by Tom Finkel
This not-so-great debate has raged for decades on college campuses like Washington University's, where students are drawn from all over the nation.
After all, regional differences have long been assumed to inform the debate, a suspicion confirmed by a Web site created by a California Institute of Technology freshman in the early 1990s called "The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy."
Since then 250,000 partisans have submitted their preferences on the page, popvssoda.com, which maps the not-quite-scientific breakdown: Midwesterners are more likely to say "pop," folks from both coasts say "soda," and southerners generically refer to soft drinks as "coke."
But here's where it gets really interesting. Missouri respondents, bucking geographic trends, overwhelmingly say "soda," according to the survey. (Show-Me state write-in responses include "tarzan slam," "fizzly wizz," and "Crunkjuice.")
Not always the crispest Corn Flake in the bowl, Unreal wasn't sure what to make of all this. So we consulted our financial analyst, C. Douglass Garrett, who happens to have been tracking the debate and believes the trend reflects St. Louis' status as national powerhouse in the late 19th century.
"I'm convinced that this in some way reflects the similarity in societal importance between the St. Louis and northeastern population centers at the time soda fountains were popularized in the late 19th century," explains Garrett, who says he personally refers to sweetened carbonated beverages as "sody."
"The South ascended in importance concurrent with rise of Coke brand in the early 20th century," Garrett continues. "As for pop, well, who knows? The only thing I know is that people who say 'pop' sound really, really dumb."