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Depending on where you go in the world, some people will refer to a carbonated beverage as "soda" while others choose to use the term "pop." For example, "Can I get you a soda" vs. "Can I get you a pop." I assume they both came from "soda pop" and were shortened at some point. My question is if one is considered more correct or if they are both on equal footing. Also, are there certain parts of the US where it is just plain bad English to use one or the other?

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There's no country outside the USA that speaks English ? –  mP01 Apr 27 '11 at 11:34
    
My experience has been that "soda" is a counting noun but "pop" is a mass noun. "A pop" sounds weird to me (and I live in a "pop" region). –  Monica Cellio Jul 3 '11 at 21:45
    
@mP01: I have re-tagged the question accordingly, as [american-english]. After all, everyone is free to limit his questions on this site only to a certain variety of English. –  RegDwigнt Jul 15 '11 at 19:52
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8 Answers

up vote 28 down vote accepted

It's completely regional. You will find, in addition to "soda" and "pop," such terms as "soft drink," "coke" and "tonic." Note that "coke" in this instance is used generically to indicate any fizzy soft drink.

"Do you want a coke?" "Sure, thanks." "OK, what kind? We have Sprite, Coke, Diet..."

Here's a map that breaks down some of the regional variation: Pop vs Soda Map

enter image description here

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+1 For the awesome map. –  Ben Dec 16 '10 at 20:16
    
Origin of the map with some more stats popvssoda.com:2998 –  Mark Dec 18 '10 at 15:14
    
I remember hearing "tonic" in Boston –  GEdgar Jul 3 '11 at 21:35
    
Great map. A map covering the whole English-speaking world would be better. Where I come from nobody says "pop" or "soda" or "coke". –  hippietrail Jul 4 '11 at 9:04
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@GEdgar: The word in Boston indeed used to be "tonic". Now, it's "soda", just like the rest of the Northeast. –  Peter Shor Nov 17 '12 at 14:54
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The preferred use of Soda/ Coke /Pop is a regional difference, but it is not an issue of correctness. That being said, using the non-preferred variant in a region can cause communications failures. Being from the south, I initially used Coke during trips north and occasionally ended up receiving Coca-Cola Classic when I was really look for a listing of available carbonated beverages.

If you're looking for a generic solution that will be understood, I believe soft drinks is the most common term on menus and the like, at least in the US, although certain non-carbonated beverages that I wouldn't describe as a soda may also fall under that heading, e.g. lemonade.

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According to legend, Coca Cola has had to defend its trademark on "Coke" from becoming lost due to this common usage. So they'd send people around to restaurants to ask for a "Coke", and if they were offered something else, threaten them with a lawsuit. –  Bob Murphy Dec 17 '10 at 1:32
    
There are other regionalisms like this. The machine where you press a button and it squirts up water that you drink is variously called "water fountain", "water cooler", "bubbler", or "oasis" in different areas. In most of the US, if you want a sweet drink made of milk and ice cream run through a blender, you ask for a "milkshake" - except around Boston, where it's a "frappe". –  Bob Murphy Dec 17 '10 at 1:35
    
The idea that lemonade is "non-carbonated" sounds odd to my Irish ears. Lemonade (whether white or red) is definitely a fizzy drink over here. –  TRiG Sep 5 '11 at 23:52
    
@TRiG North American lemonade is more like what you would call lemon squash. –  tchrist Nov 17 '12 at 13:59
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According to phrasefinder

A soda in the US is called a pop in Canada.
In parts of the US it's called pop, not soda.
In some areas soda is also called tonic.

In the UK, we'd be most likely to refer to it as a fizzy drink.
Soda we reserve exclusively to refer to unflavoured carbonated water

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I was going to say, we almost always call them either "fizzy drinks", or "soft drinks"; never ever pop, or soda. The only time soda is used for a drink in the UK is for soda water when used as a mixer. –  Orbling Apr 27 '11 at 4:32
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Actually my auntie (in deepest Herefordshire) always distinguished between "pop" for fizzy drinks and "squash" for everything else, even if it wasn't something you diluted. Perhaps it's a generational thing as well as a regional thing. –  user1579 Apr 28 '11 at 1:55
    
In Australia we call them "soft drinks" but on menus in places that also serve alcohol "soft drinks" will also refer to all non alcoholic beverages except perhaps hot drinks. –  hippietrail Jul 4 '11 at 9:08
    
@hippietrail If I recall correctly, that's because "soft drink" originated as an antonym of "hard liquor." –  user867 Oct 18 '12 at 5:50
    
@user867: I believe that's the case yes. –  hippietrail Oct 18 '12 at 6:07
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Unless you are in Scotland, at which point it is juice, even if it has never seen a fruit in its chemical factory sourced life.

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I was told that in Scotland (or at least Dundee...) the name "diluting juice" is used to refer to fruit drinks such as Ribena or Kia-Ora that you dilute with water before drinking. –  Richard Everett Apr 27 '11 at 11:42
    
True indeed for Scotland, 'tis known everywhere else in the UK as "squash". –  funkybro Jun 24 '11 at 15:10
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The drinks that come in a concentrate and must be diluted with water are in Australia everywhere called "cordial". –  hippietrail Jul 4 '11 at 9:05
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Or Ginger! On the West Coast of Scotland they quite often call any fizzy drink ginger (even though they rarely drink ginger ale/beer...)

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Here in the deep South (U.S.) it was always "coke" for all soft drinks. This may seem odd, but it's much like saying "Kleenex" for a tissue or "Xerox" to mean copy. But I rarely use the term generically any more nor do I hear it used that way much. I also do not hear the alternatives "soda" and certainly not "pop".

So how do we refer to them? Truth be told we just don't that often. There are so many different carbonated beverages available now we tend to say: "what would you like to drink, I have Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper...." Or even "would you like a Coke or something?" When forced to differentiate between carbonated and non-carbonated drinks I - and it seems many I know - are likely to say "soft drinks" or "carbonated drinks". You might hear someone say, "I quit drinking cokes because of my stomach" and all soft drinks are implied but they will primarily be drinkers of the brand Coke or else they wouldn't have said it that way. Times they are a-changin'

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No one has yet mentioned the Irish word, mineral. This is not class-marked in Ireland. It's used in all areas, including the prerecorded bilingual announcements on trains about the contents of the food trolley. In my British/Irish idiolect, I'm more likely to say fizzy drink.

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In the UK "soda" means carbonated water (Or a basic chemical). "Pop" used to be used to refer to fizzy drinks, but is dwindling away. If you hear it, it will be used to ask for lemonade as a mixer.

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