Separated by a common beverage

Via #DailyPost

“We really have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”  — Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost.

        I’m not sure whether to sympathize or empathize with Oscar Wilde. Or maybe it should be sympathise or empathise. His clever phrase has been widely attributed to George Bernard Shaw, who already boasted plenty of bon mots of his own. Since none of my witty remarks have been attributed to anyone else, I suppose I can only sympathize, not actually having been in his sizable shoes. (Or is it sisable?)
I can empathize with writers who spend time searching for the right word only to have it dismissed or misunderstood by those with less sensitivity for language. My translation clients sometimes ask me to produce a translation in UK English, and when I explain that I’m a US linguist, the client says “Just use UK spellcheck.” My text is then passed on to an editor who changes “while” to “whilst,” “vacation” to “holiday” and “retired people” to “pensioners.”
Regional language differences in the U.S. can be just as significant. Just try getting a fizzy drink on a cross-country drive; it’s “pop” in Colorado where I was raised, “soda” in Washington DC, “tonic” in Massachusetts, and “soda pop” or “co-cola” in Virginia and the deeper south. Keep driving south from Arizona, and if you need a straw, you can get a “popote” in Mexico, a “pajita” in El Salvador or a “pitillo” in South America.

What are soft drinks called where you live?



  1. In Canada, it is pretty much universally “pop”. The only time soda is used is when your are referring to Club Soda. But there are many different dialects. Newfoundland almost has a language all of its own. In Canada, a Hoodie is one that has variable names, some places it is called an Kangaroo and in Saskatchewan it is called a Bunnyhug…Language is so fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The more I write, the more often I come up against these problems… and in the oddest contexts too sometimes. And that is without regional variations and dialects. It can be a minefield, especially online where most inbuilt spellchecks are set automatically to US English, yet my vocabulary is the UK variety.


  3. I have lived all over, but here are a few: Richmond, VA was soda, Upstate NY was pop and here in TN, no matter the flavor, it’s all “coke.” Do not even get me started on sandwiches as sub, gyro, grinder…!

    Liked by 1 person

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