Soda vs. Pop

My very first job was as a 10-year-old selling pop with my little brother on the golf course across the street in beautiful upstate New York. We’d fill up an ice chest with cheap store-brand soft drinks, set it on the red wagon, and go to the far northeast corner between hole #4 and hole #5. There we would spread out a blanket and I’d read my Happy Hollister mysteries in the sunshine, stopping every now and then to answer the following questions:

Q: Do you have any beer?

A: No.

Q: Why not?

A: Because I’m only ten.

I should have said “Because I’m a perfect ten,” but I wasn’t that clever yet.

Of course, they don’t sell pop here in Houston, they sell soda, which brings me to my Tip of the Day.

I read in the Sunday newspaper that there is a new resource that explains which areas of the country people call a carbonated soft drink “pop” and where they call it “soda.”<>
It’s called the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE, for short), and Volume V, which covers Si–Z, has finally been completed. DARE explains more than 60,000 regional words and phrases, their origins, and their locations. For example, Sloppy Joes are called “slushburgers” in South Dakota. And apparently pop morphs into soda partway through Pennsylvania, resulting in a “cultural fault line.” (I knew you could relate to that!) Volume VI, which contains 1,300 maps of those fault lines by concept, was sent off to the publisher last month.

According to the AP newspaper article, DARE can be used by novelists and actors to create authentic fictional characters, and police have used it to identify suspects – even creating a profile of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski from his writings.

DARE was started 50 years ago by an English professor at University of Wisconsin – Madison, who deployed grad students around the country to interview people and capture the words they used. The first volume was published in 1985, and after the professor died, a grad student took over, and the final volume is finally finished. (Redundancy intended.)

So here are some local terms for a submarine sandwich:

Cuban – Florida

Dagwood – Iowa

Grinder – New England

Hero – NY City

Hoagie – New Jersey

Poor boy (po’boy) ­– New Orleans

Sub – Northeast

Torpedo – North

Profound Quote of the Day:

“An academic dialect is perfected when its terms are hard to understand and refer only to one another.”

– Mason Cooley, American writer and English professor, 1927-2002


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