Soda v. Pop v. Coke

On a non-political note, there’s this interesting map on what people call a soft drink.

Soda v. Pop v. Coke

Via Gene Expression.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Popular Culture
Robert Prather
About Robert Prather
Robert Prather contributed over 80 posts to OTB between October 2005 and July 2013. He previously blogged at the now defunct Insults Unpunished. Follow him on Twitter @RobPrather.


  1. Anderson says:

    What a great map — thanks for sharing it!

    My Mississippi-bred wife mocks me every time I refer to a “soda” … I was raised in the South but moved from state to state, and if the map’s conclusions hold true for 25 years ago, my stint in Miami must’ve corrupted me for life.

  2. Anderson,

    I found the map very interesting as well. I’m originally from Mississippi but I’ve spent most of my adult life in the north and have always referred to it as a “coke” even when I wanted a Diet Coke. I can handle it when people call it “soda” but it annoys me to no end to hear it called “pop”!

  3. William d'Inger says:

    These maps always annoy me because they NEVER include the terms familiar to me. Around here, generic caramel colored drinks are called COLAs indicating Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, RC Cola or Big Shot Cola. Otherwise, they are called soft drinks with the exception being Barq’s, which is called Barq’s (unless it is Barq’s Creme Soda which is call Red Drink). But I suppose coke is used more often than soda and both are far more common than pop.

  4. Billy says:

    This was always interesting to me; being from Kansas City, “pop” was the generic term most often used, but no one really cared all that much. My first experiences at state-wide camps in grade school brought me into proximity with the St. Louis “soda” evangelism, which is an obvious radius on the map. For St. Louis natives, it was a sacrilege to say anything else but “soda” and near-violent conflict would ensue if they heard anything else.

    Being in STL now, I have learned to automatically call it soda, and anything else sounds strange.

  5. just me says:

    Being from the south if it was a carbonated beverage it was a “coke.”

    We live in the North East now and it is a soda up here. My kids are now “bilingual”l in a lot of regional terms. They know my southernisms but when speaking with their friends they use the common term for the area.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Good to have you back, Robert!

    I grew up in Texas and always referred to soft drinks of any sort as a “coke.” As in, “What kind of coke do you want?” “Orange.”

    Despite having lived almost exclusively in the South since then, though, I’ve long since gotten out of that habit and, indeed, can’t remember the last time I heard someone call a non-cola drink a “coke.” I generally use either “soda” or “soft drink” these days.

    The late Lewis Grizzard had a terrific routine making fun of those who called it a “pop,” complete with an authentic Yankee accent.

  7. Anderson says:

    Despite having lived almost exclusively in the South since then, though

    See, and I thought you lived in NE Virginia …

  8. Boyd says:

    I don’t think NE Virginia exists, Anderson. 🙂

    But your point is valid to a certain extent. NoVA is very much a cosmopolitan place these days, but if there’s any underlying culturally consistent thread, it’s definitely The South.

    Oh, and also being a Texan, the first term that comes to mind for me is “coke,” with James’ exact example happening to me, in one form or another, many times.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    As a native St. Louisan I grew up with soda as the preferred term but after having lived in Chicago for 40 years I am now bilingual. I say “pop” in Chicago and “soda” in St. Louis.

  10. John Burgess says:

    Certainly ‘soda’ for me, but my soft-drink-drinking days date back to when I was living in MA. I was familiar with ‘pop’ due to a stint spent in Detroit, but it’s either ‘soda’ or ‘soft drink’ now.

    I always considered myself lucky to not be among the few in New England tied to ‘tonic’ as the generic name. Of course, they might consider themselves to be among the elect, and I (and a gazillion others) mere preterites…

  11. mq says:

    Damn, and I was calling it Coke for the 23 years I spent living in SoFla. I live in Atlanta now, and everything is Coke. Coke is Coke. Pepsi is Coke. Clear sodas are Coke. The only thing that isn’t Coke is sweet tea. And don’t dare ask for unsweetened tea….

  12. Dantheman says:

    I’ve always lived in the “soda” areas, and considered “pop” to be one of those silly Midwestern things, like pretending street names don’t need a Road or Avenue at the end of them, so I was surprised to see it go all the way to the Northwest. On the other hand, calling all soft drinks “cokes” looks like a surefire way to create confusion, as in “I want a cherry coke — not a Cherry Coke”.