I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lost In Translation: Faygo

There is often a hubbub surrounding carbonated beverages when you travel from one place to another. The most familiar argument is whether you call it "soda" or "pop" or "soda pop." Here in the North, people claim that everyone here calls it "pop" and they make fun of you for saying "soda." In the South, people claim that everyone calls it "soda" and they make fun of you for saying "pop," especially if you have a Midwestern accent. They will say, "Paaaaaap." Like everyone's from Chicaaaago. I don't know who claims "soda pop." Perhaps that's more of a temporal thing than a spatial thing. Those jerks from the 1950s (Get it, jerks. Like soda jerks.) make fun of us for splitting the word into "soda" and "pop," while we make fun of them for thinking that the two words can exist peacefully side-by-side.

As for the soda vs. pop debate, I can vouch that most people in the North that I have encountered actually call it "pop" whereas most people in the South that I have encountered actually call it "soda." Since I have lived in both regions and sometimes wake up wondering where I am geographically located at that particular time, I usually go with "carbonated beverage" or "flavored liquid." Why? Because they're non-partisan.

It has also been told to me that people in the South call every kind of flavored liquid Coke. If it's Pepsi, it's a Coke. If it's Mountain Dew, it's yellow Coke. You see, Coca Cola was invented in Atlanta, Georgia, so the idea behind this urban legend is that everyone in the south calls carbonated beverages Coke because of Southern solidarity. A co-worker in Denton, Texas once told me that all Texans, himself included, call these beverages Coke. And yet, I never heard him refer to any drink other than Coca Cola Classic as Coke. If he ordered a Pepsi, he said, "Pepsi." If he ordered a Mountain Dew, he said, "Mountain Dew." As a matter of fact, after living in Texas for three years I can say that I've never even once encountered this nomenclature in practice. I know that it does happen, but I think it can be said that the statement, "Everyone calls it Coke" is decidedly false when only a couple people have ever done this. My brother Micah lived in Texas for quite some time and now lives in North Carolina. He might be of a different opinion, but one would think that after three years of experience I would have heard this at least once. And keep in mind, I worked at an establishment that served fast-food fried chicken in Texas. If anyone were to fit into this stereotype, don't you think it would have happened there?

Yes, I know that I've gone three paragraphs without addressing the actual topic of this installation of "Lost in Translation." While there are a variety of things you can and cannot say about carbonated beverages throughout the nation, there are many places, including most of the South and I would imagine much more, where if you say something about "Faygo" nobody will know what you're talking about. Of course, if they're avid ICP fans, your friends from various geographic regions will have some acquaintance with Faygo. ("Send yo' momma straight up to the sto.' Tell that [expletive deleted] to bring home a Faygo.") But I was baffled to find that one of my favorite childhood beverages was unknown in much of the United States.

Faygo was invented in Detroit, Michigan. And considering that it is also often referred to as Faygo Pop, you might imagine that it has something of a Midwestern following. While it is said that Faygo can be found throughout the United States and Canada, it just can't be found in a lot of places I've lived. It's like ordering a Shamrock Shake in March in New Mexico. They have never even heard of the phenomena. They don't know that there are other McDonalds' out there that carry it. Such is the case with Faygo. Many people cannot imagine a world where a soda pop company called Faygo exists. But the people of Michigan, we know what's up.

In 1987, Faygo Pop was sold to National Beverage Corporation. Of the many subsidiaries, the most popular is probably Shasta. I'm pretty sure that this is where the division lies. In the North, at least in the Midwest, Faygo has claimed superiority, possibly because of our connection with the Detroit-based original company. But in the South, and possibly in other regions, people drink Shasta. We're all drinking beverages made by the National Beverage Corporation, though there is a noticeable difference between Faygo and Shasta variations on the same drink. I remember they served Shasta drinks at Taco Cabana locations in Texas, and I used to drink it simply because it was something I never remembered seeing in restaurants in Michigan. Little did I know, but I was drinking Bizarro Faygo.

Now, this article is based on research, but also heavily on personal experience. Where do you drink? Do you have Faygo, Shasta, or both? If you order a Mountain Dew, do you call it soda, pop, soda pop, or something else? Do you call it by name or do you call it yellow Coke? Also, what other regional delicacies are you familiar with that you can't talk about with people of other regions because of their lack of experience? What did you once think was a world-wide thing only to find out that it is local? Drop me a line. Especially if your name is Micah Tiemeyer, because Micah is a little more of an Uncle Traveling Matt (Fraggle Rock, anybody?) than I am. But the rest of you can join in also.


  1. Faygo is everywhere in Charlotte NC. Here, they call it "Detroit Soda." But they seem to have a lot of Michigan things here because it seems a lot of people from the Michiganean Diaspora have found their way to this banking mecca. We have Bells and Founders beers at most bars too, even on tap some places. (shiner bock too, for the Texans)

  2. It's really produce that I miss from Michigan. The apples and cherries here are sub par, but you can't beat the peaches.

  3. I need to check for Shasta, but there is no Faygo in Miami. It's soda there and when I say Pop, it's really lost in Translation to anish.
    My cousin worked at a restaurant in Texas and frequently spoke of their orange coke orders.
    Once upon the early 90s, I assumed everyone would know the awesomeness of Crystal Clear Pepsi. Did you know 2 liters started in Michigan? We were the test state. Flouride in water in GR? Off topic but interesting??
    I missed Olga's during my pregnancy. It's only in 3 or 4 states.
    But I do love my Colombian hot dogs with green sauce, pink sauce, pineapple sauce and crushed potato chips.

  4. Micah: When we went to that museum I got the vibe that a lot of people from New York City transplanted to Charlotte too. That probably has to do with banking as well, though.

    Do they have Ziegenbock in Charlotte?

    Kathy: Which city did your cousin live/work in?

    I remember the summer they brought free Crystal Clear Pepsi to Splash to see if we would buy it later. I've heard it said that Grand Rapids, in particular, is a test market for a lot of things because of how stubborn and conservative its people are. If it'll catch on in Grand Rapids, it'll catch on anywhere.