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Soda, pop or Coke? Here’s what people call soft drinks in each state

Soda, pop or Coke? Here’s what people call soft drinks in each state
Posted at 12:38 PM, Apr 17, 2024

Do you say “soda” or “pop”? Or do you use “Coke” as a generic term to describe all types of soda? Your answer is probably based on where you grew up. Alan McConchie, a cartographer who “loves making cartographic visualizations that reveal new ways of seeing the world,” created a survey in 2015 designed to map out the United States based on what we call soda, pop or Coke. We’ve used his data to create map, below, showing each state’s preferred term.

As you can see, people in Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Minnesota use “pop.” People in  California, Missouri, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Wisconsin say “soda.”

And “Coke” (which is used not only to describe the actual Coca-Cola brand but all types of soda in general) is used by people in  Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia.

soda pop coke infographic

Why do Southerners call all fizzy beverages “Coke”? Some people theorize — and in fact Southern Living confirms — that it’s because Coke originated in Georgia. The beverage was created by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton, so people in those deep Southern states have always associated soda with the Coke brand name.

Americans aren’t alone in having many different names for this bubbly drink. It seems no matter where people speak English, they’ve got a favorite name for the beverage. In England, for example, you may hear it called a “fizzy drink,” while Irish folks might simply call them all “minerals.” In Australia and New Zealand, the broad term “soft drink” is usually used to cover all sodas.

Perhaps most confusingly, Scotland has its own favorite local soda, Irn-Bru, but refers to the type of drink broadly as “juice.”

While Coca-Cola may be the most iconic American soda, and certainly one of the oldest, it wasn’t the first fizzy drink served in the United States. (It wasn’t even the first American cola!) The first American soda, as we define the word now, is believed to be Vernor’s Ginger Ale, which was first poured in Detroit in 1866. The years following the Civil War brought a boom in the creation of soda brands that are still sold roughly 150 years later.

Dr Pepper bills itself as “the oldest major soft drink in America,” and can rightfully be called the nation’s first cola, as it debuted in Waco, Texas, in 1885. Coca-Cola followed shortly after in 1886, while Pepsi made its debut just before the close of the 19th century in 1898.

Though McConchie’s survey originated a while ago, the site is still live and accepting input. Go to the PopVsSoda.Com website and fill out the survey to share your hometown as well as whether you say soda, pop, Coke or something different. You don’t have to give your name or email if you wish to stay anonymous.

Additional reporting contributed by Clint Davis.

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