Here's Why Southerners Refer To All Soft Drinks As 'Coke'

There's a rationale—sort of—behind what we call our beverages.

The whole soda vs. pop vs. coke debate is bigger than any of us. And this battle over regional words rages on. Offer a Texan "pop," and he might throw his hat at you and the horse you rode up on. Why do we call our soda pop coke? Native Texans (like most native Southerners) call all soft drinks "coke"—a generic use of Coke, as in Coca-Cola, invented in Atlanta. Ever since we popped the first top on that refreshing Georgia sipper, we've been loyal to the Coke brand, even slapping it on other drinks like Sprite and Dr. Pepper. Hence, you'll sometimes hear an only-in-the-South exchange that goes like this:

coca cola sign
Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Getty Images

"You want a coke?"


"What kind can I get you?"

Soda-Speak By The Numbers

You can actually study the science behind our beverage speak. Cartographer, Alan McConchie, began collecting data on who says what and where and used it to create a color-coded map. To this very day, you can go there and answer McConchie's burning question: "What generic word do you use to describe carbonated soft drinks?" The results are reflected on the map, with pink the designated "coke" color. The South is mighty pink.

We've even rubbed off on some non-Southern neighbors, casting our rosy hue on states like Indiana and New Mexico. According to the map, the 'pop' people are mainly concentrated in the Midwest and Northwest, while the 'soda' speakers live in the Northeast, Southwest, and pockets in between. Most Southerners, meanwhile, tend to call any soft drink a 'Coke,' no matter what brand they're sipping." (Aside: There appears to be a soda pocket in St. Louis, even though it's deep in pop territory.)

Check out some of McConchie's Southern numbers:

For Kentucky, 2,248 out of 4,520 respondents are in Camp Coke. For Georgia, it's 4,933 out of 6,908. Texas? That would be 14,494 out of 20,574. We do not, as a people, appear to be terribly divided on our beverage verbiage.

So if you're a Northern tourist passing through the South, and somebody offers you a coke, just remember—your options are wide open.

What could be more Southern than a Coke? Maybe a fluffy, golden homemade biscuit, fresh out of the oven. And maybe a little dollop of Mama's blackberry jam.

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  1. Pop vs. Soda Stats. Kentucky.

  2. Pop vs. Soda Stats. Georgia.

  3. Pop vs. Soda Stats. Texas.

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