On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than the sweet hiss of air escaping as you twist the cap or pop the top on an ice-cold… what? Soft drink? Soda? Pop? Soda pop? Coke®?

What word do you use when you ask for a carbonated beverage? In addition to the terms listed above, some people also call them “fizzies” or “tonics”!

Why? Who knows? But it all seems to depend on where you live.

One of the wonderful things about the English language is its wide variety. The diversity in our speech reflects the diversity of U.S. culture. There are millions of people from all sorts of backgrounds that live all over the country.

From the mountains of Colorado to the Great Plains to the coasts, the language we use can sometimes be as different as the landscape that surrounds us. Depending on where you live, you have a regional “dialect,” which is a fancy word for the particular vocabulary and grammar you use in your area.

Although the exact history behind why a particular word is used in a particular region varies by the word, it most likely has to do with the history of the area. As different people settled in different areas, each region developed its own unique dialect. The unique history of the people who settled each region shaped the dialect in that region.

Instead of everyone in the United States referring to a carbonated beverage as a “soft drink,” people in the Midwest usually call it a “pop.” People in the Northeast usually call it a “soda,” while Southerners often refer to it as a “Coke” — regardless of what particular brand of soft drink it is.

While this may seem merely curious, you will find that people often hold strong opinions about the words we use. Go to Boston and ask for a pop, and you might be ridiculed. Likewise, ask for a soda in Minnesota, and you’ll likely be pegged as an outsider.

If you love words and find regional dialects interesting, you should check out the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). In addition to offering definitions of words, DARE shows where people use certain words.

For example, you know that sandwich that contains meats, cheeses and toppings in a long bun? DARE will show you where that sandwich is called a “hero,” “hoagie,” “grinder,” “sub” or “torpedo.”

And that strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street? It might be a “boulevard,” “grass plot,” “devil strip,” “neutral ground,” “tree belt” or a “berm”… depending on where you grew up!

But don’t think that regional dialects are just a casual oddity. Experts once helped to solve a kidnapping case by focusing on the regional dialect used in the ransom note.

DARE helped investigators narrow their search to Akron, Ohio, because the kidnapper used the term “devil strip” in his note — a term used mainly in that particular region!

 

22 Join the Discussion

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  1. I grew up in the South and I always said “coke” for any carbonated drink. Now that I live in the midwest, I have switched to Soda more than Coke. What a funny thing language can be!

    • Language really CAN be a funny thing, Deborah! It can also be amazing, confusing (sometimes), enlightening and WONDERous! Thanks so much for commenting on today’s Wonder of the Day®!

  2. I think it’s super cool that there are so many different words that mean the same thing.It also sounds super interesting about how people all around America talk differently in different accents and some people use different words. Like some of my friends are from Minnesota and they say that we have Ohioian accents and my family thinks that they have Minnesotian accents.

    • Hi, Liddie! Thanks for sharing your story about your friends from Minnesota! We think it’s really interesting to hear people from other places talk…we learn so much about them and their lives! :-)

  3. I am from Minnesota, but now teach in Wisconsin…My favorite so far is “Duck, Duck, Grey Duck.” That ones seems to be exclusive to Minnesota seeing as though everyone always asks me, “You mean, ‘duck, duck, goose right?”

    • That’s an interesting one, Amanda! We admit, we’ve never heard of it called “Duck, Duck, Grey Duck!” We love learning new things…thanks so much for sharing your comment today! :-)

  4. When I lived in New Jersey I got use to using the term coach for baby stroller but when I came back home to Texas and I use that term nobody knows what the heck I mean.

    • Hi, Linda! Thanks so much for commenting today! We’ve heard strollers being called “coaches,” too! :-)

  5. A 7-year-old neighbor once corrected me when I referred to the drink I handed him (in my own garage mind you) as “soda.” He told me “Actually, it’s called pop.” Then there was a long, drawn-out debate about why it doesn’t matter…

  6. How many people know what an egg cream is? In the NY metropolitan area, the corner confectionaries know it is seltzer, milk, and Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup. Growing up in this area, I drank a lot of egg creams. When I went to college in Columbia, South Carolina and asked for the drink, the man behind the counter wanted to know how many eggs and how much cream went into the drink. He related better to a chocolate soda with milk- stirred, not shaken.

    • No matter what it’s called, that drink sounds sweet and YUMMY! Thanks so much for sharing this comment today, Marsha! :-)

  7. I have some friends from the U.K. and one day one of them asked for a bobble. I was like What!? Apparently they call rubber bands/ hair ties bobbles. For the next few months i went around saying bobble when i needed a hair tie.

    • That’s a GREAT example of different words from different places having the same meaning, Mae! Thank you so much for sharing your awesome comment with everyone today! :-)

  8. Wow, I loved that video! It taught me so many good facts! It was so good I want to see it over and over again.
    How many different languages are there?

    • That’s a GREAT question, Shay! In fact, it sounds like a GREAT idea for a future Wonder of the Day®! Thank you for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and for leaving us this comment! :-)

    • We’re glad you found this Wonder of the Day® interesting, Nick! Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  9. Wonderopolis,
    Wow that was extremely interesting! I never really knew the words dialect and regional. But dialect was like the answer to the wonder!! I was surprised to learn that dialect are some particular words often used in the area you are in! I was surprised to learn that soda, pop, and coke are mainly broke down into areas!! That is really neat how just by using dialect, that you helped find a criminal in Akron, Ohio! I think this might be one of my favorite wonders so far!

    • Thanks for letting us know how much you enjoyed this Wonder and also for sharing some of the cool facts you learned about regional dialects, Team Unger #12! We hope you have a SUPER, AWESOME, AMAZING, WONDERful day! :-)

  10. Wonderoplis,
    I noticed too that my grandma and cousins say pop when they mean soda. This is a really cool topic. This is a real wonder.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do we use different words for the same things?
  • What is a dialect?
  • Do you use any interesting or peculiar words where you live?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

So what do you call a carbonated beverage in your part of the world? If you want to cast your vote in the great debate, go online and participate in The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy!

Enter where you grew up and what you call carbonated beverages. Then take some time to browse the interactive map to explore where “pop” reigns and what areas are partial to “soda.”

Ask your friends and family about which word they prefer for carbonated beverages. Does everyone agree? Or do you notice that people raised in different areas prefer different terms?

Have you noticed any other differences in regional vocabulary? Do people where you live use an interesting or peculiar word that’s different from many other areas of the country? If so, email or send us a note to let us know about it!

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