If You’ve Got a Hoagie and a Soda, You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

It is SODAIt figures that I would choose to write about American dialect differences — “soda” v. “pop” — just after I’d given up drinking that unnaturally sweet, phosphoric acid-laden ambrosia. I’m terribly addicted to the stuff, to the point that I kept bottles in brown paper bags to avoid my children’s intervention efforts (ever since a dentist told them of its evils, they have lectured us about soda every day).*

So, in order to have an image for this post without lifting it from someone else, I broke down and bought one — well, a bunch for variety’s sake. Oh, the compromises we make for blogging. 😉

Anyway, this drink — whatever you call it — represents a linguistic schism in the United States. Some of us call this sweetened carbonated beverage a “soda,” while others call it “pop” or “Coke.” In the Deep South, it’s all “Coke,” even if it’s Pepsi.

These linguistic differences in the United States may come as a surprise to some. As author Roy McCarthy of Jersey** noted in a comment to my post on his book, “Strangely, perhaps, we [on the other side of the Pond] tend to lump every USA accent as ‘American’ and we don’t realise that, of course, you must have many variances.”

Indeed, there are many varieties of American English, and the maps (produced by Joshua Katz and based on the data of Dr. Bert Vaux) that spread on the Internet earlier this month highlight some of the differences.

I was thrilled to learn that my city is unique when it comes to our word for “a long sandwich that contains cold cuts”: IT’S A HOAGIE! I don’t really have a “Philly accent” — my parents are from elsewhere — but I do eat hoagies. (Noting the other major city that rebels against the tyranny of the “sub,” my husband says, “People around New Orleans don’t bother with subs or hoagies, because they have something much better: a po-boy, preferably with fried seafood and Remoulade sauce.”)

Linguistic differences are important for authors to note when writing novels, particularly if they are writing about a place they’ve never called home. Molly of Wrapped Up In Books commented on one of my previous posts that she “like[s] novels with a sense of ‘place’,” and so do I. An author’s description of the setting and the character’s activities contribute to a believable sense of “place,” and the characters’ language in the dialogue also matters. So, a Philly native wouldn’t drink water from a “bubbler,” wouldn’t think it’s normal to buy liquor from a drive through, and wouldn’t refer to a certain freshwater crustacean as “crawfish.” We eat “crayfish,” much to the dismay of my Mississippi-raised husband (who, oddly enough, does not have a Southern accent).

A Philly-based character would also eat a hoagie and drink a soda for lunch, unless s/he prefers healthier options than authentic Philadelphia cuisine typically provides (we’re also home to scrapple and cheesesteaks).

How about where you live? What do you call “a long sandwich that contains cold cuts” and a “sweetened carbonated beverage”?

*My kids are right. Soda is disgusting, a fact I was reminded about last year when Pepsi Co’s defense to a man’s lawsuit alleging he found a rodent in his Mountain Dew was that the beverage, to quote Max at Litigation and Trial, “is so caustic it will turn the mouse into mush.”

**Jersey, Channel Islands. If Roy were from New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philly, then he might say “hoagie” and “soda,” too.

55 thoughts on “If You’ve Got a Hoagie and a Soda, You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

  1. Pingback: Philadelphia: A Perpetual Punching Bag | The Misfortune Of Knowing

  2. I’m originally from Singapore and subs aren’t all that a thing but I guess with the more recent proliferation of Subway branches, people would call it a sub. Or Subway sandwich.

    As for the drink, I grew up hearing it called ‘soft drink’.

    Fascinating post btw!

    1. I hadn’t thought about the impact of Subway (the chain restaurant) on language. It makes sense that it would increase the use of “sub.” In my area, where we say “hoagie” for that type of sandwich, I don’t often hear people calling even what they purchase from Subway “subs.” I usually hear, “subway sandwiches.”

  3. I’m from TX and it’s a sub and a soda. The only people around here that say coke for soda are hispanics and people from out of state. They also sometimes say diet instead of diet coke, which was extremely annoying when I worked in a restaurant which served, of course, a myriad of diet sodas and other drinks.

    1. Interesting. Well, each state is large (particularly Texas!), and population changes will most certainly have an impact on the different dialects there. I imagine Texas has a lot of diversity in language. Thanks for the comment!

    1. I remember an awkward exchange the last time I was in Texas when they asked if I wanted a coke, and I all I said was “yes, diet.” I had known “Coke” meant more than one type of soda, but I had forgotten.

      1. Ha! Yeah, I could see that causing a stumble. And, of course, it’s often follwed by “Diet Pepsi OK?” I almost feel like Pepsi should market that as a product: “Diet Pepsi OK.”

  4. I found you on Day 4 of my Summer Reading Challenge. I was drawn in by your post on Dinosaurs and then when I saw the word “hoagie” in the title, I knew I had to read this post! I lived in Philadelphia for years, but grew up and currently live in South Jersey, the land of jug handles (how we make a left hand turn in New Jersey), circles (also known as roundabouts and rotaries) and, in my neck of the woods, The City is Philadelphia. 🙂 This is such a fascinating topic – especially the maps!

  5. I am also a fan of novels that portray a strong and accurate sense of place.

    Out West a variety of terms are used, but I think the preferences are for “hero,” “deli sandwich,” or plain ‘ole “sandwich.” I generally hear “soda” much more than “pop,” but Portlanders are generally ingredient conscious, so one must also distinguish whether the soda is “cane soda” or sweetened with refined sugar or a derivative thereof.

  6. Baguette and a Coke 🙂 I think that’s fairly common throughout Britain but it would be ‘sub’ in Ireland.
    Fascinating to read your commenters and about the regional variations in language, dialect and accent in the US. Certainly 60 years of television seems to have done little to homogenise our speech. It shows how much more influential are our immediate family and friends with whom we interact.

    1. Baguette and Coke? Well, you’re definitely not from NEW Jersey! With “Coke,” though, you have something in common with the American South. How does Jersey English differ from other UK dialects?

      1. Jersey has a very distinctive accent – it has been described as not unlike South African. It’s widely spoken by native Jersey people but not these days by the youngsters. I guess it will die out more or less with a couple of generations.

        The Jersey language (Jerriais) was in common usage 100 years ago but is now kept alive by only a few people. When I first arrived in Jersey 36 years ago it could be heard in many places, notably country bars.

    1. That’s funny! Well, I suspect we pronounce it differently. Do you say, “WIN-dees” (Did you read Kristin’s comment below?)? I say, “WHEN-dees!”

  7. tortas and colas.

    Here in northern NM, we have a mix of Hispanic dialects – the old 1500s conquistador Spanish keeps cropping up (picabuche), Spanglish is common, Mexican (with all her variety of languages), plus the textbook Spanish taught in schools. Throw in the variety of dialects from imports from around the country, and it is quite the mix.

    We also have a significant Sikh community, a fair number of Asians, and the local Pueblos.

    1. That’s an interesting mix of influences on the local dialect. Our Spanish-speaking population is growing here, but it hasn’t had a very noticeable effect on our version of English yet. Thanks for the comment!

    1. Thanks for the link! There are some very interesting terms people use in Michigan. No one would know what you’re talking about if you used terms like that here!

  8. I loved these maps. My favorite was knowing that lots of other people use the expression “the devil’s beating his wife” to describe the weather when it’s raining while the sun shines.

    1. I had never heard of that term for a sunshower! I was even more surprised that so much of the country doesn’t have a term for it. My husband is from Mississippi, where it seems some people call it “the devil’s beating his wife,” but his area doesn’t seem to have a term for it.

  9. I loved those maps when I saw them online a few weeks ago. I’m from Madison, Wisconsin but have lived in Kansas City, Missouri for just over ten years. Still talk like a Wisconsinite, dontcha know. Bubbler, soda, sub, you guys… oh yah. People in KC don’t have a super strong accent, but I suppose it leans a little southern. I knew someone in college (from southeast MO) that pronounced “Wendy’s” as “WIN-dees,” they all say “y’all,” etc.

    1. I had never heard of “bubbler” until I saw that map! I’ve been to Wisconsin, but only once, and it was a long time ago. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Great post! If you venture a continent away to the tip of Africa, where even in the remotest of regions where roads are almost non existent, you will find ‘Coca-Cola’ emblazoned ubiquitously in bright red on an otherwise colorless mud-brick walls, people will ask for Coke. You’re unlikely to find Pepsi and never Dr Pepper…If you are closer to ‘civilization,’ and order it in a restaurant, you would ask for a soft drink, after which it defaults back to Coke 🙂
    As for ‘long sandwiches,’ well somehow these are called subs, but more likely thought to be derived from sub-marine than sub-way 🙂

    1. That’s very interesting! It sounds like Coke has had a hold on the international market. As for “sub,” that does seem to be the clear winner, but I’ll continue to call those sandwiches “hoagies”!

  11. Here in Kentucky (which we consider to be in the South, BTW) we eat subs. I grew up thinking hoagies and subs were two different sandwiches! As for the drink, it’s divided. We say “Co-cola” or “Coke”, but we don’t necessarily mean the brand, or we say “pop”. I go back and forth on that one. Also, I have known people who “hoovered” their rugs and kept their pop in the “Frigidaire”. I have never heard the great rocks vs. stones debate, however. They’re all rocks to me. And yes, ma’am, I have encountered an attitude when I use “ma’am, and “sir”. As you can see, I find this topic fascinating.

    1. Interesting! I’ve never heard of “Co-cola” before. Do you find the difference between what words people use (Coke vs. Pop, for example) has to do with whether they are Kentucky natives? I know that my parents (one from northern Virginia and the other from Sri Lanka) have impacted my speech. So, I don’t really sound like people whose families have been in Philadelphia for a couple generations.

  12. Being from the Philadelphia area, I am with you on this one and never called them anything else. I am never without a Diet Coke in hand everywhere I go. Sad, but a lifetime of the stuff has not yet killed me, knock on wood. In NY they wanted to ban ‘pop’ or at least tax it very high. Next might have been the ‘subs’. I would have lost it on that one!

    1. I can’t even imagine what I would do if I didn’t have access to soda and hoagies! I’m trying to stop drinking soda–and I have reduced my intake–but it’s tough to stop. I need to retrain myself to like water.

  13. I’ve always found differences in languages interesting! Since I’m from Kansas, I’d have to say that people are equally as likely to say pop or soda—I’m a “soda” person myself (but try to drink as little as possible!) Though I do know that hoagie is a Philly thing, the menu for school lunch growing up always called cold cut meat sandwiches “hoagies” if they had salami (as opposed to a turkey sub) though this might be an outlier.

    1. Hi, Molly! I wish I would stop drinking soda, but it’s just so tough to break the habit (particularly because I’m not a coffee drinker–I need caffeine!). It’s interesting that you say “soda,” too. The map suggests Kansas is in the “pop” category (blue), but there were some unclear white areas, too.

  14. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader

    I love these linguistic differences. It’s fascinating to me. The best part is how protective people are of their local terms. I live in Wisconsin. In the north we call it pop, in the south it’s soda. We call them fountains up here but in the south they are called bubblers. In the north we have rocks, in the south they have stones. I could go on and on 😉 So, even just the difference of a few hundred miles leads to different words.

    By the way? They are subs 😉

    1. It’s interesting to see the differences within states! Western PA is quite different from where I live (they say pop, for example). I don’t have a problem with the word “sub,” but it will always be a “hoagie” to me! Thanks for the comment!

    2. I’ve lived in the south all my life and have never heard a southerner call it a bubbler (I always thought it was British. 😉 ). It must be more regionalized than that. Do you know what part of the south? I love this stuff.

  15. Allison

    Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs it is Pop and a Sub. Having lived in the Atlanta suburbs, which many consider the Deep South, I learned to call it soda after one too many blank stares when I said pop. There are too many people in Atlanta that aren’t originally from there to truly call it the Deep South anymore so soda works there. Now we are in the Philly suburbs and I generally remember the need to call it soda but the use of hoagie makes my husband a little nuts, he hates the term.

    I love reading about these kinds of regional differences, especially now that I’ve lived in 3 different regions!

    1. Another Philadelphian! You can probably get away with using “sub” in most restaurants, but some people might pretend to be confused by the term. “Pop” is unheard of around here.

  16. I’m far enough south (born and bred) that you can’t ask for a Coke without being asked which kind. My northern husband has worn off on me enough, though, that I usually call it soda (although my soul rebels). And we eat subs. But my husband eats aygs rather than eggs. And his laygs hurt after he runs. And I think I’ll always be curious about how far north “ma’am” and “sir” go. I’ve heard tell that some southern kids who go north get in trouble in school for using those terms…for some reason their teachers think they’re being sassy… 😉

    It’s funny, though…we beat “ma’am” and “sir” into our kids from the minute they start talking, but we also have them call adults “Miss/Mr. “. Odd combination of familiarity and formality.

    1. My husband grew up in the deep South, from infancy through age eighteen, but didn’t pick up the accent or regional terms (his parents are Midwestern, but actually do have a mild southern accent these days). Occasionally, when he’s very tired, he’ll say “y’all,” but that’s about it. Up here, it’s rare to hear “Ma’am” and “sir.” I guess I can see why some people might think (mistakenly) that those terms are condescending. We usually say Ms/Mr.

      1. For some reason, my earlier reply got cut off. I couldn’t figure out how to edit…and then I forgot all about it. What I meant to say that, even with the formality of sir/ma’am, our kids address adults who are the slightest bit familiar as Miss/Mr . Nothing like consistency!

  17. Where I live, it’s called a “grinder”, not a sub or hoagie. And yes, “soda”, although if you ask me soda is only good when it contains a generous splash of rum 🙂

    1. Interesting! I went to school in New England, where I’ve heard the term “grinder.” I thought it only applied to hot “subs,” but I guess not.

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