The vigorous debate over “pop” versus “soda” that rages in the hearts and minds of geographically diverse college students will not soon terminate (to further fuel it – yes, it’s “pop”). It is, though, just a smaller battle in the war of the worlds – the epic showdown between the many different regions that produce many different dialects and many different ways of saying things.

Here’s one instance: Remember when you were young, and you’d rush home to your parents’ computer to play that super sweet game? You know, the one where you went out on an adventure, shooting animals for food, navigating rivers with the help of the Native Americans, all for the purpose of reaching that northwestern state bordering the Pacific Ocean? You know – “Oregon Trail.” Only, depending on who you ask, it might be the “Or-gon Trail.” Or the game may be called the “Organ Trail.” Or the “Or-a-gon Trail.” And people get genuinely upset over this stuff.

Our beautiful language, despite the seemingly binding contract we have with the dictionary, has given way to multiple versions of words and different pronunciations. The “wordinistas over at Webster’s,” as my personal hero, Stephen Colbert, dubs them, long ago lost the fight for control over the language. The dictionary has now been reduced to a mere template from which we can now freely expand upon.

People are all about America being a “melting pot.” Canada, meanwhile, is a “mosaic,” and Russia can be described as – hmm, well, I guess a jigsaw of communism (I have no reason not to see them as still being communists). But how can we be a melting pot when there is so much hostility over the usage of little words like “pop” and the pronunciation of little things like “Oregon?” That’s not a melting pot – that’s a bowl of hostility.

What I wonder is whether or not such problems apply to other languages – do the Spanish have difficulty deciding whether or not to say “bebe” like “bay bay” or “beh beh?” I don’t believe so. Do different regions of Mexico have different words for carbonated beverages? No. A “refresco” is a certain kind of “bebida.” I think. It’s been a while since I took Spanish – or rather, Mexican – and I could be incredibly wrong.

Thinking more upon this subject, I wonder why the pop versus soda battle ever began. Now, I can understand why people don’t go around calling all of them”carbonated beverages.” It’s long, polysyllabic words are not cool, and that’s all there is to it. And you can’t shorten “carbonated beverage” easily. What would it go to? “Carbeverage?” “Caverage?” “Carage?” That sounds too much like “caraffe,” which is worse because that just reminds me of giraffes. Maybe that’s the intention.

Are there any other words, after all, that are placed in such a similar situation?

No, I can’t think of any. I’m not trying to, of course, because such a thing would defeat the point of this article. And I’m 553 words in. I’m not about to start over.

I guess the whole debate is just plain stupid to me. Shouldn’t the dictionary writers be the final say in all matters? After all, these are masters of linguistics. They do this for a living, and if they’re willing to devote so much to it, don’t they deserve our respect?

No. That would be giving in.

If you think you know where I’m going with this, think again. Because I don’t even know that. But I am 631 words in. I can taste the sweet scent of victory. I guess what I’m getting at is, don’t just embrace diversity. Emphasize it.

Don’t give up hope on pop, if that’s what you really feel. If you do, you’re quitters. And the pop supporters don’t need you anyway. Quitters. I’m going to get some water from the Pit. Good, old, indisputable water.

Oh don’t even start, Boston. “Watah?” Please.

Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.



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