Why "POP" The answer
William asked why are sparkling or fizzy drinks called ’pop’ in Lancashire?
These language questions are very popular, to say the least, and once answer again the
answer lies embedded and hidden somewhere in Lancastrian culture and in the
development and usage of a language within that environment. How or why ‘slang’ words
become operational in a particular environment can depend on a host of different factors,
ranging from the influx of migrating peoples to the stimulus of influential individuals within a
community. The opposite of innovative input can also hold true. A relative lack of movement
of people outside a community environment can inversely emphasise the use and
development of a restricted language code, which language specialists sometimes call
dialects. However, If we begin with the Oxford dictionary we find that ’pop’ can mean
several things; ranging from a small quick explosive sound, to a type of music, to a
colloquialism for an old man or a father.
I good place to begin to unravel William’s question is to ask why and when fizzy drinks
originated in Lancashire in the first place? Interestingly, the consumption of fizzy drinks in
early twentieth century Lancashire was no doubt assisted by three parallel developments:
the arrival on the drinks market of two drinks giants, Coca Cola and Vimto, the growth of the
temperance movement in Lancs and the access of the working classes to some disposable
income. Coca Cola was first sold in the UK in August 1900 but had become nationally
established by the early 1920’s. Vimto on the other hand, originally known as Vim Tonic, was
devised by Blackburn lad John Noel Nicholas and went on sale at 19 Granby Road (in the
university district today) in Manchester in and around 1908. The temperance movement had
been in existence much earlier and the first recorded group in the UK was established in
Glasgow in 1829 by John Dunlop and his auntie. Many more teetotallers would follow and
Lancashire towns, such as Nelson, which had a significant late nineteenth century Methodist
congregation, would compete vociferously against alcohol and went to great lengths to
provide an alternative beverage and banish the ‘demon drink’. The development of
temperance bars, such as Fitzpatrick’s in Rawtenstall, which is still there today and has been
in operation since 1890, was one such example of a temperance inspired institution that
competed with pubs and clubs as sources of socialisation and relaxation.
Disposable income no doubt influenced the consumer market and the turn of the last
century was a significant turning point in both social and cultural patterns of workers’
lifestyles. Leisure, a somewhat limited pastime for many workers prior to industrialisation,
became an active mode of a workers’ lifestyle as God’s day of rest (Sunday) was joined by a
half day Saturday and regulated into law on an ad hoc basis from the 1840’s onwards.
Gradually, annual holidays would follow such as ‘the wakes’ and Lancastrians evolved
several cultural ‘rights’ associated with leisure. Participation in leisure developed inextricably
and in parallel with the growth in workers’ incomes. First football matches, then trips to the
seaside and ultimately day-to-day consumerism interacted more and more with an ever
growing numbers of affluent workers.
Do Lancastrians still use the word ‘pop’ to indicate a fizzy drink to this day? Well the last
time I was in Lancs I noticed many people tended to use the name of brands, ’can I have a
Fanta please?’ But when I went to Tesco’s in Burnley and asked where the ‘pop aisle’ was,
the young lady assistant had not a seconds hesitation in locating the passageway. I still
believe that Vimto knocks spots off Coca Cola and left the store contented. Lancashire 1 vs
My Dad’s favourite parsimonious response to pop always makes me smile to this day. When
asked if we could have some pop at home in the 1970’s, dad would always bark out, ‘NO!
Use tap water and drink some corporation pop instead!’ When we would complain
emphatically that there were no bubbles in it, Dad would shoot up from his armchair, grab
the glass, place his hand over the top and shake it for all his worth. ‘Now that’s bloody fizzing
pop’! he would blast. I think he might have missed the double entendre somehow.