Monday, June 05, 2006

Things go better with...

Now this is the kind of academic research I can get behind.

It's a map that shows the generic name for "soft drink" in different parts of the country. The Midwest is big on "pop." The Northeast likes "soda." My cousins in Texas always said "sody water." (They always drank Dr Pepper.)

In the Carolinas, what I hear most often is "drink." (That also comes up big in the informal N.C. poll.) But in Georgia, where I grew up -- and where Coke was invented -- we call everything "Coke."

This makes for some strange conversations if you don't know the lingo. Here's a typical moment from my house when I was growing up:

"I'm going to the store."

"Could you get me a Coke?"

"Sure. What kind of Coke you want?"


So what do they call soft drinks where you come from? What do you hear down here? And what's the weirdest term you've heard?

Comments, debate, and references to "bellywashers" below.


Anonymous said...

In Illinois, we called it 'pop.' After I moved down to Charlotte, I told co-workers I was going to go get a pop and they laughed for about 10 minutes. I say 'soft drink' now.

Jim said...

I grew up in the Sandhills. Most of us "went out for a Coke" and it usually was a Coke unless it was a Pepsi. Older folks got a "dope." I haven't heard that one in a long time.

Anonymous said...

I'm a native Rhode Islander, lived most of my adult life in and around Boston, then came to Charlotte. We grew up calling it "soda", but in MA it is also known as "tonic." Some other quirky things: in RI a water fountain is a "bubbler"...people here laugh at me for that kids even laugh! A milk shake is a "cabinet" in RI, but a "frappe" in MA. A submarine sandwich is a "sub" in RI, but a "grinder" in MA (also known as a "hero" or a "hoagie", depending on where you're from), in RI you have "macaroni with meatballs and gravy" for dinner, not "pasta with meatballs and sauce". Imagaine my surprise when someone finally told me gravy is brown! A clam is a "quohog." Quirkiest thing: in RI, there is actually a company that manufactures coffee flavored milk is the official "state drink!"

topper said...

The biggest change for me when I moved to Boston after growing up in South Florida was not seeing snow for the first time but ordering a "tonic". I got more crazy looks from the locals because I was usually walking around holding a coke with salted peanuts foating in it!!!!

Anonymous said...

The debate about soda, pop or coke is easy as everyone knows basically what they are. But when one moves to NC and hears "cut on the lights" or "plug up the lamp" it is a whole different story. Cut means to sever - how does one cut something on. And a plug goes in and out - not up and down?????

Anonymous said...

We always called them "soft drinks" growing up in Hickory, NC. I never thought about it until I moved away in college and everyone thought it was so strange. I guess it's soft compared to harder (alcohol) drinks.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what Carolinians they asked, but growing up here with family in SC everyone called it Coke. Of course we drank a lot of Cheerwine and Blenheims.

To Quohog-girl - I remember reading in a book that Rhode Islanders and only Rhode Islanders drink milk with coffee syrup. Can't even imagine what that would taste like.

Anonymous said...

It's a soft drink. Unless I'm too lazy to say two words, and then it's a drink. Unless it's brown, and then it's a Coke. I'm always amused when I order a Diet Coke in a fast-food place and the person asks apologetically, "Is Pepsi OK?" I'll say, "Sure, whatever, just give me Diet Brown," and then they look confused. It's a Coke, I don't care what brand it is, it's all Coke to me!

Native North Carolinian

Anonymous said...

In response to the Native North Carolinian in the previous message, I am just the opposite - I like Coke but do not particularly like Pepsi. I get very annoyed at a restaurant when I say "Do you have Coke?", and they say yes and then bring me a Pepsi. If I don't see it on the menu, I ask specifically because if they serve Pepsi, I'll order something else.

Anonymous said...

My first Southern phrase and still my favorite is "I'm own" When a friend of mine would get mad at her husband she says: "I'm own smack you!" haha! The other weird one is 'everwho' i almost fell over on that one. "Everwho took out the milk better put it back up!"

Anonymous said...

I'm from Pittsburgh and we called it pop. But I went to visit relatives in Connecticut and they said "your mom gave us .50 for sodas". I thought we were getting cheap ice cream sodas and it turned out to be Coke. I still get laughed at here when I say "gumband" for rubber band.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Atlanta during the seventies and we always called it Coke or Coca-Cola and many a teenage girl at my school was known to drink a Coca-Cola for breakfast (and this was before Diet Coke). Pepsi is absolutely not in the same classification. Since I am a Carolinian now, I have come to embrace Cheerwine most lovingly, too.

Anonymous said...

When I moved to Char from Pittsburgh in '79, I asked my next-door neighbor boy if they would like some pop. From then on, when he wanted to tease me, he would say in his mock Pgh. accent,"Hey you guys, do you want some pop?" I can't tell you how many times I heard that phrase through the years. To this day when I think of that man(boy), I think of him saying that phrase to me.

loribelle said...

When I was young and living on the coast of SC, we usually called everything "drinks". This word was pronounced somewhere between "drinks" and "dranks". Later it was often lowercase "coke", regardless of flavor or brand. But we had friends who were high-falutin' (my fave SC words!), and they called everything "Co-Cola"... or was it "Coke-ola"?

I had forgotten about pouring the bag of peanuts into my coke (which was usually Pepsi or Dr. Pepper). But once aluminum cans became the norm, the peanuts were out. I wonder why? Maybe the visual was part of the appeal.

Anonymous said...

i'm from dallas, texas and have never, ever heard anyone say "sody water." that's ridiculous. When i was a kid, it was all "coke" like you said in georgia.

I now just say "soda."

We also did the peanuts-in-the-bottle thing, but only with Dr Pepper.

Dr Pepper was a big texas thing. we would think it was funny to travel to other parts of the US and not find it. these days I'm even able to buy diet DP in London.

Anonymous said...

In southeast Georgia, I most commonly heard "co-cola" or if you were really in the backwoods "co-coler."

Once when traveling in Washington state with a friend, he ordered a "co-cola" at dinner. The waitress asked him again what he wanted and still left with a bewildered look. He ended up getting hot chocolate (i.e., cocoa).

I've heard "pop" many times in the midwest, but to borrow a line from Lewis Grizzard, the only use of the word pop in a sentence that is referring to a soft drink is something like..."If you don't hurry up with that 'co-cola' I'm gonna pop you upside the head with this ashtray."

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sean said...


The timing of this blog's fortuitous! Just the other day, my father told me a story about one of his favorite childhood trips.

My grandparents, father and brother -- native Charlotteans -- drove to NYC to attend the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair (which, as I learned moments ago, was the only event so billed that the World Fair's sanctioning body, the Bureau of International Expositions, didn't consider "official").

Official or no, my father, then 10-years-old, and his younger brother, 7-y.o. Joe, were still beside themselves with excitement. And true to form, the boys drove my grandparents batty. They were jumping about the house before the trip, and they were antsy during the car-ride up. Once they finally made it to the Big Apple, they ran and rough-housed on the boat ride on the East River -- behaving, in short, like typical, energetic little boys do!

Trouble was, my family went on the trip during that most dreadful part of the summer: right at the cusp of fall, when the temperatures seem to sharply peak before gradually simmering down. (As my other granddaddy used to say, that was nature's way of reminding us who's the boss, and to make us that much more grateful for the cooler weather to come!)

Even the hardest-playing little boys aren't immune to that kind of heat so, naturally, my father and uncle got thirsy.

"Awful thirsty," my father qualified.

Exhausted and uncomfortably hot themselves, my grandparents directed the boys to a nearby vendor. "Salvation!", they all probably thought: a break from the kids and something to whet their whistles!

And so, the boys hurried over to the vendor, change in hand. My father was the elder brother, so he was the first pipe up.

"I'd like a Coke," he said.

The vendor didn't understand. My dad, probably desperate for a drink by that point, rejoined, "A Coke! I want a Coke, please."

"Two cones, coming right up," replied the vendor.

My father says that ice cream was the strangest variety of "Coke" he ever had.


P.S. -- Even in the course of all that, I didn't really answer any of the questions you asked! Apologies....

I've lived in the Charlotte area (Gastonia) most of my life; we've always called soda drinks "Coke," too -- just as we call facial tissues Kleenex or automobiles of a certain make Jeeps. Never did succumb to calling photocopies "Xeroxes," though, curiously enough!

Anonymous said...

Around 1970 my family spent four years in Baton, a small community between Lenoir and Hickory, where we got used to all sorts of unique turns of phrase. If they wanted you to flick a lightswitch, it was "mash that button" (pronounced "maish at butt'n"); someone playing hooky was referred to as "laying out of school." But my all-time favorite was a family who ended visits with this exchange: "Well, y'all come with us." "Well, y'all just stay."