Tell Alan McConchie what you call a fizzy drink, and he can likely figure out where you live (or grew up).

McConchie is a mapmaker, specializing in data visualization. He works for a San Francisco-based design studio responsible for mapping the Amazon for National Geographic and tracking the correlation between birds' migratory paths and climate change for the Audubon Society.

Despite these high-profile clients, it's McConchie's Pop vs. Soda map, created at practically the dawn of the Internet, that has earned him the most attention.

Using data from an online survey, the map illustrates in vivid color who refers to carbonated beverages as "pop", "soda", "Coke" or something else altogether.

Soda vs. Pop Map

The "pop" people are mainly concentrated in the Midwest and Northwest, while the "soda" speakers live in the Northeast, Southwest and pockets in between. Most Southerners, meanwhile, tend to call any soft drink a “Coke," no matter what brand they're sipping.

'Pop' people are mainly concentrated in the Midwest and Northwest, while the 'soda' speakers live in the Northeast, Southwest and pockets in between. Most Southerners, meanwhile, tend to call any soft drink a 'Coke', no matter what brand they're sipping.

McConchie grew up in Bellingham, Wash., deep in the heart of "pop" country. In 1993, he journeyed to the land of soda as a freshman at Caltech. “I noticed we all used different words for carbonated beverages, and it became a talking point," he recalls.

What started as an ice-breaker became a bit of a phenomenon. Since McConchie began collecting drink dialect data in 1995, nearly half a million people have weighed in on his color-coded map.

A select few try to “vandalize" the page with strange answers, McConchie says, while some of the answers are legitimately weird. Boston residents, for example, call carbonated drinks of all stripes “tonic."

Some people, particularly in eastern North Carolina, say “soda pop."

“There's a blob of 'soda' around the St. Louis area and Milwaukee, in a sea of 'pop', and no one's been able to explain it," McConchie adds.

Dr. Jennifer Cramer, linguistics professor at the University of Kentucky, has an idea. “Pockets like this can often be explained by things like migration or transportation routes," she explains.

Cramer shares that many of her students who say "soda" suggest it's more linguistically neutral. “Coke" seems distinctly Southern, for example, but “soda" exists in a space that isn't so regionally marked, she says. “Perhaps there are similar sentiments in St. Louis and Milwaukee."

But the more interesting thing, she notes, is why people care so much about who says what in the first place. In other words, dialects can act as pledges of homeland allegiance. “People feel very strongly that their language reflects who they are, and even subconsciously," she adds, "we make decisions about what to say to as to express our identities."

But where did the word "soda" come from in the first place?

Luanne von Schneidemesser, senior editor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dictionary of American Regional English, published a scholarly article analyzing the whole soda vs. pop phenomenon.

The term “soda water" dates back to 1802 to describe an effervescent drink with sodium bicarbonate, she found.

And "pop"? It's a bit more fun. It was first used to describe a drink in 1812, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It's an onomatopoeia named after the sound a cork makes when it's, well, popped.

Schneidemesser even found the origin of Boston's “tonic," also uttered in Cape Cod and Nantucket, New Hampshire and Maine. Used to describe a liquid consumed as an “invigorating restorative," that word dates way back to 1756.

And Coke? That one's fairly obvious. Coca-Cola was born and raised in the South, formulated at the hands of Atlanta pharmacist Dr. John S. Pemberton in 1886.

By the turn of the century, sales of the drink had fanned out to every state, says Coca-Cola Archivist Ted Ryan. “If you imagine Coke as a rock being thrown into a pond, that rock was thrown in the South."

Ryan says the most interesting part of the whole story isn't who calls a soft drink a “Coke," per se. It's the tenacity of the nickname, which The Coca-Cola Company tried furiously to shake from the start.

Not everyone likes a nickname, but "Coke" was more than an unwanted moniker. It also wasn't trademarked.

Perhaps inevitably, Coca-Cola surrendered to the tide of popular opinion, trademarking the abbreviation in 1940.

After all, there's no better advertising than to have an entire region of people swearing such brand loyalty it changes the vernacular. McConchie's map is living proof of “Coke's" persistence.

And about that map?

“I'd like to thank the guy who made it," Ryan says dryly, noting people from all over the dialect map send it to his inbox on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis.

So, clearly "pop" is a point of interest. Or is it "soda"?