[ View menu ]

Soda, pop, and coke

Filed in Books ,Gossip ,Ideas ,Research News
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)



When Decision Science News was in college, we used to volunteer at the Dictionary of American Regional English. We learned things like if you ask folks in the US:

What generic word do you use to describe carbonated soft drinks? (Note that these could be of any brand or type, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, 7-Up, etc. We are concerned with the overall word, not a specific brand.) If you have changed the word you use at some point in your life, please enter the term you first used when you learned English.

… you get data that look like the above. People in the Midwest tend to say “pop”, people in the South tend to say “Coke” (even when they are not referring to a Coke ™), and everybody else tends to say “soda”. That image is from http://www.popvssoda.com. Fine.

Back when Decision Science News as a first year assistant professor at London Business School, we presented this chart to make a point about geographic differences. An American student said “That’s wrong. I’ve been all over and that’s just not true”. This made for an awkward teaching experience.

Years pass, Twitter is invented, and data scientist Edwin Chen decides to analyze Twitter tweets for soft drink terms. The result:


Same deal.


Linguist Bert Vaux (a friend of a friend) shared some valuable notes

“The best coke database is indeed Alan McConchie’s…The last time I checked, about 7-8 years ago, Alan already had more than 400,000 data points for coke/pop/soda.

The next best database for that and 121 other variables is my old Harvard survey from 2002-3, for which I collected data from about 50,000 Americans. I’ve mapped those and some of my other surveys using the Google maps engine here:


You two have probably also come across Josh Katz’s recent mappings of my old Harvard data:



  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m from S.E. NC (where you have that confusing mass of colors – LOL!)

    I came up in a rural farming county and the term used everywhere was “Drink” or “Bottle Drink” by the real old-timers…

    Coke, Pop, or Soda were never heard! -unless it was really a coke, and then it was a “Coca-cola”

    December 12, 2013 @ 1:59 am

RSS feed Comments

Write Comment

XHTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>