Soda, Pop, and Coke

While surfing the internet for something to read while PZ is on strike, I found this map

the vast number of people referring to "Coke" as "pop" is as disturbing as it is unholy!

created by Matthew Campbell and Prof. Greg Plumb to be absolutely fascinating.  It’s a color-coded breakdown of respondents’ answer to the question:

“What generic word do you use to describe carbonated soft drinks? (Note that these could be of any brand or type, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, 7-Up, etc. We are concerned with the overall word, not a specific brand.)”

The variation in the distribution of pop, soda, coke and other terms used to refer to carbonated soft drinks (that’s cokes FYI) is a well documented phenomena in American English.  However, I’ve never seen a map that broke the information down to a county level before.  It’s a fascinating representation of the data.  Counties where a majority report using the term “coke” to refer to any carbonated soft drink are in red.  This pretty much covers the Deep South from Texas to South Carolina and includes most of Arkansas and Tennessee.  North of the “coke line” in the Midwest, pop is used by a majority of respondents (counties that are blue) except in the Northeast, Virginia, North Carolina, California, and, interestingly, the area centered on St. Louis, Missouri where soda is the prefered word.  That blotch of yellowish brown right in between pop and coke zones looks rather out-of-place.  A very high proportion of respondents in this area use soda for carbonated soft drinks, a concentration of soda drinkers rivaled only by the Northeast.  My big question is why do we have this anomalous zone of soda amidst a sea of pop and coke?  Of course, that’s a question for a linguist to answer.  I just thought this map was pretty cool.

More on the data collection that produced this map can be found here.  Note, it’s not a scientific survey, and the results the researchers got for “other” are pretty funny.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by JeffreyD on July 21, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    Yep, Charleston SC, the generic term is coke. You end up hearing things like, “do you have RC* cola coke?”

    *Royal Crown – a true southern cola.

  2. Oh yeah! I grew up in the South, so I always ask what kind of coke my friends have. Where I live now you get all three of the majors (soda, coke, pop) along with a few others like sodee pop. Usually, Dr. Pepper is the only kind of coke I have around. :)

    GHP suggested that the divide between pop and coke seems to reflect the divide between conservative and liberal states. It’s really interesting the way cultural differences track in such a geographic manner in the US. Hmm…

  3. In Cambodia, all soda is refereed to as “orange juice”.

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