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Soda vs. Pop Debate

It's Time We Address One of the Biggest Debates of All Time — Is It Soda or Is It Pop?

A long line of unbranded soda bottles in various flavours and colours, the focus on the centre of the line.

I grew up in the Midwest, which means I grew up referring to all fizzy drinks as "pop." It was never weird to me. My friends and I all said it whenever we were craving a Sprite, Coca-Cola, or yes, even the then-popular Pepsi Blue. Our parents, peers, and school teachers all knew exactly what we meant when we said, "Do you have any pop?"

The first time I realised that this wasn't a universal term was when I was 20 years old and studying abroad. I had made friends with people from different parts of the US, and I vividly remember my friend from Florida looking at me with utter confusion and horror when I asked what pop a restaurant had. "What the hell is pop?!" she asked. I was very confused by her confusion. It was only then, after we started talking about my apparently Midwest-only language, that I realised I was the odd woman out. Almost everyone else in our group said soda, and a few girls from the South referred to all fizzy drinks simply as "coke" (don't even get me started on how confusing that is).

Since then, this has become one of the most heavily debated topics with my non-Midwest friends and I, which recently inspired me to take the question to my coworkers. Long story short: people have a lot of strong feelings about this and are very passionate about sticking to their guns. Keep reading to see what POPSUGAR staffers had to say about the great pop vs. soda debate.

Pop

What people think:

  • "It's pop. It's always been pop and it always will be pop. I'm from the Midwest and we all say 'pop' here. It just feels wrong to say 'soda.'"
  • "I will go to my grave saying 'pop' because it's the only acceptable term for it. My family is from Ohio, and when my brother moved to a new state, he adopted the soda term, and I have disowned him because of this. (Not really, but I make fun of him for being a sellout.)"
  • "As a New Englander, this sounds like it's from the 1950s."
  • "Like, no. What about club soda? 'Can I get a gin and club pop?' sounds like you're asking to get popped in the face a la Goodfellas with a legit club — shot of gin on the side, I guess. (Seeing myself out for where I went with this.)"
  • "One time, the New York Times dialect quiz guessed the exact city in Kansas I am from (hint: it's Overland Park) based solely on the fact that I say 'pop.' So, yeah, I get that it's not normal . . . but everything else sounds weird!"
  • "I grew up in West Virginia, where it's only known as 'pop.' I started calling it 'soda' a few years ago after one too many raised eyebrows in New York. So, yeah, I guess I'm a sellout."
  • "I've lived in California for more than a decade, but the Chicagoan in me will forever call it 'pop' — pronounced 'pahp,' with that Midwest accent as clear as ever — because of course?"

Soda

What people think:

  • "'Soda' is the only correct response. Good day."
  • "It's 'soda' unless you're from a 1950s comic strip, or live in Riverdale."
  • "Honestly, whenever I hear someone refer to soda as 'pop,' I feel like I'm living in the movie Pleasantville."
  • "I grew up in Southern California, so I've always called it 'soda.' But when I went to college in Missouri, culture shock came in the form of me ordering a 'soda' at an eatery where a Chicago-born, Missouri-raised cashier looked at me perplexed for about 20 seconds before saying, 'OH, you mean pop?' Equally as perplexed, I looked at her for another 20 seconds before saying, 'Um . . . yes, I think.' I walked away feeling slightly embarrassed (and still confused), but it was just one of the many lessons in Midwestern patois that I learned throughout my college career."
  • "Soda is a drink, not a category of drinks. It's particularly nice with vodka and lime."
  • "While I do think 'pop' sounds cute, 'soda' is the only way to say it for me."
  • "Soda all the way!"
  • "As someone who learned English as a second language, it's soda. If they teach new English speakers to use that term, then it's the most acceptable term, no?"
  • "I have always used the word soda, and I grew up three hours north of New York City. But if you go out to western New York where the rest of my family lives, it's 'pop.' A lot of people think that 'pop' is a Midwestern thing and 'soda' is an East Coast thing, but there is an entire half of New York State that calls it 'pop' and I've always found that hilarious."

Coke

What people think:

  • "Only to be used when you're ordering a Coke."
  • "I first encountered this term in high school. A new student had just moved from Georgia, and on a class trip we stopped in McDonald's for a quick meal. When it was her turn to order, she told the cashier she'd like a six-piece chicken nugget and a Coke. The cashier immediately began pouring a Coke — you know, because that's what she ordered. My classmate was shocked she wasn't asked which kind. It took a few minutes, but I eventually helped her get what she actually wanted: a Sprite."

Other

What people think:

  • "The most popular term in England is 'fizzy drink,' but we also use 'pop' or 'fizzy pop,' especially if we grew up or have family in the north."
  • "In India people refer to carbonated drinks as 'soft drinks.' This is because they are in contrast to 'hard' alcoholic drinks. It's really upsetting when anyone refers to them as anything other than 'soft drinks' because it's the most logical term for these beverages. Hopefully as language evolves, words like 'pop' and 'soda' will become obsolete and everyone will refer to carbonated beverages as 'soft drinks' — as they should!"
Image Source: Getty / RapidEye
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