It 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.