The Colbert Report: "soda water"

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 14 18:56:40 UTC 2009

Eight years after first hearing it, I still can't recover from what I
heard in a Waffle House somewhere in the South: "What kind of Coke would
you like?" And, no, this was not a distinction between regular and
diet--it was Coke coke, white coke, root beer coke, etc. After that, the
variations in terms like pop, soda, soda pop, pop drink, soft drink,
etc., no longer surprise me.

Added twist--nominally, there is a distinction between Seltzer and Club
Soda. Seltzer is plain carbonated water. Club Soda is the same with
actual soda (sodium bicarbonate) added. However, in the Upper
Midwest--and for a number of brands--the distinction is moot as they no
longer put soda into Club Soda. With virtually all airlines I have to
explain myself when I ask for seltzer, because they almost universally
refer to it as "club soda", occasionally distinguishing "mineral water"
if they have two kinds.

Of course, there is nothing "mineral" about "mineral water"--in fact, in
the EU, by law, one would not be allowed to call plain, filtered
carbonated water "mineral water". There, carbonated (and plain) mineral
water is distinguished by place of origin (e.g., Spa blue, green and red
bottles--there are more distinctions, of course: blue is plain, red is
carbonated with large bubbles, green has finer bubble structure and
higher mineral content).  By the time one gets to Eastern Europe, all
mineral water is carbonated, distinguished by source and has a distinct
salt and sulfur taste, often with accompanying sulfur aroma (and, no,
this is not just a skanky artifact of low-quality production--a number
of Italian bottled water brands also reek of sulfur).

Having said all that, I've only heard "soda water" in reference to 1)
seltzer or 2) plain carbonated mixer for cocktails. The latter generally
would be marketed as "Club Soda" when bottled. But, of course, this
hardly matters in a bar where everything comes out of the same spigot.


Bill Le May wrote:
> My grandmother (born 1884 Galena, IL) used that term often for flavored
> carbonated drinks.  She also called 7-Up "white soda".

The American Dialect Society -

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