Tag Archives: brand name

You say soda, I say pop; you say soda water, I say club soda; what the fizz?


If an Englishman asks you for a soda, he most probably means, specifically, soda water, or what his friend across the ocean might refer to as a club soda. But an American asking for a soda likely has another idea in mind: on these shores it usually indicates any sort of carbonated soft drink, whether it be a Pepsi, ginger ale, 7-Up, or — as the Brits might generalize — a “fizzy drink”.

But what’s the difference between British soda water and “fizzy water” (as the Brits would say when I was younger — now more often and elegantly referred to as “sparkling water”) or “seltzer”, as the Americans usually name their fizzy H2O?

In the UK, soda water contains bicarbonate of soda, which gives it a specific flavor and differentiates it from plain carbonated or sparkling water (or seltzer), making it popular as a mixer in drinks like whisky and soda or Campari soda.

In the U.S., carbonated water was known as soda water until the Second World War because of the sodium salts added as flavoring and acidity regulators to mimic the taste of natural mineral water. In the ’30s, during the Depression, it was sometimes called “two cents plain”, being the cheapest drink offered at soda fountains. The names sparkling water and seltzer water flourished during the ’50s, with the latter being a classic “genericized brand name”, much like the modern generic kleenex, hoover and biro, which all originated as trademarked names. Seltzer derives from the German town Selters, renowned for its mineral springs from which naturally carbonated water has been commercially bottled and shipped since the 18th century. Seltzer water doesn’t usually have added salts, whereas the American club soda (another brand-name-turned-generic) still often retains sodium salts, making it more akin to the British soda water. However, seltzer  or seltzer water isn’t used — or even really known — in Britain and most Commonwealth countries.

Nowadays in the U.S., soda has come to mean any type of sweetened, carbonated soft drink (with soft drinks so called — across standard English — to contrast them with “hard” or alcoholic drinks). The Online Etymology Dictionary gives this potted history of the word. “Soda meaning “carbonated water” is first recorded 1834, a shortening of soda water (1802) ‘water into which carbonic acid has been forced under pressure.’ ‘It rarely contains soda in any form; but the name originally applied when sodium carbonate was contained in it has been retained’ [Century Dictionary, 1902]. Since 19c. typically flavored and sweetened with syrups. First record of soda pop is from 1863, and the most frequent modern use of the word is as a shortening of this or other terms for ‘flavored, sweetened soda water’.”

However, just to confuse matters even further: the name for fizzy soft drinks in the States varies by region. Soda and pop are the two most common American names for this broad category of beverage, but there are others, including soda pop, the British fizzy drink, and even coke, which is used generically in the South. And the word Americans choose to name their fizzies is most associated with their geographic origin or location, rather than their age, race or socio-economic status. Go fizz.

Soda is most common on the East and West Coasts, as well as in St. Louis and Hawaii. Pop tends to be the name of choice in the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, pop meaning “flavored carbonated beverage” dates back to 1812, and was onomatopoeic in its origin. Robert Southey in a letter of that year described his “new manufactory of a nectar, between soda-water and ginger-beer, and called pop, because ‘pop goes the cork’ when it is drawn.” In the South, coke (or cola) is used generically to name any type of soft drink—not just colas (for which coke is a common nickname) or their most famous brand representatives, Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The reason for this is quite possibly that Coca-Cola’s headquarters are located in Atlanta, Georgia, a southern state. Coke is also heard generically in neighbors of the southern states, such as New Mexico and Southern Indiana, as well as in specific areas like Trinity County, California and White Pine County in Nevada.

Popvssoda.com has published a map of the U.S. showing the generic names for soft drinks by county.


If you want further facts on this fabulously fizzy phenomenon, here’s Wikipedia‘s list of brand names of soft drinks listed by their country of origin. Aren’t you dying to know what exactly Pritty, Juizee Pop, Pschitt, Battery and Semtex (sic) are — and where they are drunk?

Brand name or generic noun?

Do you know your brand names from your common nouns? Check your knowledge here …

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1. You might think you’re riding around on a Jet Ski, but if it’s not made by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, it’s just a personal watercraft.

2. Bubble Wrap is probably the greatest contribution made to our society by Sealed Air Corporation, which they rightly trademarked.

3. The term Onesies, referring to infant bodysuits, is owned by Gerber Childrenswear. According to their website, the trademark is aggressively enforced. (Twosies and Funzies also belong to Gerber.)

4. Jacuzzi is not only a brand of hot tubs and bathtubs; they also make mattresses and toilets.

5. The Crockpot, a brand name for the slow cooker, was originally developed as a beanery appliance.

6. Fluffernutter is a registered trademark of the makers of Marshmallow Fluff, Durkee-Mower, Inc.

7, 8 & 9. Frisbee is currently owned by WHAM-O, but a legal battle to make this word and several others generic is underway. In 2010, Manley Toys Ltd. challenged WHAM-O, arguing that the terms Frisbee, Hula Hoop and Slip’n Slide have already become generic in the public lexicon. Personally, I think Ultimate Flying Disc sounds cooler than Ultimate Frisbee anyway.

10. Chapstick is a brand name of lip balm produced by Pfizer. In the event that you find yourself enjoying this product too much, websites dedicated to helping Chapstick addicts are available.

11. The perfect time to remind a friend or family member that Kleenex is a brand name for a tissue is right when they are desperately begging you to hand them one.

12. Ping-Pong was trademarked in 1901 as a brand of table tennis products named for the sound the ball makes when it hits the table.

13. On their website, Microsoft suggests that unless you are using their software, your PowerPoint is a “presentation graphics program.”

14. When Q-tips were originally released, they were called Baby Gays. The name was changed to Q-tips—the “Q” standing for quality—in 1926. Although they have changed hands several times since then, Unilever owns the brand today.

15. Two hockey-player brothers designed Rollerblade inline skates from a pair of old roller skates in 1979. They were the only brand of inline skates until the mid-eighties, when several other companies emerged.

16. According to legend, Scotch tape earned its name when a frustrated customer told a 3M scientist to “take it back to your Scotch bosses and tell them to put more adhesive on it.” Today, Scotch “Magic Tape” is only manufactured in one place in the world: Hutchinson, Minn.

17. The permanent marker was invented in 1956, but the Sharpie wasn’t introduced until 1964. Today, the products are almost synonymous with one another.

18. In 1899, Pearle Wait sold his recipe for Jell-O to Orator Woodward for $450. In 1902, sales for the product were around $250,000. Today, the gelatin dessert is owned by Kraft.

19. Tupperware is a brand that got its name from its creator, Earle Silas Tupper.

20. George de Mastreal invented Velcro when he discovered that burrs stuck to matted dog fur. Today, it is the world’s most prominent brand of hook and loop fasteners.

21. Weed Eater is owned by Husqvarna Outdoor Products.

22. Don’t ask BIC what’s in their line of correction fluid. The exact ingredients of Wite-out are confidential.

23. Johnson & Johnson manufactured gauze and adhesive tape separately until Earle Dickinson had the idea to combine them to create Band-Aids for his accident-prone wife.

24. The Zamboni is an ice resurfacer named after its inventor, Frank Zamboni.

25. TASER is a trademark of TASER International, and shouldn’t technically be used as a verb. To be fair, “Don’t hit me with that electroshock weapon, bro!” is probably hard to shout under duress. Bonus fact: TASER is an acronym. It stands for “Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle.”

26. JC wrote that Dumpster is a brand name, which is true, although the word has become largely genericized and the trademark is not widely enforced. The Dumpster got its name from the Dempster Brothers Inc., who combined their name with the word “dump” to create the Dempster Dumpster.

27. Novocain is actually the brand name of Procaine Hydrochloride owned by Hospira Inc. Thanks to H.D. for the info!

28. Thanks to Krebscy, I will never again make the mistake of offering my guests a Popsicle, a registered trademark of Unilever. Like many great things in life, the Popsicle was invented by accident. As the story goes, one winter night in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson left a mixture of soda and water with a stick in it on his porch. Almost 20 years later, Frank began selling his creation at a lemonade stand he was running and the treat has been popular ever since.

Today, Unilever recommends that you call generic frozen pops on a stick “pops,” “ice pops” or “freezer pops”. Although, depending on where you’re from, offering someone a “pop” could get very confusing.

29. Everyone knows Post-its, a trademark of 3M, were not the invention of Romy and Michele. A very different duo is responsible—Dr. Spencer Silver invented the adhesive in 1968 and scientist Art Fry thought up a practical use for it in 1974. In 1980, Post-its were available for sale. Thanks to Ken!

30. The Ouija board was first introduced by Elijah Bond in 1890 as a practical way to communicate with spirits, making dealing with a pesky ghost much more convenient. Today, it is trademark of Hasbro Inc. Thanks to Romeo Vitelli passing this on!

31. Vic brought to our attention that Plexiglas, which got its start in World War II aircraft canopies, has since become the better-known name for acrylic glass or poly(methyl methacrylate).

32. No matter how many picnics you’ve been to or how much time you spend at the water cooler, you’ve never had a drink out of a Styrofoam cup. Expanded Polystyrene is the generic name for the material that we typically think of as Styrofoam. The brand is a trademark of the Dow Chemical Company that is made in sheaths for construction projects and is never named in the shape of a plate, cup or cooler. Thanks to Matt for the tip!

33. Geekinsight, which I hope is a family name, pointed out that Thermos is a registered trademark. Although the Thermos was invented in 1892, it wasn’t paired with a lunch box until 1953. The set, which originally featured a picture of Roy Rogers, sold more than 2 million units in the first year.

34. Robert Chesebrough invented Vaseline, now a registered trademark of Unilever, when he was 22 and he observed oil workers smearing residue from drills on their skin to heal wounds. Twenty years later, in 1880, Vaseline was selling throughout the United States at the rate of one jar a minute. Thanks for the info, Ken!

35. X-acto began in 1917 as a medical company that created syringes. Eventually, they began creating surgical scalpels that evolved into the hobby knives that we associate with X-acto. As Patrick told us, X-acto is a brand and a division of Elmer’s.

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