Here’s a not too taxing topic for a hot day:

You know those drinks of which Coke, 7-Up, root beers and Dr. Pepper are part of the genre? What do you call them? If you answered, “pop” or “soda” you’re not wrong, but you’re (a.) clearly not from here, or (b.) you are from here but you went away for too long.

A series on The History Channel, “How the States Got Their Shape,” once raised that same question. One of the episodes focused on linguistics and how word usage varies from place to place. And an example was the drinks. According to the program, the nation is divided into two: those who say, “pop” and those who say “soda.” “But wait a moment,” I thought, “Down here on the lower Mississippi we say something else. Our word is ‘soft drink.'"

I am not sure where that term came from. One thought is that since New Orleans was never shy about boozing, maybe the term evolved to separate it from alcohol or “hard liquor.”  If that were the case, a high ball would be a hard soft drink.

To complicate matters though, there are other divisions as well. “Soft drink” versus “cold drinks” is once such division. One summer while going to college I worked at a city-run swimming pool where one of my duties included filling the drink machine. One day one of the lifeguards, who was black, asked me, "are the cold drinks cold?” I told him that they were not, yet we both understood that they were still cold drinks.

Logic seldom seems to follow the word usage. According to the History Channel program there is a smaller subset in the nation that refers to all such drinks as “cokes.” A perfectly normal conversation would be:

Q: What type of coke do you want?

A: A Sprite.

For whatever the linguistic difference are in the land, I say bless them all. One day all the nuances will be lost because of the mass media and everyone will sound alike and use the same words. Until then relax. And may all your sodas be soft and cold.




 BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.