What do you call a fizzy soft drink?

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.

About Ron Dauphin

Photographer, writer, proud dad, and UCC pastor.
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One Response to What do you call a fizzy soft drink?

  1. Bobbi says:

    I’ve heard a lot about the pop/soda thing over the years, and knew it was greatly based on geography, but I had never seen the map before. Too funny!

    It seems that the line between pop (my family, who grew up in Ohio) and soda (my sister-in-law who was raised and still lives in Syracuse) was right on her doorstep. Who knew!?

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