Pop Goes the Linguist

June 22, 2013
Posted by Jay Livingston

In the Pittsburgh of my youth, soft drinks were “pop” or sometimes “soda pop.”  In college, I found myself among New Yorkers, who ordered a “soda” and made fun of the native Bostonians who called it “tonic” (pronounced “tawnic”)

A few weeks ago, this linguistic map* was making the rounds of the Internet.  It confirms my own impression (though it omits the tonic). 

Today I went to the Yankees-Rays** game, where I saw this.

“Pop” in the Bronx?  I am at a loss to even guess how this word choice might have happened. The mad men with the Pepsi account are probably New Yorkers.  The audience, even if this was today’s national TV game, would be heavily from New York and Florida, both in soda territory. Frankly, I'm puzzled.


* The map is from a set created by Joshua Katz   from survey data gathered Bert Vaux. You can see all 22 maps here.

** The team was originally the Devil Rays.  I can find no confirmation for the idea that the cause of this casting out of devils was pressure from religious conservatives.  The owner, Stuart Sternberg, explained the new name “We are now the ‘Rays’ – a beacon that radiates throughout Tampa Bay and across the entire state of Florida.”  To my own ear, a team of Rays suggests not a beacon but instead a line-up might with stars like Bradbury, Kurzweil, Charles, and others.

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