June 02, 2004

Pop vs. Soda followup

Your home for the pop vs. soda controversy is here. The map was generated by a self-reporting internet survey, so it may not be completely reliable--OTOH, I'd expect s-r i s's to damp down regional variations rather than accentuate them, so I'm inclined to trust the big picture (and the bizarre correlation between brewing beer and calling pop "soda" in the Midwest). The counties that are majority "other" are usually ones with few respondents.

My favorite "other" response for Utah was "My mother always called it 'beer' even though she never drank beer being Mormon and all."

(Yes, blogging is light, and is going to stay that way on days I don't go to the office. Next time I'll hopefully add links to this post.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at June 2, 2004 10:26 AM

With regards to the category of "other," it shouldn't follow that these were counties with fewer respondents. You'll notice that Boston, MA falls in the "other" category. Growing up in Boston, I always referred to the bubbly non-alcoholic drink as "tonic." In fact, I had never heard it referred to as "pop" until I moved to the southern United States. So, there is at least one "other" word that refers to what (heathens) term "soda" or (God forbid it!) "Coke."

As an aside to the great soda v. pop debate, when I was moving into my dorm room, my Mom offered my new roommate a "tonic." "Tonic," in N.C., refers to an alcoholic beverage. My roommate thought that my Mom was testing him. So, he declined.

Posted by: Joe Ulatowski at June 2, 2004 01:22 PM

Actually, the map I was thinking of was this one, which doesn't have Boston as "other"--though I think Boston is less soda-y than surrounding areas because of the number of people who answer "tonic." If you click on the state on this map (I think) you get a county-by-county breakdown--the "others" usually turn out to be little places in BFE (check the isolated ones in New Mexico, Minnesota, Alaska, and Pennsylvania) where only a few people answered the survey.

My mom thinks that the survey is bogus, pointing out that there are a lot of jokey answers in the list of "others," but I think that they just have a program that automatically harvests answers, so the general trend is trustworthy (except that it's biased toward heavy Interweb users, which may mean that "tonic" gets underreported).

Nice story about cross-cultural communication. When I started at Havard there was one person who completely didn't understand what I meant when I said "pop" and eventually said "Oh, you mean TONIC!" but I didn't get too much other tonic. Of course I was hanging with the snooty types. (And I was being perverse in saying "pop"--I am capable of speaking "soda." Don't think I could use "Coke" as a generic without giggling.)

Say, which alcoholic beverage does "tonic" refer to?

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 2, 2004 07:18 PM

I used to use the generic "Coke" because the delicate sound of the P's in "pop" made me want to throttle the speaker and saying "soda" when you're from Pittsburgh is putting on airs. "Do you have any Coke or anything?" I could ask, now, like the David Sedaris bit about talking about things in multiple to avoid having to learn French gender articles.

Posted by: cara gillotti at June 3, 2004 07:33 AM

soda. soda. soda. soda.

Posted by: marissa at June 3, 2004 12:40 PM

I must say that my insistence on "pop" is a bit affected itself--I'm really a deracinated cosmopolitan whose parents are from New York and who pronounces "Kerry," "Carrie," and "Carey" three separate ways. On the other hand, I will unquestionably be using "pop" in every phone conversation we ever have from now on. Perhaps I will begin speaking in Morse code, using only "pop."

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 3, 2004 04:16 PM

I remember when I first moved to OR from Jersey, waitresses asking me if I wanted pop and I could not have been more confused. What is pop, anyway?

Posted by: Linda Fiorentino at June 3, 2004 09:26 PM

Glad to see that Canada remains largely uncorrupted by the dreadful "soda". (/grin) Coke incidentally is only ever used generically for black coloured pop among my friends and acquaintances, and that usually gets a "is Pepsi ok?" in a restaurant that doesn't have both.

Posted by: Nicole Wyatt at June 9, 2004 05:14 PM

Nicole, do you see the same phenomenon with "7-Up" or "Sprite" for clear pop? 'Cause I wouldn't be surprised if what you described resulted from the fact that, as Milo Bloom says, "They both taste like malted battery acid," so it's pretty much OK to substitute one for the other.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 10, 2004 11:18 AM