Posts filed under ‘coke’

Pop vs Soda vs… Coke?

I moved around a lot, and have always used “pop” to refer to soft drinks. When you are a kid, you don’t really notice when someone uses a different term for the same thing, but growing older, you begin to notice these linguistical hiccups. Different regions of the english speaking world use different terms for the same thing — soft drinks.

The word soda comes from soda-water (sodium bicarbonate with acid to create fizz). Its original meaning was sodium carbonate, Na2CO3, but has evolved into one of the generic terms for a soft drink.

Pop was introduced later in 1812 by Robert Southey,

A new manufactory of a nectar, between soda-water and ginger-beer, and called pop, because ‘pop goes the cork’ when it is drawn.

Trailing soda and pop in popularity is coke, which has influence in the south likely due to the location of the Coca-Cola plant in Georgia. “I’ll have a coke,” “What kind of coke?”, “Root beer please”.

While this paper does numerous small surveys on the ubiquity of soda/pop/coke, this newer map is a more comprehensive view of the linguistic divide of people in the United States (via,

(click to enlarge)

pop vs soda vs coke map

Soda is more popular in the southwest, northeast, and St. Louis area; pop is used more in the northwest and midwest; coke is used in the south.

Other terms for soft drinks from other counties (via wikipedia):

  • Canadians and the British say “pop”
  • Some Brits even say “fizzy drink”
  • In Western Scotland, they use “ginger”
  • Aussies and New Zealanders say “soft drink”
  • Some Australians call it “lolly water”

So where did the term soft drink come from? It was chosen because a hard was used to describe alcoholic beverages, hence the antonym soft was the obvious choice for non-alcoholic beverage. And beverage came from the Old French root word beivre (to drink) during their conquest of England in 1066.

 soft drinks terms

Von Schneidemesser, L. (1996). Soda or Pop? Journal of English Linguistics, 24(4), 270-287.

October 5, 2006 at 10:46 pm 170 comments


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