I was called a Hillbilly yesterday when I asked for something to drink. No, I wasn’t ordering moonshine. I was ordering something to drink from a New York City street vendor to slake my thirst. The offending word I used was “pop.”

Usually when I ask for “pop” I get squeals of laughter from children and adult fingers pointed at me. Yesterday was the first time I’d been labeled a Hillbilly. I have learned the hard way — through embarrassment and finger-pointing — that on the East Coast you don’t call a carbonated beverage “pop.” You call it “soda,” but sometimes I forget.

In Nebraska, where I was born and raised, you call soda “pop” but, I have also learned, there are few people beyond the great prairie state who use “pop” to order soda. Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly culturally inebriated, I will defy the trend and order a “soft drink,” but when I do, I am always corrected with “you want a soda,” which, I suppose, is better than getting a blank stare when I order “pop” instead.

I suppose I could split the baby and order a “soda pop” but I just can’t bring myself to utter those two silly words together in the same sentence.

57 Comments

  1. I always think of hillbilly as a southern reference, and down south, we refer to sodas as Cokes. Whether you’re drinking Pepsi, Coca-cola, RC Cola – whatever – we start out saying we want a Coke.
    We leave it up to the host or wait staff to correct us! πŸ™‚

  2. Well, if we want a specific drink such as Dr. Pepper or Moutain Dew, we do specifiy. Here’s a scenario:
    I have company and my guest wants something to drink. He/she would ask, “Can I have a Coke?”
    And I would say, “Sure,” and get him/her a Pepsi, or if I didn’t have Coke or Pepsi, I would say, “I have ginger ale or Sprite, is that okay?”
    So I guess Coke is the term for generic cola Ò€” Coca-cola, Pepsi, RC Cola, etc.

  3. In Africa we called all carbonated soft drinks “cooldrinks”, something very different from “cool drinks”. Then, when I moved back to England, I found that they were called “pop” (see, it’s not American, it’s British :D). Now I’m in America and somehow have to learn to call them “sodas”. Oh what the heck, give me a Coke!

  4. I think “pop” isn’t so much a hillbilly thing as a midwestern thing. I grew up in Indiana, and I have always said “pop.” “Soda” just sounds so nasal and wisconsiny (new word of the day). I recently transplanted myself to Kentucky, and hear everyone asking for a “Coke” wherever they go!

  5. Hi ads510 —
    Ah! A new “pop” friend! I think it is a Midwestern thing — but why? Kansas doesn’t seem to be a “pop” state but Ohio seems to be and now you say Indiana is as well. Iowa is certainly a “pop” place.
    Yeah, Coke is big in the South. Atlanta runs Coke into all homes as the water supply!

  6. “Pop” is a southwest Missouri thing, too — that’s where I went to grade school. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were places in Kansas that used it, as I didn’t live far from the border.
    I say “soda” myself — I consider myself from the West. πŸ™‚

  7. I lived in northwest Pennsylvania & it’s “pop” here, too. I lived in Bakersfield, Calif., for a while. It’s “soda” there. So, I guess it’s what part of a state you’re in.

  8. Anne!
    It’s so interesting that in Northwest Pennsylvania it is “pop” while just over there in South Jersey it’s still “soda.” Wacky!
    I wonder if it’s pop or soda in Philly?
    I think we should all agree to call it “pop” from now on and then it would be settled. πŸ™‚

  9. NO! πŸ™‚
    A moonpie is a snack with a marshmallowy concoction stuffed between two graham cracker-like cookies, and the whole sandwich is dipped in chocolate.
    Actually, I’m not big on them, but the southern tradition is to eat a moonpie and drink an RC cola, which someone down here might call a Coke! πŸ˜‰

  10. I’m originally from Illinois, outside of Chicago, and it’s 100% “pop”. I also lived in Indiana and Ohio, again, “pop”. Now I live in North Florida and it’s “soda” or “Coke”. That last bit always gets me… someone asks you if you want a coke, then they ask you what kind do you want when you say yes (and they don’t mean diet or cherry). I work with middle school and high school students, and I don’t think I have a single ally in this debate. They’ve been on my case for saying “pop” for months now.

  11. Tree – I’m glad you’re a good “pop” freak like me. πŸ™‚ You now have a list of allies! I’ve never heard “Coke” as a generic term for “pop” before today so that has been fascinating.
    My Darling Carla! – Ah, yes, but can you toast a moonpie? Bwa-haa-harr! πŸ™‚

  12. Have you tried to order a sandwich on two long pieces of bread yet? I write it that way because, after living in different states, I’ve found I was started at in disbelief if I tried to order a hoagie in Chicago, or a grinder in Florida, or a sub in West Virginia.
    Well, this New Yorker would have known what you were asking for. I’d give you a pop without the insult πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Terri —
    Now you’re opening a rather interesting new bread-related topic!
    Here in Jersey City they do call a Midwestern hoagie “long bread” and, strangely enough, it was just a couple of weeks ago when I first heard that term and then begrudgingly agreed to it and used it in a sentence.
    I ordered a sandwich (just looking for some fresh veggies between two pieces of untoasted bread, really) and the woman at the deli said all she had left was “long bread.”
    My look must have surprised her because, from behind the counter, she held up what we know as a “hoagie roll” and I nodded at her and said, “yes, long bread will be fine.” πŸ™‚
    I have since used that Ò€œlong breadÒ€ term in several other delis in the Jersey City area and have no problems at all getting what I want without further clarification.

  14. Well, if we’re going to expand into food… πŸ™‚
    Here in the south, we consider chili to be topping for hot dogs. It consists of hamburger, ketchup and a ton of chili and onion powder. But I know that in other areas of the country, chili is more the soup-type substance with beans and vegetables.
    Oh, and if I were going to toast a moonpie, you better believe it’d be in a toaster oven! πŸ˜‰

  15. Hi Carla —
    Ooo! Chili! I love it! We put it on hot dogs but we also eat it like a chunky soup. Would you ever “eat a bowl of chili” or would that just be too much for what you are describing?
    Do you have Wendy’s and Burger King down thar? If so, can you order chili from them that comes in a bowl that you eat with a spoon or do they call it something else or is it just not a menu option?

  16. Well, in cooler weather, I usually make chili beans (that’s how I refer to it) once a week, but I don’t eat just a bowl of hamburger meat. It’s gotta have beans, tomatoes, onions – all the good stuff.
    And we do have Wendy’s and Burger King down har. πŸ™‚ I love Wendy’s chili, but I’ve never tried Burger King’s – although I make a mean pot of chili beans if I do say so myself.

  17. Welp, I love chili too, Carla! Chili, with all the good stuff, is the perfect food.
    I don’t eat meat, but my friends tell me the new Burger King chili is awfully good.
    When I was eating meat, the Wendy’s chili was awfully good.
    When you’re trying to meet protein goals quickly, a small bowl of veggie chili can’t be beat. It’s a great way to eat a lot of beans if you don’t like them plain. πŸ™‚

  18. I remember when one of the nurses came down from Michigan and asked one of the kids if he wanted a pop and the kid immediately cringed back in his bed and said he didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t want to get smacked lol She learned really quick to call it a soda πŸ˜‰

  19. Here’s another food debate: the peanut butter and banana sandwich. Some spread the peanut butter on the bread and then slice the bananas over it. Others, including myself πŸ™‚ , take the banana, smash it up and stir it with a spoonful of peanut butter until it’s combined to a spreading consistency.
    Throw in a few cheesie poofs and an ice-cold Pepsi and you have a fabulous treat! πŸ™‚

  20. Down here in Mississippi, a pop is the sound makes when your balloon bursts. We just call everything a Ò€œcoke,Ò€ probably because Coca-cola was first bottled here. I dunno.

  21. I have lived in the Carolinas almost all of my life (stints in CA and VA excepted – gotta love the Marines). I can’t speak for everyone -but I order a soda… and when I want a Pepsi – I say PEPSI. If they say “We’ve got Coke.” then I have to settle. As Carla pointed out, though disloyally πŸ˜€ Pepsi is the taste born in the Carolinas! (though I was born in Idaho, so I’m not a real southerner)

  22. Hey Blest! — Yes, being specific always helps, but in Nebraska, at least, if you ask for a pop it already means you want a Pepsi. πŸ™‚
    hterry! — I have no idea what fluff is, but I bet it comes from moonpies! πŸ™‚

  23. Hi hterry —
    Nope, never had fluff! I don’t understand why you’d want marshmallow in a jar instead of in the easy-to-carry self-contained container that it comes born in. πŸ™‚
    In Nebraska we have steak and taters. That’s basically what I was raised on for many years so all these fancy desserts you all are coming up with are blowin’ my mind here!

  24. What an interesting thread! Half of my family lives in Colorado, so I’m used to hearing the term “pop” as a reference to Coke or Pepsi. What’s strange to me is that they call wallets “billfolds.” Whenever a cousin makes a reference to the later, it takes me a moment to realize what she is talking about.
    I’ve gotten used to generalizing softdrinks as Coke. Whenever I go to a restaurant, that is what I’ll ask for. On occasion, the server will tell me that they have Pepsi, which is even better.

  25. hterry!
    I think we need a new map of America that pinpoints “billfolds” and “wallets” and “purses” and “man purses” and “underwear” and “privates protectors.”
    I’ve never seen moonpies or Fluff in any of my grocery stores! πŸ™‚

  26. Well well well, I was born in Nebraska too, in Rushville, NE in the panhandle. We always called it pop, still do. And Dinner is at noon, and supper is in the evening after the chores were done! OH and mountain oysters, didn’t come out of the ocean — they came off of the bull calves and the bull calves were then steers — if you catch my drift, and they are a delicacy!
    LOVE IT!
    My son is in NYC right now, I wonder how he is getting along asking for a beverage??

  27. As a life-long Bostonian, carbonated beverages are always “soda”, unless you are very old, in which case they may be “tonic”. “Pop” is my father, not a drink. And fluffernutters (peanut butter and fluff sandwiches) are wicked good!