Why Do Some People Refer To Soda As Pop?

There's no doubt that America is highly polarized on the topic of what to call the effervescent, flavorful, non-alcoholic beverages that are sold in restaurants, entertainment venues, school cafeterias, office break rooms, and pretty much any place you frequent. Soda — which goes by a few other names — is one of the most popular and profitable products in the world. It's consumed in massive quantities by people of all generations, ZIP codes, and socioeconomic statuses. The drink is so accessible, in fact, that the industry's revenue exceeded a whopping $39 billion in 2021 alone, according to IBISWorld.

Some of the most influential brands in the history of marketing and consumerism belong to iconic soda companies, namely Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, 7UP, Mountain Dew, and literally hundreds of others. But what do you, dear reader, personally call this broad category of products? When you order a refreshing beverage at a restaurant or express that you're parched and need something to quench your thirst, what terminology do you use? Here's why some folks have been conditioned to identify the beloved fizzy goodness as "pop."

The word pop is actually an onomatopoeia

First off, why do people use different words when referring to soft drinks in the first place? Long story short, the terminology used depends on one's geography. For instance, "soda" is the preferred term of people who live in the northeast, Florida, California, and the greater areas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and St. Louis, Missouri. The first soda fountains made their American debut in New Haven, Connecticut in early 1806, causing the word "soda" to become part of the east coast vernacular (per Retro Planet). And then there's "coke." Coke — even if it's not a Coca-Cola product — is what people call soft drinks in the southern U.S., according to the Pop vs. Soda study (via Business Insider). Coke is the generalized term for soda in the south since Coca-Cola was invented in Atlanta in 1886 (per Coca-Cola).

If you venture to the Midwest, you will likely hear people ordering "pop" with their meal or getting a refreshment from the pop machine. So, why pop? The term comes from the sound made by a cork when it's removed from a bottle. The first known use of the term was in 1812 in a letter written by English poet Robert Southey, according to Today I Found Out. "Called on A. Harrison and found he was at Carlisle," he wrote, "but that we were expected to supper; excused ourselves on the necessity of eating at the inn; supped there upon trout and roast foul, drank some most admirable cyder, and a new manufactory of a nectar, between soda-water and ginger-beer, and called pop, because 'pop goes the cork' when it is drawn, and pop you would go off too, if you drank too much of it."