Monday, July 9, 2012

Soda vs Pop

I grew up in the midwest, went to college in upstate New York with a bunch of folks from the city, lived in cowboy country and now reside in California.  I almost exclusively drink water these days.  I wonder if part of the reason for my choice is that as I moved around to different places in the country I found it difficult to figure out what word to use to request a soft drink.  You see for some it's "soda."  For others it's "pop."  For still others, the generic term is "coke."  The preference seems to vary geographically.

To track down this phenomenon, a fellow named Edwin Chen did an analysis of geotagged Twitter posts that seemed to be referring to soft drinks and correlated the word to the location.  You see public Twitter messages are interesting (and short) examples of language that can often be tied to a particular location.  So by looking for Twitter messages that refer to "soda", "pop" and "coke" in the appropriate context (ie as referring to a generic soft drink) he was able to find geographical correlations.  The results are in the map above.  It is pretty clear that the upper midwest prefers "pop" (green) while the south (especially around Atlanta) seems to prefer "coke" (red).  The coasts seem to prefer "soda" (blue).
I can say from experience that this is consistent with my observations.  It's "soda" here in California, but "pop" if I visit the Great Lakes area (Michigan or parts of Canada).

I advocate drinking water rather than soda (especially no soda for breakfast), but if you are interested in language as it applies to soft drinks, you might want to check out this article.

via Edwin Chen's Blog