In my youth, my mother never let us kids have fizzy drinks at home. There were plenty of other junky options, including the ever-present pitcher of red Kool-Aid in the fridge. But if we went out for dinner, we could order a “soft drink”, meaning Coca-Cola, Seven-Up, root beer, or any of the other popular fountain drinks. When I moved to Atlanta to attend seminary, the native Atlantans referred to a soft drink as “Coke”. “Do you want a Coke with your hamburger,” a waitress might ask. “Yes, please.” And she’d reply, “What kind?”
“What kind?” meant something like Seven-Up, Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, or RC. But they were all referred to as “coke”, perhaps with a lowercase “c”. In Atlanta, coke was any fizzy soft drink, regardless of brand. Moving to Ohio was a different story. I still have a hard time calling a drink “pop”, though that seems to be the predominant way to reference drinks. “Soda” seems so New England-y, but rolls off the tongue a little easier for me.
I’ve long been aware of these linguistic differences in reference to “carbonated water with sweeteners, flavorings and other additives”. Now there’s a map that clarifies what to call it. It’s hard to believe that scientists have actually studied this phenomenon, but at least I’ll know how to order in Schenectady.