Thursday, September 8, 2011

You Say Puh-Tay-Toe...

The Craftzine Blog I follow to the right had an interesting post a couple days ago. They posted a photo of a tee shirt from a company called The Mitten State.

They sell tees about Michigan, in case the "mitten" portion didn't register. (Go look at a map. I'll wait.) They donate proceeds to various charities, too.

The shirt's comment is what struck me. I don't know what I call it. I may use the words interchangeably. I think down South, which would be any place south of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River, although your demographics may be different, they call it "Coke" regardless of the color or who makes it. I'm given to understand that even if they serve generic dark colored soda pop, it's called a "Coke".

Every so often, a linguist prints an article about language differences. Usually this is between the US and Great Britain, but someone will take on the differences in what things are called within the US. "Bubbler" is, I think, a Milwaukee term and it's used to describe the water fountain. It's easy to see how the term arose. When you turn it on, water bubbles out of the spigot.

My dad had clear definitions for bucket and pail. Buckets were wooden. Pails were anything else. Dry items were carried in buckets. Liquids in pails. You did not bring a pail of oats for the cattle. You could talk about getting a bucket of water for the pigs but you didn't actually use the bucket to get water. It was the pail. I don't know of any company that makes wooden buckets anymore. Dad would be hard pressed to make his distinctions now days.

All of these language quirks have roots in real life even if we've forgotten what they were. I can see why those of us in the upper Midwest would say it's "pop" and not "soda". If you're of a certain age, you remember soda fountains and the wonderful concoctions you could get there. Fruit sodas involved soda water and flavorings. Some places put a scoop of ice cream in them. If you sat down and ordered a "soda", the guy behind the counter would ask what flavor you wanted. "Pop" was a necessity to define it as the bubbly sugar drink and not the drink that had to be made.

I think the Internet has homogenized language somewhat. A term used in LA will spread to Maine in a matter of weeks. Does this speed and the ability to instantly communicate everywhere destroy what we would call local flavor? I think it has the potential to, if we let it. But I also think, as the tee shirt above shows, people are invested in maintaining what they call things because it gives them a link to their heritage.

And now that we've discussed this, please bring me a Dr Pepper.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


1 comment:

  1. I find that typically Canadians talk about Pop, and from my own experience, when I ask for a pop in the U.S. people give me the "You're not from around here..." look.