Generic Names for Soft Drinks

a large sundae, fountain type glass filled wit...
‘Sugary, carbonated drinks have been the subject of some controversy lately, but there’s one soft-drink dispute that’s not new at all—what do you call them? Check out Generic Names for Soft Drinks for an intricate map of America’s answers.Designed by Matthew Campbell, a cartography student at East Central University, and based on hundreds of thousands of responses collected at popvssoda.com, the map is a testament to the Internet’s ability to easily gather data over wide areas. It’s amazing how much information is packed into this chart—it’s clickable, color-coded and divided into individual counties, providing a high-resolution picture of a strangely potent cultural indicator. Surprisingly, the results seem to follow rough political boundaries—residents of mostly coastal, liberal areas like New England and California prefer “soda,” while the Deep South likes “coke” and the Midwest chooses “pop.” ‘ (Very Short List)

I don’t find the trends surprising, but I am curious about  the anomalies. For instance, what are the ‘other’ terms (green on the map) that predominate in some counties, e.g. in the Southwest? Any New Mexico readers care to weigh in?

  • Illusion of Diversity Among Soft Drinks – And Galco’s Soda Pop Stop (cehwiedel.com)
  • The Mereology of Cola (bogost.com)
    Ian Bogost: “…[We] southerners [get] a little tease for the act of calling any soft drink a “Coke” …I have a few responses. For one, we don’t call them “Cokes,” we call them “cokes.” I’m sure you can see the difference.For another, we have a different, more definitive name for the famous brand of cola made by my hometown soft drink company; it’s called a “Co-cola” (an elision, compare it to “Missippi” for “Mississippi”). Doesn’t it just roll off the tongue on a hot, humid day?

    And for yet another thing, there’s a lovely lesson in mereology and rhetoric in the southern use of “coke.” I’d argue that “coke” is a figure of speech called a “merism,” in which a single thing is described by a set of its most conspicuous parts. One common example of merism is in Genesis: “the heavens and the earth” is a merism for the entire universe. Another is “flesh and bone” for the body. Some might argue that the substition of “coke” for “soda” is really synecdoche, but I disagree, and here’s why: in the south, where Coca-Cola is king, one and only one item is conspicuous when it comes to carbonated soft drinks, and that’s Coke….”

  • Drink Up! The Stories Behind 11 Regional Soft Drinks (mentalfloss.com)


One thought on “Generic Names for Soft Drinks

  1. I’m from Houston and “coke” as a generic is pretty standard now but when I was a kid “soda water” was even more common all over Texas. I had a friend from Buffalo, New York when I was at UT who found that term incomprehensible and went on a rant every time she heard it. To her soda water was an unflavored ingredient for mixed drinks and a flavored carbonated drink was a “soda” period.


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