A Refreshing Drink of Sweet Water Juice


The other day, a friend of mine posted a rather humorous breakdown of the differences between some words used in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. One of them, in particular, made me smile, as I remember learning all three versions during the course of my adventures in learning the language.

Making the issue even more fun is the plethora of ways this particular item can be translated into English. At issue is the concept of a soft drink, the most popular brand being Coca-Cola.

Romania: suc (sook)
Moldova: apa dulce (a-puh dual-chay)

If you’re from RM, the Romanian term will make you laugh, while if you’re from Romania, the Moldovan term will make you laugh. Technically, suc means “juice”, while the Moldovan term means “sweet water”, so both are a little silly.

Way back in 2004, when I first moved to Romania, an old building near my house had the “official” word for a soft drink outside, which is bautura racoritoare, which was practically impossible for me to pronounce. This literally means a “cooling” beverage, translated more conventionally as a “refreshing” beverage. The Romanian verb a racori means either “to cool down” or “to quench a thirst”, so either translation is accurate.

Now on to the fun stuff!

Depending on where you live in the English-speaking world, there is a different generic term for a soft drink:

Southern United States: “coke” – even when it isn’t a cola, or the brand Coca-Cola
Midwest US, Oregon and Washington State: “pop” – named after the sound the bottle makes when you open it
East and West Coast USA: “soda” – named after sodium, an ingredient originally used to create carbonation in drinks
Montana, Idaho and Wyoming USA: “soda pop” – a combination of both “soda” and “pop”
Stupid little kids (USA): “sodee pop” – a mispronunciation of “soda pop”
New Orleans (USA): “cold drink” – because they are usually served cold
Corporate USA: “soft drink” – this is the term that (nearly) every menu will use
1950s USA: “fizz wa” – a cool slang term for “fizzy water” used by hipster cats and Beatniks
1920s-1930s USA: “bubble tonic” – slang term briefly in vogue when soft drinks first started being served in bars
Early 1800s USA: “ginger pop” – the first non-alcoholic drinks were often flavored with ginger
Mid-1800s USA:: “sarsparilla, usually thought of today as the only non-alcoholic drink served in bars during the Wild West cowboy days
Britain: “fizzy drink” – because the drink fizzes when opened
Ireland: “mineral” – because the drink is similar in appearance to mineral water
Australia and NZ: “lolly water” – the drink is sweet like a “lolly”, the generic regional term for a candy/sweet
Northern England: “fizzy pop” – it both fizzes and pops
South Africa: “cool drink”

Bonus points: in Russian, the generic term for a soft drink is Безалкогольный напиток, literally “non-alcoholic drink”, which goes a long way to showing how the drinks developed in that part of the world :)

Living here in Moldova, as I do, I can tell you that Russians freaking love fruity-flavored (non-famous brands of) soft drinks just as much as Mexicans do. For a related article, don’t miss my post A Filing of Childish Happiness and Being Carefree.

AND NOW YOU KNOW!

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Interesting article Sam, but the South African one isn’t strictly true.

    As a South African I can definitely assure you that ‘cool drinks’ are generally reserved for non-fizzy sweet drinks (i.e. artificial concentrates mixed with water), while ‘soft drinks’ are – similar to corporate USA apparently – the good ole fizzy kind.

    And now you know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! There’s definitely some overlap in those terms. But people in South Africa really ask for a soft drink from their friends?

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      1. In reality, we’ll ask for and offer them by their brand names: ‘Coke’, ‘Fanta’, ‘Sprite’ etc. ‘Soft drinks’ appears on the menus, but the term can be used in conversation as well. Then again, like you say there’s a lot of overlap, because most menus will group drinks by ‘Hot Drinks’ and ‘Cool Drinks’, and soft drinks will be listed under ‘Cool Drinks’. *shrugs* The convention in conversation however tends to be that ‘cool drinks’ are non-fizzy, as in “So Jim, would like you like a cool drink, or I’ve also got Coke or Sprite if you’d like?”

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      2. Ahhh so interesting! I love etymology and how it morphs over time

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