‘Soda, pop, or coke’ and more


If you thought the “soda, pop, or coke” map was interesting, you owe it to yourself to check out “Beyond ‘Soda, Pop, or Coke,‘” a project by Joshua Katz at North Carolina State University.

Katz has compiled oodles of statistics on regional dialects and differences across the US and provided maps for each breakdown. Most interesting are the 122 questions about pronunciation and usage, with a map illustrating the answers for each. A few examples, with my take on each (I lived most of my life in Oklahoma City):

  • How do you pronounce “aunt”? (“ant”)
  • “Trash can” or “garbage can”?  (usually “trash can”)
  • How do you pronounce “pecan”? (“pick-AHN”)
  • How do you pronounce the second vowel in “pajamas”? (as in “father”)
  • What do you call the end of a loaf of bread? (“heel”)
  • What do you say when you want to lay claim to the front seat of a car? (I assume this always means claiming the right front seat. I used to say “shotgun.” When I was a kid, it was “dibs.” And frankly, as a mature adult, I don’t recall having overtly claimed the front seat in many, many years.)
  • Do you cut or mow the lawn or grass? (If I still did it, I would “mow the lawn”)
  • Do you pass in homework or hand in homework? (I have to complain about this one, because although I sometimes “handed in” my homework, I usually “turned it in,” and that wasn’t one of the options.)
  • What do you call the paper container in which you might bring home items you bought at the store? (I grew up saying “sack,” but have lived so many places that say “bag” that I now have a bit of hesitation in saying either. “Bag” usually wins, but it has never felt completely natural.)
  • Which of these terms do you call the small road parallel to the highway? (I usually say “frontage road,” not “service road.” I don’t say “access road” unless there’s an actual access ramp present.)
  • What word(s) do you use to address a group of two of more people? (For me this depends a lot on the situation. If very casual, I’m likely to say “you guys.” More formally, I’d say either “you all” or “you.” I’ve never used the stereotypically Southern “y’all.”)

I leave it to you to explore this fascinating study and its many maps and breakdowns.

As to the question in the map above, I’ve always referred to “tp’ing” houses. And might have even done it once or twice …



17 thoughts on “‘Soda, pop, or coke’ and more

    1. Oh what a wonderful compilation! Especially with the inclusion of YouTube links so you can actually hear lots of examples. All the pronunciation guides with the diacriticals and everything just give me a headache, and I give up on them long before I’ve figured out what the spoken word might sound like. My only question is do the examples represent people who were actually raised in that area? So many people in our very mobile society are transplants.

  1. What fun!
    Ya’ll is only for tourists…”you” mainly or “you guys” or “youse guys” (when being silly)
    It’s “wrap” the house locally…my mother’s generation said “TP”
    Sometimes I say “side road” or “frontage”
    Mow, heel, mow, didbs, shotgun….we seem to say mostly things the same.
    We used to laugh at one timid young girl cousin that drawled out “put it in a saaaaaaaaack” so long and tiny voiced. She’s now in Nevaaaaada.

    1. You and I are from the same part of the country, more or less, so I’d expect a lot of similarities (though I can guarantee a lot of Okies turn up their noses at a typical Texas drawl (if there is such a thing). Considering Oklahoma’s “Little Dixie,” I’d say Okies best not be poking fun at anyone.

      Never heard “wrap” the house. It’s been strictly “tp” since I was a teen. “Y’all” makes me cringe; I can hear Paula Deen every time I see it in print. She’s so fake she gives Southerners a bad name. “Youse guys” to me is Brooklyn through and through; also makes me cringe.

      1. West Texas is a whole different lingo and dialect.
        Paula also makes me cringe
        Youse guys is definitely Brooklyn – for effect only locally…or to make “newcomers” feel more at home..both our states are the friendly sort?

  2. I’m like you in all but one of these, PT. Probably because I grew up just north of you, in Kansas. Exception: p’ jam uz (second vowel as in “at”)

    I think they missed a good one in their survey, though. (Or did I miss it?) What do you call a large, cushioned piece of furniture on which three or more people can sit? “Sofa” is my preference.

    1. Although I’ve always pronounced “pajamas” with a long “a,” I say “jammies” just as you would. Or sometimes just “pj’s.”

      I think I’ve picked up “sofa” by hearing it so much as an adult. I’m pretty sure I grew up saying “couch” most of the time. For me it’s a little like the “bag” vs. “sack” thing; I tend to do a little mental check before I choose my word, almost like I’m trying to decide which would sound most natural to my listener. It’s the mental gymnastics of a truly shy, self-conscious individual, I suspect.

    1. It’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about American English, and I think many of the questions were poorly written. Interesting, nonetheless.

  3. Ant: “ant”
    Trash vs garbage: used to be trash, but now I say garbage. Didn’t realize I had switched until now.
    Pecan: “pee-con”
    Pajamas: jam
    Bread: Heel. What else is there?
    Grass vs lawn: Right now, neither. It’s all dirt. But I used to mow the lawn when I had grass.
    Pass vs hand: Actually, I turned in my homework.
    Grocery bag.
    Frontage Road.
    Like you said, depends on the situation. But I am mindful never to say “ya’ll.” Not even “you all.” “You guys” is good. A simple “hey everyone.” “yo” (Vinnie Barbarino)

    Good one. Enjoyed this post. I drink Coke, but ask someone if they want a soda.

... and that's my two cents