Illustrating the Great Pop vs. Soda Debate

I’m fascinated by language and the subtle ways the human experience can vary while seeming so similar. I think pop culture makes us feel like everything is homogeneous the world over, but as soon as you travel you find the small (sometimes seemingly insignificant) ways every place is unique.

I think that you are not truly “from” a place until you leave it. I had never been defined by my nationality until I lived in another country. Similarly, I never gave much thought to my Midwestern upbringing until I moved to the East Coast and the accent and attitude I never knew I had became instant identifier.

While I haven’t lived in Michigan for nearly a decade, I think many of my attitudes, and certainly my speech are still marked by my home state.  Which is perhaps why I found these series of maps illustrating the linguistic differences in the U.S. so fascinating. Here are a few of my favorites, that show the chasm between where I grew up and where I live now. 

You say “paJamas” I say “pajAMas”
Some of the deepest schisms in America are over the pronunciation of the second syllable of


They laughed at me in Chicago and NYC for saying “pop,” and now I have to remind myself not to ask for “soda” when I go to Michigan for a visit.

Everyone knows that the Midwest calls it

You drink from it, and it’s a fountain. Why would you call it anything else?

Let's ignore the East Coast/West Coast split and notice that Wisconsin and Rhode Island call a water fountain a


These maps didn’t cover it, but I’d also be interested to see the nationwide usage of “sliding board” instead of “slide” for the common piece of playground equipment. I am convinced that only my husband and his family (all from Eastern PA) use this term, but he insists it’s more widely spread.


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