Think About It: Soda vs. Pop vs. Coke

Don Meyer, Ph.D.
Don Meyer, Ph.D.

“There really isn’t anything more refreshing then iced Coke out of the old school bottles.” - Mark Zupan

After all these years, I still remember my confusion as a child around 10 years of age during a church picnic when I walked up to a kiosk in Coleman Park, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and asked for a soft drink. We didn’t drink many soft drinks at home so I thought all soft drinks were orange. When the person behind the counter asked me what kind of soft drink I wanted, I was completely confused. After I repeated “a soft drink” and they repeated “what kind?” I eventually gave up and got something else to drink.

Later in life I learned I wasn’t the only one with identification differences when it came to these tasty beverages. People in different places use many different terms to describe soft drinks.

In the Southern United States “coke” or “cola” is used as a generic term for any type of soft drink, not just a Coca-Cola product or another cola. “Pop” is most commonly associated with the Midwest, Mountain West and Pacific Northwest.


In other places, people say “soda pop” or “soda water” or “cold drink” or as I said, “soft drink.” In England this beverage is often called a “fizzy drink.”

But whatever you call it, did you ever wonder how Coca-Cola began? On May 8, 1886, John Pemberton bought a fledgling beverage company for $70. That year, nine servings of soft drink were sold each day. The income for that first year added up to about $50 resulting in an obvious loss. After numerous efforts and several owners, Robert W. Woodruff became president of the company in 1923, leading it until his death in 1985.

Woodruff famously said, “Coca-Cola should always be within an arm’s reach of desire.” He was only 33 years old when he became president. The company was struggling but he agreed to the job despite a steep pay cut, explaining, “I figured that if I ever brought the price of stock back to what I had paid for it, I’d sell it and get even. Then I’d go back to selling cars and trucks.”

The rest is history. Today, Coca-Cola is the world’s best-known brand. Woodruff went on to become a great philanthropist in Atlanta, giving millions of dollars to Emory University and a host of other worthy causes. This plaque hung in his bedroom: “When I compare the things I’ve lost with the things I’ve gained, the things I’ve missed with what I might have attained, there is little room left for pride.”

Today, 1.7 billion servings of Coke products are served every day in more than 200 countries. There are so many different kinds of Coke beverages that if you drank one per day, it would take you more than nine years to try them all. If every drop of Coke product was poured into eight-ounce bottles and laid end to end, they would reach to the moon and back more than 2,000 times.

The red and white Coca-Cola logo is recognized by 94 percent of the world’s population. It is the second most understood term, behind “Okay.” Coke uses 300,000 tons of aluminum for its cans in the U.S. every year and uses nearly 18 percent of the aluminum produced by the U.S. aluminum industry.

So carefully did the Coca-Cola Company protect its secret recipe that in 1977 it decided not to market it in India where companies are obliged by law to say what is in their beverage.

Coca-Cola can also be used to remove blood stains from clothes, help clean burnt stuff stuck to the bottom of a pan and even can clean filthy pennies.

Evie prefers a Diet Cherry Coke; I prefer a Diet Coke. Whatever you call it, most of you will probably order one soon.

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Responses can be e-mailed to Official page: Follow on Twitter: @DrDonMeyer. Archives at: