Tuesday, June 1

pop linguistics

Via Neil Gaiman, the distribution of generic terms for soft drinks. Especially, check out this map. Of interest to anyone who has ever had the following exchange:

Southern Waitperson: Anything to drink?

Midwesterner: Yeah... I'll have a Coke.

Waitperson: What kind?

Midwesterner: Er. A Coke?

Waitperson: We got Sprite, root beer...

Midwesterner: Coca-Cola?

Waitperson: Sure thing, hon.

Equally fascinating would be a study of the distribution of terms for sandwiches consisting of loose hamburger in sauce on cheap white bread. In places I have lived or visited, I have heard sloppy joe, loose meat, made-rite, and ready-made. In Laurel, Nebraska, they are called taverns and are nearly always made with low-grade grocery store hamburger buns. The canonical public meal, served by default at high school sporting events, church functions, auctions, field days, and county fairs, consists of taverns, one or two kinds of potato chips, and "bars" - cookie or cake-like substances baked in shallow pans and cut into squares. Small styrofoam cups with a choice of ice tea, sugary fruit-flavored beverage, and coffee are also necessary.

This brief history quotes a couple of food encyclopedias tracing the sloppy joe to a loose meat sandwich in 1930s Sioux City. Sioux City is certainly the kind of place you would expect to produce both the sandwich and a name like "sloppy joe", but it's probably unrealistic to expect a single point of origin for such a basic dish.