Sunday, August 11, 2013

Carbonated Beverage Shortcuts

In first or second grade in Tennessee, I had a phonics lesson where we were given a picture with blanks underneath for how many letters were in the word and we had to fill in the letters. One picture showed a classic Coke bottle with three blanks underneath it. Another kid originally from North Dakota and myself (a recent transplant from Ohio) got the correct answer: “pop. We earned the only two 100's for that lesson. Or so we thought.

A riot ensued as the rest of the class and even the teacher complained that the lesson was incorrect, that the publisher really meant to put four blanks under the picture. The teacher threw out that question and adjusted all the grades. I learned two things that day: 1) life is not fair and 2) I was smarter than everyone.

As the years went by, I grew accustomed to the fact that southerners refer to all carbonated drinks as Cokes. Although I personally refused to succumb to that illogical application of language, I did finally remove the word “pop” from my daily speech because I was always having to explain to my fellow Tennesseeans what I was talking about. Instead, I settled on the more universally acknowledged “soda.”

It absolutely drove me crazy when people would ask if you would like a coke, then hand you a root beer. Or conversely when visting a friend:

Would you like something to drink?” the friend would ask.

I would like a Coke,” I might say.

Sure, what kind? We have Sprite and Dr. Pepper.”

No, I want a Coke.”

Right. Sprite or Dr. Pepper?”

Eventually I ended up in Texas with the (usually) awesome St. Pauli Girl who, like most Texans, follows this same misguided practice, much to the delight of the Coca-Cola corporation. Her grocery list would include “Cokes,” or she might ask me if we needed more Cokes even though we only drink generic diet drinks, usually diet root beer. One time I answered, “Yes, we need Cokes. We do not have any Cokes.” She dutifully brought home two new cartons of diet sodas (not Cokes) only to find an unopened case of sodas sitting in the pantry.

I thought you said we were out of Cokes?” she asked.

We are. We only have diet root beer and diet Dr. Pepper.”

She smacked me with an empty carton of diet root beer.

Now, I write “sodas” on the grocery list to alleviate this constant misunderstanding. But she has taken up the practice of crossing through "sodas" and writing "sodahs," pronouncing it in an obnoxious fake Boston accent, inferring that I am a damn yankee and lucky to have ever set foot in the great Republic of Texas without getting shot. So I decided to go back to my roots, and I now refer to all carbonated beverages by the true, original term: pop.

This morning I told her we were out of pop. She has already started mispronouncing it "pipe" (which in Texan sounds just like the rest of the country's "pop"). I can't wait to see what she brings home from the grocery store . . . Although, I hope she doesn't hit me with it.


  1. Such drinks here Down Under were always referred to as "soft drinks".

    Coca Cola, of course, got shortened to the well-used and known "Coke"; and Pepsi...Pepsi.

    If we wanted a particular flavour of soft drink...we just asked for lemonade; ginger ale; sarsaparilla; creaming soda, etc., etc., et al.

    "Soda", "Soda Pop" or "Pop" were never used. That's probably changed somewhat these days; a lot of our language has been "Americanised" (Note my use of "s", not "z"!)

    1. I honestly doubt "pop" is used much anymore. Can't remember the last time I heard it. But I haven't spent much time in the Midwest lately. But I'm singlehandedly trying to bring it back.

      It's a shame regional dialects much less foreign languages are getting Americanised these days; takes some of the fun out of travel. Thanks for the comment!

    2. I sincerely hope that our Aussie slang never disappears. It's unique...and it's fun; same applies to everywhere else. We must hold onto what is "ours", I think.

  2. My favorite part of that story was the two things you learned :)

  3. While I don't doubt for a minute that life isn't fair and you are smarter than everyone, I think it should also be noted that you are funnier than most.

    You have been reading my blog long enough you know that I moved 36 time as a kid and 21 times since I was married and this soda, pop, coke, and sodapop issue is confusing. One of the first things I do after I figure out the DMV, Dept. of Transportation or the Dept. of Public Safety (all of these being where you get your driver's license), I ask some local what to call a Diet Coke. I don't want to be served anything but the real deal.

    1. That's very kind of you to say. That's some good moving advice!