Thursday, June 20, 2013

Soda, Pop and Sense of Place

The word we used for carbonated beverages was “pop” where I was born and spent my early years in the Yellowstone nook of Idaho on a ranch homesteaded by my great-grandparents and grandparents.

It was also the term used for sugary drinks on the Wyoming side of the Tetons and in central and northern Idaho, Montana and Washington.

But fifty miles below us where the north and south forks join to form the mighty Snake River to carve a plain across southern Idaho, the term people used more frequently was “soda,” as it was in Utah.  On the cusp, the combined use of “soda pop” took precedence.

My adopted home of North Carolina which is where Pepsi Cola was born is similarly divided but according to researchers at North Carolina State University (click here or on the image to enlarge,) the term soda is predominant across the foothill and coastal regions.

It gives way to “coke” in the central and southwestern mountains here as it does throughout much of the south, regardless of whether the drink is Cheerwine, which also originates from North Carolina, or Coca Cola which originated in Georgia.

Sometimes use will differentiate a specific urban area from its surrounding state and region, as the use of “soda” vs. “pop” does around Milwaukee and St. Louis.  I’ll bet at the metro edges, the words are combined.

The dialectic analysis and mapping also helped clarify where “you guys” is a reference, such as in my native Idaho vs. “y’all and you all” in North Carolina.  Or “kitty-corner” where I grew up vs. “catty-corner” where I now live.

I was surprised when I came to North Carolina to read about dialects  used at the turn of nineteenth century that sounded similar to those of my grandparents and some of my aunts and uncles in Idaho, where “corn” came out as “carn” and “horse as harse.”

Then I remembered a history of the south class in college that traced accents used here with origins from Europe and how the pronunciation of some works migrated with pioneers such as my ancestors into the American west.

Several of my paternal and maternal grandparents, while second generation westerners, had grandparents and great-grandparents who migrated to the Intermountain west from Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia.

In reverse, although schooled in the flat American west dialect of my parents, according to my family out west, I have picked up a North Carolina way of pronouncing many words.

I haven't imbibed "pop" more than once or twice a year for many decades now but when I did drink it regularly, it was the term for Dr. Pepper.  It is the oldest of the major types of “pop” which originated half way between Dallas and Austin, Texas and was originally known as a “Waco.”

Dialect is not only part of our identity, it is a part of unique sense of place.

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