This is a map of the word people use to describe carbonated soft drinks in the different parts of the US. Clicking on it will take you to a much more legible version. It’s very territorial: in the northeast, right in the middle around St. Louis, and in the southwest, people call it “soda.” In the north and northwest, it’s “pop.” And in the south and southeast, no matter what brand or flavour you’re referring to, you say, “coke.” (Except for right around Miami – I guess the snowbirds have transferred “soda” down there.)
I wonder if the folks at Coca-Cola in Atlanta think of this. We’ve all heard that it’s bad for your “brand” to become genericized like Xerox or Kleenex. But in those states, if you were running down to the corner store, and someone said, “Grab me a coke,” and you didn’t know what their preference was, you’d get a Coca-Cola, because that’s clearly different from, say, Sprite. It would be another matter if they asked you to grab some Kleenex – you know that all facial tissues are essentially the same, but soda isn’t. So I think they’d be happy about this instance of genericization. (Word?)
Anyway, reminds me of a story. I was sitting in a bar in Auckland, when a nice American girl walked up and ordered a “7 and 7.” The bartender looked at her quizzically, saying he didn’t know that one. (It’s rye and 7-Up, jigged into a fancy name by the folks at Seagram’s Distilleries, makers of “Seagram’s 7″ rye.) Now, in New Zealand, they call clear soda like 7-Up, “lemonade” (I never did find out what they call what we call lemonade…) So I said to the bartender that what the girl was asking for was Canadian Rye Whiskey and Lemonade. She said, “Eww, gross – I don’t like whiskey and I wouldn’t want it mixed with lemonade!” I assured here that that’s what a 7 and 7 was, and said I’d pay for it if I was wrong, so she acquiesced and was pleased with the result. But the thought left in my mind was, how can you drink something without knowing what’s in it?