Soda, Pop, or Coke?

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about how we pronounce certain words can be a dead giveaway of where we’re from. If you’re from Massachusetts, you know that Worcester is pronounced “Wooster”, if you’re in Austin, Texas, you know Guadalupe St. is pronounced “Gwadda-loop”, and of course, if you don’t call it “Torr-ah-no”, then you ain’t from around here, are you?

Well shibboleths go beyond just pronunciation and include our words choices too. Depending on the region you’re from, you might greet a group of people with a hearty, “Hiya folks!”, or a more sedate “Hey guys.”

In 2003, a team at Harvard conducted an extensive study, calling households across the United States, asking what words they used to refer to certain things. Did they call a small store selling junk food, cigarettes, and maybe some produce a bodega, a variety store, or a corner store? Was there term for generic carbonated sugary beverages soda, pop, or coke?

The maps of their results illustrate the geographic boundaries of different American dialects, and if you’re from southern Ontario, you’ll probably find yourself matching up with the Minnesota, Michigan, New York area.

The Atlantic pulled the results together and made a fantastic video called “Soda, Pop, Coke”. Check it out here:

7 thoughts on “Soda, Pop, or Coke?”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, it’s such an interesting video. So cool to see all the different words for things, especially as English is my second language, I found that I didn’t always know there was another word for that thing…

    1. For most of these, I’d always thought they were different things, not just different names! Highway vs Expressway is a good example — as far as I know they’re basically the same thing.
      For the record, I’m pop, highway and convenience/corner/variety store.

      1. Convenience store is one I use as well when I think about it. When I was a kid I called all corner stores The Shop n’ Bag which is sadly defunct.

  2. Manhattanites, I’ve found, get all prissy and pronounce Toronto with pursed lips while articulating Every. Single. Syllable: “Toe-Ron-Toe.” Anderson Cooper is a good example.

  3. I’ve discovered my hidden grammar nerd thanks to this blog! I have one request: could you have a bombastic post/diatribe about use of apostrophes and the letter S? Maybe even in a Fox News shouting tone blaming the liberal media about it!

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