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You Say ‘Pop’, I Say ‘Soda’

Soda vs. Pop user SpecialKRB/Creative Commons licence

You’re at a restaurant and you want to order a bubbly, sugary soft drink. What do you say? “I’ll have a pop, please.” Or, “I’ll have a soda, please.” Or, play it on the safe side and order a “soda pop.” I’ll give you the back story to this soft drink conundrum in a moment, but after doing a little bit of research on the topic, a large amount of people say, “pop” not “soda,” according to data from the Department of Cartography and Geography East Central University (Oklahoma).

Now, the backstory. My girlfriend is from western New York and I am from central New York. Not too much of a difference, right? Well, yes, not too much of a difference, except for what we call soft drinks. She says “pop” and I say “soda.” It’s like the old, “You say tomato” things. You say “pop,” I say “soda.”

According to the data from “Generic Names for Soft Drinks By County” by Matthew T. Campbell,  most counties in the western part of America say “pop” and in the upper east coast area, including central New York, say “soda.” But, there’s one more name the research found people call soft drinks: “coke.” I may have heard it and never paid any attention because I thought they were ordering a literal Coke. But, according to the data many southern states use the term “coke” to describe a soft drink.

You can check out more at this website dedicated to the pop/soda debate. Plus, you can see the full “Generic Names for Soft Drinks By County” map by Matthew T. Campbell, here. You can see what your county calls it.

My girlfriend hasn’t converted me to saying “pop,” but I may have slipped and said it once or twice. And, I guess the reason I’m so interested in the soda/pop debate is because I’m fascinated by language.

Because I’m so curious about this topic, what do you say when you want to order a soft drink? Is it “pop,” “soda,” or “coke” when you order? Also, I’m even more curious to know what “other” names are used–in the map, there are parts of the country that call soft drinks something else.


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