I came across this demographic today. People in the Mid-West and the North West of the United States drink 'pop'. People who live in the South drink 'coke' and people on the West and East coasts drink 'soda'. Never having spent much time in the U.S. myself I wondered what this might mean. Of course, we have Tocqueville's division of the states into Northern democratic and Southern aristocratic. Then I thought of Orlando Patterson's view that the East and West Coasts are cosmopolitan/ecumenical (roughly - they value irreverent cultural medley) but the coasts sandwich a big space where people are multicultural (roughly - they are respectful of cultural distinction). What's that got to do with fizzy drinks, though?

And there is a large cluster of 'soda' drinkers half way down the mississippi...

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Comment by Larry Stout on December 11, 2012 at 5:09pm

I am familiar with stout, the dark ale, though it is too stout for me, Huon!  I myself greatly prefer a pale ale.

As for the variant appellations for carbonated soft drinks, we might well observe the biological analog, allopatric speciation.

Comment by Huon Wardle on December 11, 2012 at 5:02pm

Thanks Larry. In Britain stout is also a drink - dark ale. Interesting that in all that mix of new arrivals on the coasts, people there have largely stuck with one generic word.

Comment by Larry Stout on December 11, 2012 at 4:24pm

Dear Huon,

I myself grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where all that was fizzy and non-alcoholic went invariably under the head of "pop".  But on the other side of the state, in St. Louis, at least some of the populace (of my later acquaintance) spoke only of "soda".  There was/is also widespread usage of "soda pop".  I've read reference to people in Atlanta (and thereabouts), ancestral home of Coca-Cola, colloquially and elliptically calling the beverage "Co-Cola".  As for the relative cosmopolitan natures of the East and West Coasts, I suppose we should simply observe that historically immigrants arrived on a shore and tended to stay put.  My own patrilineal ancestry, according to my genealogist brother, are traceable to one John Stout, who lived in the vicinity of Nottingham during the mid-sixteenth century; his only son immigrated to America, where he married a Dutch girl in New Amsterdam.  The succeeding Stouts on my line remained in New Jersey, until my grandfather (b. 1861) ran away from home and settled in Missouri.  My son, another John Stout, is a confirmed bachelor, and my nephews have produced no male heirs; so, the John Stouts will be bookends.  ;>)

Comment by John McCreery on November 5, 2012 at 1:36am
Comment by Huon Wardle on November 4, 2012 at 9:31pm

Thanks John; can't help adding that from this infographic we can see that ' 'soda' drinkers also largely vote for Obama while 'coke' drinkers prefer Romney and the North Centre is different again.

Comment by John McCreery on November 2, 2012 at 1:12pm

Huon, you might find it interesting to have a look at a book I just discovered, Colin Woodard's American Nations: A History of the Eleven Regional Cultures of North America. A couple of things make this book particularly interesting. First, as the title suggests, it deals with North America, here a region combining Canada, the USA, and the El Norte, northern provinces of Mexico. Second, it sees all all three of the nation states that make up the region as composites of diverse "national" cultures, each with its own distinctive history and values derived from a different colonial experience.

There isn't and never has been one America, but rather several Americas....Each of our founding cultures had its own set of cherished principles, and they often contradicted one another. By the middle of the eighteenth century, eight discrete Euro-American cultures had been established on the southern and eastern rims of North America. For generations these distinct cultural hearths developed in remarkable isolation from one another, consolidating characteristic values, practices, dialects, and ideals. Some championed individualism, others utopian social reform. Some believed themselves guided by divine purpose, others championed freedom of conscience and inquiry. Some embraced an Anglo-Saxon Protestant identity, others ethnic and religious pluralism. Some valued equality and democratic participation, others deference to a traditional aristocratic order. All of them continue to champion some version of their founding ideals in the present day.

Two more, Woodward writes, were created in the West [here the high plains and West Coast] by frontiersmen in the second half of the nineteenth century. One more, the First Nation, now encompasses a vast, if sparsely populated, region of northern Canada. (Native peoples in the USA may rightly claim national identities of their own, but these populations are small and politically and economically marginalized compared to the larger groupings whose history Woodward explores.)

Comment by Huon Wardle on November 2, 2012 at 12:15pm

I saw the diasaggregated version which in part highlights the greater population density in 'soda' drinking areas. The timeline tells us about the origins of 'soda' and may give a clue to why people in the South drink 'coke' - because that was where it was invented and sold. Likewise St Louis seems to have been home to the powerful Howdy drinks company whose products included "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Sodas". Which may explain the central mississippi adherence to 'soda'. All of which suggests that big business has always had a hold over the American imagination, but I am still curious about the Coasts versus hinterland, South versus North divide.

I realised my true ignorance of this topic recently when a new U.S. colleague asked for a 'soda water' in the pub after one of our talks and I had to meekly ask 'what does that translate as?'. The old fashioned 'soda siphons' (pressurised bottles with a handle to release the soda water) were already a curiosity when I was a child. I ended up buying what British people now call 'sparkling water'; unlike the case of the hoover (vacuum cleaner) the Perrier company which made this product popular in the 1980s never managed to brand the generic commodity with their name - though 'sparkling' is clever and aspirational. 

Comment by John McCreery on November 2, 2012 at 10:36am
Comment by Keith Hart on October 19, 2012 at 3:18pm

I think this should be debated at PopAnth (-:


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