Soda vs. Pop, and Other Controversial Regional Food Terms


Written by:

In the United States, we contain multitudes, and by “multitudes,” we mean people who call all the same foods different things depending on what part of the country they come from. While we’d like to say that these regional terms add flavor and variety to American cuisine by showcasing the diverse culinary traditions across this great nation, it’s pretty much all the same food, and only the names are different.


While that may be disappointing, it’s still entertaining to see how worked-up people get if you refer to a food item with the wrong regional name. For example, if you’re in coastal Maine and refer to a thick and creamy seafood soup as anything but “chowder,” there will be consequences. So, if you’re going on a road trip that will take you across this great nation, familiarize yourself with what they call things like soda and submarine sandwiches from area to area – heads have rolled for less.

Image Credit: badmanproduction/ istock.

1. Grinder

“Grinder” isn’t just the title of one of the best songs on Judas Priest’s 1980 British Steel album. It’s also what they call submarine sandwiches in New England. It is identical to what they serve at Subway restaurants, and it should not be confused with Grindr, the dating app that has brought joy and romance to many couples since its 2009 founding.

Image Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock.

2. Spuckie

If your culinary road trip sees you leave rural New England for cosmopolitan Boston, be advised that while you’re still in New England, they don’t always call subs “grinders” there. Instead, ask the Bostonian sandwich artist to make you a “spuckie,” which is the same thing as a grinder but specifically uses Italian bread. The term is as regional as it gets, so they will appreciate your use of this term and deem you a discriminating connoisseur of regional cuisine.

Image Credit: bhofack2/ istock.

3. Pop

If you’re in Wisconsin craving a sweetened, carbonated beverage manufactured by the multinational food, snack, and beverage corporation PepsiCo, Inc., don’t ask for a “soda,” even though that’s precisely what it is. Regional customs dictate that in this part of the country and its outlying areas, this beverage is referred to as “pop,” as in “soda pop,” but minus the “soda” part.

Image Credit: Chinnachart Martmoh/ istock.

4. Coke

If you’re in Kentucky and similarly craving a sweetened, carbonated beverage manufactured by PepsiCo, Inc., ask for a Coke. You will then be asked, “What kind?” At this point, you can name Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, and a host of other sodas not affiliated with the Coca-Cola Company, despite your request for a Coke. In much of the southern United States, all sodas are classified under the umbrella heading “Coke,” so don’t be surprised if your request for a Crystal Pepsi leads to confusion and delay.

Image Credit: musicphone1/ istock.

5. Jimmies

“Jimmies” is the name for the multicolored rainbow sprinkles you put on your delighted child’s ice cream when it’s summertime in New England or certain parts of Pennsylvania. Residents of these areas will certainly understand what you mean if you ask for sprinkles in a moment of carelessness, but they may not cotton to your foreign ways, leading them to feign ignorance while your child’s unadorned ice cream melts.

Image Credit: Kamila OConnell/ istock.

6. Po’boy

We could oversimplify and say that a “po’boy” is what they call a submarine sandwich in Louisiana, and to an extent, that’s true. But that would vastly undersell it. A po’boy is indeed a sandwich with lots of goodies on it, so it’s similar to a sub, but it’s specific to Louisiana and typically features seafood or meat on New Orleans French bread with shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced pickles, and mayonnaise. It is one of the best things you will ever eat in your entire life, even if you buy one at a gas station.

Image Credit: Ray Tan/ istock.

7. Poutine

Many places in the United States serve fries and gravy, which is exactly what it sounds like – fries and gravy. They will also serve you cheese fries. However, if you’re in certain northern parts of the United States, you can ask for poutine, which is fries and gravy with the sweet kiss of cheese curds to make it extra appealing when you’re drunk at 2:30 in the morning. While you can certainly ask for fries and gravy or cheese fries in Burlington, Vermont, ask for poutine instead.

Image Credit: Francisca Alvarez /Unsplash.

8. Bubbler

It may be pushing it to call a “bubbler” a food item, but in all your days of eating, you’re going to get thirsty, and you may need to ask where the water fountain is when this eventuality comes to pass. But beware! If you ask for it by that name in Rhode Island, you may not get your needs met in a timely fashion. However, if you instead ask for the location of the “bubbler,” friendly residents will happily guide you down the hallway to that particular appliance. They call it that in Wisconsin, too, according to recent investigative journalism.

Image Credit: MoMorad/istockphoto.

9. Hoagie

Calling a submarine sandwich a sub or whatever is a geopolitically thorny issue that varies from region to region. In Pennsylvania, this sandwich is neither a grinder nor a Spuckie but a hoagie, and again, there is a scant difference between this iteration of the sub and the others. Only the geographic realities dictate that we must call the same sandwich four different things in this country.

Image Credit: bhofack2 / istockphoto.

10. Flapjacks

We could probably achieve world peace if there were enough pancakes for everybody. After all, pancakes are awesome and will solve any problem you encounter. You lost your job? Eat some pancakes. Your wife left you? Pancakes. Electric Light Orchestra is retiring from touring? Pancakes. But if only we could agree unanimously to call them pancakes!  In the Southern and Southeastern United States, many people call them flapjacks, so while it’s unfortunate that we remain a nation divided on that issue, at least they don’t call them hotcakes.

Image Credit: bhofack2 / iStock.

More from MediaFeed:

Raising a Child in the US is Going to Cost You. A Lot.

Like MediaFeed’s content? Be sure to follow us.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.