Soft Drink Debate

This soft drink debate covers where in the U.S. use the name Pop vs. Soda vs. Coke, includes information on regions that use specific words to describe their soft drinks.


| March/April 2007



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Map shows the regional variations in soft-drink language by county.

ILLUSTRATION: MAP COURTESY GREG PLUMB AND MATTHEW CAMPBELL

Learn about the soft drink debate across the U.S. and which region uses the word Pop vs. Soda vs. Coke. 

A debate rages beneath the surface of our country. It's not about red states and blue states; it's not even about Coke or Pepsi. The soft drink debate is about what we call Coke and Pepsi. Whether a soft drink is a "soda," a "pop" or a "coke" can become a concern in geographically mixed households.

"Soda" supporter Karen Talbott-Wood says, "If my husband (who is from southeastern Kansas) asks for a 'pop,' I tell him his father isn't here, and neither is mine. He does not find that amusing."

The question has captured the imagination of at least a few researchers.

Greg Plumb, a professor with the Department of Cartography and Geography at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, and his student Matthew Campbell have used their mapping skills and an informal Internet survey by Alan McConchie to get to the bottom of the issue. They've created maps (available at www.OKAtlas.org/okatlas/vernacular/usa/softdrinks.htm) to chart "soda," "pop" and "coke" speakers in the United States.

The map suggests soft-drink dialect differences are very regional (with a few exceptions). Speakers on the East and West coasts use the word "soda" to refer to a carbonated beverage that is nonalcoholic, flavored and sold in bottles or cans. Midwesterners and those in the Pacific Northwest drink "pop," and in the South, you can order a "coke" and be asked, "What kind?"





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