Posted on Sep 5, 2013 in Food & drink
I guess different people call sweet, carbonated beverages different things. How do I know which is the correct term to use, if there even is a “correct” term? Do they all just mean the same fizzy drinks?
Ah, one of the great questions of life, right up there with “paper or plastic,” “tastes great or less filling,” “debit or credit,” and “soup or salad.”
Soda or pop?
If you don’t want to sound like a fish out of water, you probably want to use the right one. But what constitutes “the right one?”
Like a lot of things, whether you call your sugary sweet carbonated drink soda or pop… or even just “coke” depends on where you’re from.
While several studies have been done over the years, I’m going to focus on two in particular.
First of all, the website popvssoda.com has had a running survey dating back to at least 2002 — however it is self-reporting with little filtering or cross checking. The data is broken into “pop,” “soda,” “coke,” and “other” — and that’s where a bit of the problem lies. When one views the answers people have listed for “other,” one can see that not all the answers are entirely useful in this category. One answer that seems to have been popular is “Uncle Meatball’s Wonder Tonic with a free swizzle stick for my Ultimate Bromance Lover Brad now drink it Fruity Pants,” while another is simply lyrics to the Barenaked Ladies song “One Week.” I somehow doubt that many people sit down and sing to their waitress at Chilis to order a refreshing drink.
Still, it’s a pretty good survey with a pretty good sample size, so let’s take a look:
While the map is only providing data out through 2002, the trends are clearly visible — if you live on the coasts, you call it “soda.” The midwest calls it “pop,” and for some reason I’ve never really understood, the south calls everything “coke.” As for useful answers to “other,” “soft drink” was popular in North Carolina, California, and Louisiana, while “tonic” was a common choice in Massachusetts. If you’d like it broken down by percentage, it looks like this:
Of course, in the name of science, let’s take a look at another survey — from a rather unique source.
Edwin Chen is a data scientist with the insanely popular social networking service Twitter. Over at his blog he has just published the results of some clever sleuthing he’s done by looking at people’s tweets. After sampling geo-tagged tweets containing the words “soda,” “pop,” or “coke” — and ensuring the latter was not specifically about the Coke brand — he presents us with this map, where nearby tweets have been aggregated for a cleaner presentation:
As we can see, it’s rather similar to the above map — the coasts say soda, the midwest (except for bits of Wisconsin and Illinois) says pop, and the south still calls everything a coke.
I conducted my own rather informal survey as well — Mrs. FF, who is originally from northern California, tends to say either “soda” or “soft drink.” Yours truly, originally from the Finger Lakes Region of New York, says “soda.” Had I been born and raised another 90 miles to the west, say in Buffalo — the maps indicate that I would most likely say “pop” instead. The dividing lines can be that close.
So in short, if you aren’t native to your current residence and want to fit in: say “soda” on the coasts, “pop” in the midwest, and “coke” in the south — or just listen to whatever everyone else around you says and do that.
Unless you’re like me, and stubbornly continue to say “soda” while living in the upper midwest for a span of eight years.
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