Pop (aka soda-pop) is a fizzy, flavoured non-alcoholic soft drink sold in bottles, cans or from dispensing pumps in restaurants, fast-food places and stands, etc.
A technical definition of it would be along the lines of “non-alcoholic carbonated beverage.”
Often at restaurants, you’ll notice that all the kinds on offer belong to one big chain or another, usually The Coca-Cola Company or PepsiCo.
Pop, despite being made generally of all artificial ingredients, can expire: it can get so old there are precipitates on the bottom of the bottle or tin.
A finely balanced combination of sweeteners and acids has to be achieved to make a pop taste desirable. In fact, without the acidity to partly mask the taste of all the sweetener, most people would find pop distastefully sweet.
“Soft drinks are known for having a lot of sugar in them. In fact, in each 12-ounce/355 mL can—about 1½ cups of soda—there’s about ¼ cup of sugar. But, have you ever considered how it’s even possible for manufacturers to add such high amounts of sugar without the drink tasting too sweet?… It contains far too much sugar for most people to find tasty. However, by adding acid (and other flavors), the flavor components combine to produce a pretty delicious drink. Carbonation is another source of acidity, which is why a flat [pop] tastes sweeter than a fresh one.” Brenner, Michael, et al. Science and Cooking. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. 2020. Kindle Edition. Page 14.
What do you call soda / pop?
People usually get to debating what flavour of pop is best, and what brand does that particular flavour best, but it doesn’t take long for the debate to grind to a halt and get side-tracked, saying “what did you just call it? That is so weird” — because everyone uses a different name for “pop.” (At CooksInfo, we had to pick one, so we opted for “pop” to distinguish it from other uses for the word “soda“.)
The variations appear to occur regionally, rather than along class, educational, or other lines.
In the UK, they tend to just say fizzy drink and be done with it. And pretty much across Canada, it’s pop (they understand soda, but it sounds quaint to their ears.)
It’s in the United States that the variations in nomenclature are the most prominent, and the most vigorously debated (it is a part of “pop” culture, after all….)
You can start with this generalization:
- Northern / Midwestern US: pop
- Southern / Eastern US: soda
But then, you have to start peppering that generalization with so many holes that you start to wonder if the United States isn’t a country divided by a common language.
In the American south, you might ask a waitress for a coke, and then she’ll say “what kind of coke do you want? We got orange, Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew, root beer, Pepsi….”
The following list is a rough, unscientific survey of who says what, where. It would be impossible to produce a survey of this nature that everyone would agree with.
- Arkansas: coke
- Boston, Massachusetts: soda / tonic
- California: soda
- California (southern): coke
- Connecticut: soda
- Florida: soda
- Illinois (Chicago): pop
- Illinois (parts of southern): pop
- Illinois (rest of state): soda
- Indiana: pop
- Iowa: pop
- Kentucky: coke
- Maryland: soda
- Massachusetts: tonic
- Maine: tonic
- Michigan: pop
- Minnesota: soda
- Minnesota (Minneapolis): pop
- Nebraska: pop
- New York State (Buffalo): pop
- New York State (Corning): pop
- New York State (Cortland): soda
- New York State (Horseheads): pop
- New York State (New York City): soda
- New York State (Rochester): pop
- New York State (Syracuse): soda
- New York State (Utica): soda
- North Carolina: coke
- Ohio: pop
- Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh): pop / soda pop
- St Louis, Missouri: soda
- Texas: coke
- Utah: pop
- Washington State: pop
- Wisconsin: soda (pop in parts of southern Wisconsin such as around Kenosha and Mineral Point areas)
In Chicago, asking for a “soda” used to mean an “Ice Cream Soda.” If you wanted “soda pop”, you asked for “pop.”
Words for pop in a few other countries:
- Brazil: “refrigerante“, or it’s shorter version, “refri“
- Germany, called “Limo” (even though technically that’s short for “Limonade” — lemonade in German — it doesn’t mean lemonade when said as “limo.”) There are regional variations, though: “Brause” in eastern German, and Sprudel in some other parts.
- Greece: Gazoza
- Mexico (central and southern): “refrescos” (meaning “refreshers”) or “gaseosas” (meaning “gassies”)
- Mexico (northern): soda
- Netherlands: “frisdrank” (meaning “fresh drink”)
- Norway: brus (meaning “fizz”, short for “bruslimonade”, “sparkling lemonade”)
- Sweden: läsk (from “läskande drycker“, meaning “refreshing drinks”, or “dricka” (meaning “drink”) or “limsa“
|↑1||Brenner, Michael, et al. Science and Cooking. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. 2020. Kindle Edition. Page 14.|