midwest has chosen “Pop” and the South “Coke”, perhaps we should adopt the more specific vocabulary of the North and use “Soda”. (?)

    I think I will use a smattering of all three terms, bringing more cultural diversity to Greenville. 🙂

  13. #13 Michael
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I believe for where I live in South Carolina the map is quite accurate. However, I’ve never really called all soft drinks “coke”. I would fit in the “other” category. Typically we would call carbonated beverages “drinks” or “soft drinks”.

    What an intriguing map though. I wonder if it was created based on speculation or if actual rigorous research went into acquiring the data.

  14. #14 LeAnne
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 10:14 am

    We call it pop. I grew up in the Detroit area.

  15. #15 Heather
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 10:22 am

    There’s no doubt in my mind — the correct English word is “pop”! What’s this business about Coke everything? So, do you say you are drinking rootbeer coke, orange coke, cream soda coke, ginger ale coke? And soda is something you bake with.

  16. #16 Hannah Joy
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 11:54 am

    When my brothers and I were little we called it “Strong Stuff” (strong-STUFF). Now that I’m older I suffer a bit of an identity crisis in not knowing what to call it. But though I’m from SC, I’ve never called it “coke” ….

  17. #17 Greg
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    The map is pretty accurate for the area where I grew up (suburb of Baltimore, MD). We called it soda. In the deep south, if you go into the grocery store and ask where the soda is, they will probably direct you to the baking aisle. :-)) My grandfather grew up in NC and I remember him saying they used to call it “dope”, probably from the days when Coke actually contained a narcotic.

    Rob adds: Someone whose family was from Kentucky e-mailed to say his dad also called it “dope.” In Ohio what my one grandmother called “dope” was toppings for ice cream — caramel, chocolate, etc. She’d ask, “You want some dope on your ice cream?”

  18. #18 Carol
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    This is Carol from Indiana.

    We have “pop” in Indiana or we say I’m going to get a Pepsi or Mountain Dew if we want to be specific.

    Thanks for your blog!

  19. #19 Charlie Johnson
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I never drank anything stronger than Pop…. and he never drank anything stronger than soda!

    Rob adds: LOL, Charlie! I can just hear you saying that. 😀

  20. #20 Sarah
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    That is such an interesting map. I wonder how the Southwest managed to so closely follow New England in this regard?
    When I used to go to conferences with girls down in the States, everyone around the table was from a different part of the country, and everyone had a different name for pop! (Can you guess where I’m from?) The strangest name to me was ‘coke’ – how can you ask me if I want a Coke and offer me a Pepsi?!?

    Western Canada seems to follow the midwest/northwest tendencies; all I’ve ever heard around here is ‘pop’.

  21. #21 Rob
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    @all … so far …

    The comments have come in rapidly on this one, and because I was tied up all morning, I’m not able to reply to each one as I usually do. Thanks for understanding.

    Rob (or “Poppie” to my grandson Drew) I wonder if I would have been Sodie or Cokie if he hadn’t grown up in Michigan….) 😀

  22. #22 Vikki
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Rob, how about the old school term of “dope”? That would translate to calling you dopey!

    Rob adds: That may not be far off the mark, Vivey! 😀

  23. #23 Sonia
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Well, I am from Memphis and it part of the coke part of the country, but my dad calls it “sodie water”. That is with a long “o” sound.

    Rob adds: Actually, my aunt Janet frequently calls it “sodie” too.

  24. #24 Zach
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    It’s accurate for me. I’m from Michigan, and it’s “pop” all the way! I remember going to NJ for a summer and thinking how strange it was to hear “soda.”

    I thought it was awesome that the terms coke and pop are divided right along the Mason-Dixon line. Must be a litmus test of whether you’re a Yankee or a Southerner. 🙂

    Rob adds: And carbonated soft drinks were invented after the War between the States — whatever you want to call that period.

  25. #25 Sharlene
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I believe that when I was small we called it pop or soda pop. I remember when we moved from Texas to Greenville, SC that I was confronted with a lot of terms for things. I do not ever remember calling soft drinks coke.

    Now that I am in Grenada, I have a different term – Solo. That is the name of a brand from Trinidad. Everything in a plastic bottle is a Solo. Coke comes in a glass bottle, although it may be a Sprite.

    Rob adds: Thanks for adding the perspective from the islands.

  26. #26 JohnMatzko
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I’ve been fascinated by regionalisms (and regionalism maps) since I was a child. (Philadelphia was just about the only place in the country where “sidewalks” were “pavements.”) What’s most remarkable to me is that in the 21st century, we still have significantly different regional names for a ubiquitous product that’s had decades of relentless national advertising.

    As for meal names, there’s been academic stuff written about the meanings of the words “lunch,” “dinner,” “supper,” and “tea.” Today, I think today most Americans who use those names formally are thinking of a difference in meal size. But at least in the past and in Britain, the words also had class connotations.

  27. #27 Steve Swartz
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Being a classmate of Rob’s in high school and having lived in Australia since 1977, I can report that over here ‘pop’ is ‘soft drink’. Among the Warlpiri (an Aboriginal group among whom we worked), they are ‘cool drinks’ (kulturingki in Warlpiri).

    Rob adds: Hi Steve! Thanks for your comment. Wow! All the way from Australia … and the Aboriginal perspective at that. 😀

  28. #28 Andrea
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I use both coke and pop, depending on where I am. I know part of the reason that Coke is used so much in GA is that Coca-Cola is based in Atlanta. I think Pepsi is in NC, which may explain why they’re so mixed.

  29. #29 Dan Olinger
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I grew up in Washington State, but during college I worked for CVS in downtown Boston. One hot summer day a fellow came in and asked if we had “cold tonic.” I sent him down the aisle for Nyquil. I’ll never forget the puzzled look on his face when I found him there a minute or two later.

    Rob adds: LOL, Dan! 😀

  30. #30 Ann
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    It’s accurate for me. I call it Pop and I’m from Buffalo, NY (Western NY for those that don’t know). Once, I worked in a place that had an old-fashioned ice cream parlor type setup and we served both pop (carbonated beverage) and soda (ice cream mixed with seltzer water and flavoring). It was always confusing when customers asked what kind of soda we had. I wasn’t sure if they meant pop or soda.

    One summer, I was working near Binghamton, NY (close to down-state NY), and I said “I could really go for a nice cold pop.” Everyone stared at me as if I had asked to be hit.

  31. #31 Melanie
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I grew up in Greenville, and my family always called it “pop.” Of course my dad was from New Jersey and my mom from Michigan. I now live in southwest Virginia and hear it called “pop” by my friends here and right over the state line in West Virginia.

    My husband’s family sometimes calls it “fizz,” so we’ve started doing that some too.

  32. #32 Rebecca
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    I’m from Kentucky (the “pop” side) and I think it’s facinating that there’s a pretty definite split through the state running roughly along I-75. It’s interesting because in the 1950’s many Kentuckians (including my grandparents and their siblings) left the eastern section of the state and migrated north to factories in Ohio and Michigan. Many of these folks were noted for making frequent — even weekly — returns to the old homeplace in eastern KY and many came back here to retire. Perhaps they brought back the midwestern “pop” to the otherwise “coke” influenced state?

    Rob adds: An interesting observation, Rebecca. We knew many former Kentuckians when we lived in Michigan.

  33. #33 Sue
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I grew up in the south (the “Coke” part), but my family either said “soft drink” or the seldom-used term “cola”. I didn’t even know there was an ongoing soda vs. pop debate until I was in my teens!

  34. #34 Jessica
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Grew up in southwest PA, where we said “pop.” I now live 150 miles east and get berated (in fun) for saying “pop” instead of “soda”! Your map clearly supports that–I moved from a dark blue county to an olive one. I have thus far refused to change my ways. 🙂 Love my sw PA roots and Pittsburghese! Another difference is “gobs” back home are “whoopie pies” here. I like to say “gobs” is more dignified. 🙂

    Rob adds: LOL, Jessica! You go, girl!

  35. #35 deb :)
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Growing up like you in Northwest Ohio, it is most definitely POP!! 🙂

    Rob adds: And it always will be, even if it sounds funny to some people. 🙂

  36. #36 Deb
    on Feb 24th, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Hi Rob~ As soon as I read your post I knew I wanted to comment, but I see my sister beat me to it with comment #1! Yes, i still call pops/sodas plain old “drink.” My Conn. husband had a lot to get used to with my Southern talking!

    But for Christmas this past year I actually specified which “drink” I wanted when I wrote on my Christmas list: “A gift card to a restaurant that sells Coke Zero.” And…sweet husband that he is I found out later than he was calling lots of places asking if they sold Coke Zero before he ended up purchasing a gift card to our local Subway. And of all things, I just used that gift card today. That “drink” sure was tasty! LOL!

    Rob adds: Deb, glad you enjoyed your “drink!” Even though your husband is an ex-Conn. (I had to stop and think when I read “My Conn. husband…”), it sounds like he’s a nice guy. Did he call it “soda” before moving to your part of VA?

  37. #37 Deb
    on Feb 25th, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Hi Rob ~ Hilarious! I hadn’t considered he was an ex-Conn! I’ll have to tease him with that! Yes, he was a “soda” guy in his past life, and after 30 years in VA he now says “y’all.”

  38. #38 Jenny
    on Feb 25th, 2011 at 8:44 am

    I’ve always said soda (VA & SC) but my kids call it “fizzy drink” or Pepsi most of the time.

  39. #39 Katie
    on Feb 25th, 2011 at 8:49 am

    I grew up in South Carolina, but my family has always called it “pop”. I’ll have to ask my parents what they called it before they moved here to SC and find out which one influenced my choice of words.

  40. #40 Alaina
    on Feb 25th, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Having lived in the South my entire life, I have to admit that I’m part of the “norm” for the region and call pretty much anything that’s carbonated a “coke”. But when I was little, we called it “dope” and specified what type we wanted by the color of the drink. So it went a little something like this…”I want a green dope” = I want a Mountain Dew; “I want a black dope” = I want a Coke/Dr. Pepper… and so on. Looking back , I guess that method could get kinda confusing, but it worked.

  41. #41 Kathleen
    on Feb 25th, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    They’re “fizzy drinks”! 🙂

  42. #42 Tim
    on Feb 26th, 2011 at 8:55 am

    I scored 52% Dixie, which stands to reason, I guess, since I have always lived in the south in whatever country I resided. (Florida and SC in the US, and the Schwabenland in Germany 🙂 ).

  43. #43 Rela
    on Feb 26th, 2011 at 9:07 am

    36% Dixie, definitely a Yankee. Almost 19 years living in SC hasn’t broken me. However, sometimes I find myself speaking with an accent.