Get a group of kids from all over the United States together, give them some soft drinks, and pretty soon you'll most likely hear an argument about what they are drinking is supposed to be called.  Minnesotans and Oregonians will probably call it "pop", most Texans will call it "coke" - even if it's a 7up - and Californians and New Yorkers will call it "soda".  In 2003, Matthew Campbell and Prof. Greg Plumb of Oklahoma's East Central University conducted a survey and made this detailed map which breaks it down county by county across the nation:




While this map is now six years old, others have now taken up the task of charting the great American soda pop divide.  This site has a much more recent map which nicely demonstrates that our language is constantly moving and shifting.  According to the first 715 respondents, it looks like "coke" has made considerable advances into the Pacific Northwest while "soda" is spreading further into the Great Plains states. What do these shifts signify?  So far, there are no major theories, but these kinds of linguistic changes are often tied to cultural change.  This is best illustrated by looking at another common foodstuff that similarly divides the nation.


Submarine sandwiches are famous for the variety of names they go by - hoagies, grinders, heros, and more.  This wikipedia article not only has a nearly complete list, but also explains some of the historybehind the different names.  The sandwich itself originated in Italy and was brought to the US by immigrants in the northeastern US in the late 19th century.  Different names for it emerged in different cities - the term "hoagie" for instance originated in Philadelphia while "hero" came from New York.  The spread of "hoagie" from workers on Hog Island in Philadelphia, across the state to Pittsburgh in the 60's reflects the spreading influence of Italian-American culture. More recently, a newspaper in Vermont proposed that the state invent a new, unique name for the sandwich, reflecting that state's own unique culture. 


If you've noticed new names for everyday items in your area it could signify social change.  As cultural values change, globalization increases, and various areas of the country experience demographic shifts, parts of our everyday vocabulary change as well.

Message Edited by Jon_B on 04-21-2009 09:52 AM
by on ‎04-21-2009 01:37 PM
I call it pop and the sandwich is a sub.  No growing up we called it a hoagie.  Not sure when I changed it to sub though.  My real question is what do the "others" call a pop?  It seems there are a lot of counties that don't use pop, soda, or coke.  Maybe they say soda pop.
by het on ‎04-21-2009 01:44 PM

I would guess 4th place behind soda, pop, and coke would likely be "soft drink".

by Jon_B on ‎04-21-2009 02:01 PM

If you go to you can get a list of some of the "others" that people have put as answers on their survey.  Unfortunately, 4chan invaded the site awhile back and the results are still afflicted with their nonsense, luckily their entries are fairly obvious. Like het suggest "soft drink" is very popular - also, "tonic" seems to be the preferred name in parts of New England.


by Moderator becke_davis on ‎04-21-2009 04:26 PM
Natives to Cincinnati say "Please?" the way others say "Excuse me?"  It can be very confusing to those who move here.
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎04-21-2009 04:28 PM
I've moved a lot, and a couple of regional differences include "tap", "spigot" or "faucet" as well as tag sale/garage sale/rummage sale and couch/sofa/divan/settee.
by Blogger Ellen_Scordato on ‎04-21-2009 05:15 PM
I've heard there's a move among producers to standardize around "soft drink," for some kind of international English reason. I've never heard tonic or coke used, tho' I grew  up in New England and traveled a good bit; similarly for divan and settee for a couch or sofa. Fascinating stuff!
by pamela3224 on ‎04-21-2009 08:02 PM
Im from eastern canada and i call it "pop", 2nd choice would be "soft drink", and i call it a "sub". I've said the "please?" instead of "excuse me?" and I've called it both a "sofa" and a "couch". 
by Blogger L_Monty on ‎04-21-2009 08:20 PM

I'm a bi-coastal citizen, and I've never really heard anyone call carbonated soft drinks anything other than "soda" unless they were specifically asking for a brand, as in, "I'd like a Coke" (with the understanding that Pepsi would probably be okay) or, "I'd like a 7Up" (with the same understanding).


These distinctions have always seemed silly to me, since most people are aware of brand names and, if they would like a specific brand-named product, tend to ask for that brand rather than the ambiguous genre of products to which it belongs. There might be members of older generations still beholden to a kind of atavistic notion of a generalized noun applying to all specific brand iterations of it, but I don't think they constitute anything like a majority anymore. At this point, the sort of person who goes to a restaurant and asks for a "pop" or a "soda" seems about as common a phenomenon as the person who goes to a theater box office and asks for a ticket to "Movie." 


That said, on the rare occasion when I want something carbonated and sweet so much that I'm indifferent as to what sweet carbonated thing I want, I'll ask for a soda, due in no small part to its applying to every part of the carbonated-and-sweet drink phenomenon (as opposed to, say, "Coke," which applies to — and I know this might seem weird — COKE) and to it's being the original popular term for carbonated water and still a perfectly serviceable and accurate term. 

by on ‎04-21-2009 08:48 PM
Jon?  May I please have a beer?  I don't care if it's out of a bottle, a can, or on tap.  I don't care what the brand is, as long as it's COLD AND HAS BUBBLES IN IT!  It's a hundred degrees right now, and I WANT A BEER!  NOW!  Please?  :smileyhappy:
by on ‎04-21-2009 08:53 PM

Hmm grew up in NC with it being called soda. But knew if I traveled into another state to call it soda-pop until corrected with the local use. In a restaurant everyone orders coke, but you get whatever cola is on tap. Order tea and it'll be cold and sweet, if you want otherwise you need a discussion with the waitress. But when I moved to VA if you order tea it's cold an unsweet, without other discussion. And you'll hear "is pepsi ok?", from a waitress.

Those sandwiches are called subs in my neck of the woods.

Excuse me, pardon, excusi, and sorry are used for pushing by.


Speaking of sandwiches there's a charming documentary out "Sandwiches you will like",  show placing the national region differences. It'll make you hungry though.


by on ‎04-22-2009 08:13 AM

Here in western Pennsylvania we call it Pop.  I lived in Harrisburg, eastern PA, for a time and they would get an attitude with you when you said pop, it is soda most definitly there.  I also say tennis shoes for all tennis shoes, I don't say sneakers. 


Well, its all in who you are and how you see things, its part of what makes us us and different.  I love it.  You don't need to be rude to someone for it though.

by on ‎04-22-2009 09:21 AM
Having gone to college in New England, I was immediately introduced to the "Packie" and proceeded to get "wicked hammered".
by on ‎04-22-2009 11:30 AM
Paul wrote:  Having gone to college in New England, I was immediately introduced to the Packie and proceeded to get "wicked hammered".
Paul,  translated? Passed around six cans of Bud, and got sloshed? 

1 bottle of beer on the wall, 1 bottle of beer.
Take one down and pass it around, no more bottles of beer on the wall.

No more bottles of beer on the wall, no more bottles of beer.
Go to the store and buy some more, 99 bottles of beer on the wall.

by on ‎04-22-2009 11:39 AM
Bud was way too rich for my blood back in those days, Kathy. Although, I did stay within the Anheuser-Busch family by consuming copious amounts of Natural Light, which regardless of sociolinguistics, is known worldwide as "Natty Light"
by on ‎04-22-2009 11:58 AM
The only beer worth drinking is Dos Equis Amber
by on ‎04-22-2009 12:07 PM

Paul, there was nothing "light" in my Calif. college days, just Bud and Coors! 

On to beach blanket bingo...

with Coors and guys....

my drinks of choice.....

ALL "Natty" -  there you go!

by on ‎04-22-2009 12:20 PM
Good choice, Ryan....but I prefer:  in my frige (or is that refrigerator or ice box?) - Dos Equis Lager Especial!  Carta Blanca is yummy, too!
by on ‎04-22-2009 12:34 PM

I remember when I was six and moved to Massachusetts from New Jersey.  We were visiting a family, and they asked me if I wanted some "tonic".  I was rather shocked and thought they wanted to give me some medicine!  I seem to recall the term being rather common back then, but I rarely hear it now.  "Soda" is the most common generic, and as has been pointed out, "Coke" is commonly used as a generic term for cola.  "No Coke - Pepsi!"  Remember that - LOL?


Another thing that has been frequently used to identify geographic distinctions is what someone would call a "drinking fountain".  Such as "bubbler", in some areas; I forget the other common terms for it.


I wonder if Subway is having a cultural effect on people using "sub" more.  "Grinder" is still fairly common around here (New England, Boston area), but I think "sub" is probably just as, if not more, common.

by on ‎04-22-2009 12:36 PM
Translation: The packie is the package store (i.e. liquor store)!
by Moderator Melissa_W on ‎04-22-2009 12:40 PM

You know that one yellow county in Iowa?  That's were I live and we can tell who comes into town for school at the UI because they say "pop" - we get them re-trained to say "soda" pretty quick. lol!


There's also a distinction between "bag" and "sack" - not sure why.  I always say "bag"


(FYI - Dos Equis is yucky, Blue Moon is awesome!  Spotted Cow is better but Iowa won't "import" that from Wisconsin.  Dumb.)

by on ‎04-22-2009 01:15 PM

A packie is a liquor store?  Oh!  I thought it was a term for "six pack"!  What do I know?  I buy beer by the twelve pack! Ha! (but I only drink it on days where the temps are a hundred!  And then I can't finish the bottle before the beer gets warm,,,,yuck!)  Blue Moon and Spotted Cow?   Would I drink something that sounds like a song (or only comes around once in a ----- )

or looks like this -


Sack:  Losing your job

Bag:  Shot Bambi !  (Ryan, you didn't hear that)

by Paula717 on ‎04-22-2009 05:32 PM

I'm from NY and use the terms "soda", "sub", "tap" and both "couch" & "sofa" . Also, I use "sauce" instead of "gravy". When I hear gravy, I think mashed potatoes.


My husband & I constantly have this conversation, as he is British and has his own versions. Loo or toilets (instead of bathroom), queue (instead of line) and underground (instead of subway).

by on ‎04-22-2009 06:27 PM

Loo - toilets - bathrooms - Oh, yeah!


Then, there is the word, "restroom"! 


Did I every tell 'you'  the time I went into a 'restroom' in France?  Well, was like this -

I opened the door, and there it was!  A big room with a tiled the middle of the floor was a hole. [Picture a perplexed look....while scratching your head, and standing with your legs cross] 

Now, I asked myself....self?  Where the H am I supposed to rest my butt in this room?

by on ‎04-22-2009 11:53 PM

(Gasp)  Dos Equis yucky?  Say it isn't so.  I'm not sure I can go on with my alcoholic behavior now that someone dissed my favortie beer.  Well I'm going to the fridge know and dumping it all out in the toliet where it belongs.

by on ‎04-23-2009 02:06 AM

Translation: The packie is the package store (i.e. liquor store)!


Oh that reminds me of a funny conversation years ago.

Woman on the bus, she'd just moved to town. The rest of us took that bus everyday and had casual associations. Bus is stopped on the side of the road, some kind of delay.

Lady ask "so those ABC stores, (we were stopped across the street from one) what kind of store are they? Baby clothes or children's books?" Everyone on the bus gets a horrified look. I lean over and go "Alcoholic Beverage Control". Whole bus chuckles. "Really?" "Yep in SC they called Red Dots." Next lady "I've heard them called brew through's" 


Lesson when you move learn what the liquor store is called, right after you find the grocery store. Totally regional shifts in name.


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