Do You Say Coke, Pop, or Soda?

Quick Quiz! Where might you hear the following conversation? Waitress: "What would you like to drink, honey?" Customer: "I'll have a coke." Waitress: "What kind?" Customer: "Diet Pepsi."

If you answered somewhere between Texas and Georgia, you would be correct! To those of us not from that area, it sounds crazy/confusing that they call all soft drinks a "coke" (even if they're not a Coca-Cola coke). But, of course, people from that area might have similar thoughts when they hear someone call it a "pop" or a "soda."

In order to be a savvy traveler or impress your linguist friends, this is a topic you need to master. And what better way to get a grasp on this topic than to plot the data on a map! One such map was shared by many news sites such as NPR a few years ago. It was a very interesting map, and after studying it, I found that certain regions of the country had fairly strong preferences for calling soft drinks by different names. And North Carolina, where I live, was a bit of a mixed-bag when it comes to preferences, which is probably why I was familiar with all the names.

Although the map was interesting, there were several problems (or opportunities for improvement) that jumped out at me.

  • The green background was similar to some of the gradient shades used in the map.
  • The purple color used for "No Data" was very similar to the dark blue used for "80-100% pop", and was causing some visual deception in the Great Plains states (such as North Dakota through Kansas).
  • The legend was sorted such that the smallest values were at the top, and the largest ones were at the bottom (which isn't as intuitive as the other way around).
  • The map was a static image, with no mouse-over text, so it was impossible to see the exact values for each county.
  • There were too many colors to mentally grasp and keep track of.
  • And in general, the map seemed 'busy'.

So I decided to create my own map, and see if I could make a few improvements. I found the raw data for each state, and copy and pasted the tables into a spreadsheet. I imported the spreadsheet into SAS, massaged and analyzed the data a bit, and came up with the following map. (Click through this link to see the full-sized version of this map. Here's the full code, if you'd like to see all the details.)

In general, I think my map is less cluttered, and easier to quickly understand. Below is a list of specific changes I made.

  • Eliminated the background color.
  • Eliminated the legend color for 'Other' and 'No Data'.
  • Sorted the legend such that the maximum percentages are at the top.
  • Eliminated some text, and made the footnotes a lighter gray color.
  • Also, if you click this link, you can see the interactive version, with mouse-over text for each county, so you can see the county name and data details.

What do you call soft drinks where you live? Do you use one of the main three names in this map, or some other name? And what's your favorite soft drink? My favorite is "Inca Cola" (made with the recipe they use in Peru, with real sugar, etc, That's the best!).

[Read the original blog on the SAS Learning Post here.]

Robert Allison, The Graph Guy!, SAS

Robert Allison has worked at SAS for more than 20 years and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in computer science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from North Carolina State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book calledSAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics.

Let's Analyze Trump's Tweets

How often does US President Donald Trump tweet? Here's a data visualization.

What's the Most Likely Location for Amazon's HQ2?

Where should Amazon locate its second headquarters? CNBC put together a report card rating several locations. Here's an improved data visualization of that scoring.

Re: Cherry Coke
  • 11/6/2017 7:41:18 AM

Apparently some countries use cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup and thus a preference for that particular taste. I grew up in Ohio where all was "pop." For some reason I felt that was a silly name and always said "coke." Then moving to the South found it's now soda which also seem peculiar to me and I never used that word either.

Re: Regional Terms Ring Familiar
  • 11/5/2017 4:59:43 PM

Facinating story of soda!

It would be great to learn more about the standardization of language. I'm sure you're right about media influence on the most secluded areas. I imagne a number of regional terms have died to a standard usage.

Re: Regional Terms Ring Familiar
  • 11/3/2017 9:22:18 AM

As the saying goes, "Another country heard from..." In my case that country is eastern New England. What we called those beverages growing up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire isn't in the graphic. "Tonic" was the catchall term. For years that was one of the ways that New Yorkers would make fun of us, saying we were drinking hair tonic.

The irony is that 1) Nobody uses hair tonic any more, and 2)Almost nobody in New England still calls a Coke or Pepsi "tonic."

I attribute the death of "tonic" as a beverage term to the growth of mass media and the fact that as a society we've all gone a bit more global, or at least national, in our language. In my region the generic beverage term is either "soda" or "coke" probably because that's what we hear through TV and movies. It looks like "pop" is still holding on, but I'll bet that it shows signs of fading in the coming generations.

I could be fun to think about other parts of our parochial languages that have become more standardized because of the influence of mass media.

Re: From childhood
  • 11/2/2017 9:35:21 AM

Lyndon, I do remember egg cream, didn't care for it either. But had friends that would go crazy over it. There wasn't a rigid recipe for making it so an egg can or would be added for texture and flavor. Chocolate syrup was also an add-on option for a nickel. I've seen it hand whipped and machine whipped. I believe that there's a southern connection in its origin because most that I've known to like it had some southern link.

Re: From childhood
  • 11/2/2017 9:19:10 AM

@Lyndon_Henry I think you'd have to be a New Yorker with some nostalgic leanings to even think of an egg cream today. I've heard of it but don't see it being on offer in most places. Like the rest of the country, New Yorkers likely go in for fancy coffees rather than soda and ice cream drinks. And we wouldn't dream of saying "pop." 

Re: From childhood
  • 11/1/2017 11:08:31 PM


Rbaz writes

I grew up in Brooklyn and frequented the corner soda shops. But the downside of the soda fountain dispensing was not uniform, so some had a higher ratio of syrup to seltzer than others.

... Which brings back my own memories of my days in New York City. Most of the time I worked in the Bronx. Several times I went with co-workers over break or lunch to a cafe or coffee shop down the street from our worksite.

I would usually get a cup of coffee, but some of my companions would order an "egg cream", a kind of fizzy sweet concoction which however seemed to contain neither eggs nor cream. It had chocolate, something fizzy (maybe seltzer), and I think perhaps a dash of milk. It was served in something like an ice cream soda-type glass. I've never been able to understand its appeal.

I'm using the past tense, but it's probably still a favorite beverage of New Yorkers today, for all I know ...


The Last Frontier
  • 11/1/2017 12:36:31 PM

I get that geographically Alaska is the largest state; still the regional differences showing up there are pretty fascinating. That's the stuff of a great cultural anthropology thesis!

Re: Cherry Coke
  • 11/1/2017 12:32:40 PM

Thanks for mentioning Mexican Coke, impactnow, which has a huge fan base here in southern California and, I suspect, in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Whudda thunk cola could get so specialized?

I was a pop guy...
  • 11/1/2017 12:29:47 PM

I was a pop guy from Denver til I moved to the East Coast and tired of the quizzical looks I got when I used that term. Now that I live in California, I happily consume my artisanally fermented sparkling water beverages, which most people just call kombucha. 

Re: Cherry Coke
  • 10/31/2017 10:10:39 PM

impactnow, I have to admit it's been like 15 years since I was last at the World of Coke. I've heard from people who have been there recently, however, that the "all you can drink" display still exists, though I don't know what is featured there these days. You should go and find out ; )

Page 1 / 4   >   >>