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‘Hard’ and ‘soft’ drinks
Posted: 30 April 2012 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I was recently puzzled, when attempting to cook a US recipe, by the listing of ‘hard cider’ among the ingredients. My first guess was that the thing required was dry cider, or perhaps strong cider. Google came to my rescue and informed me that ‘hard cider’ in Leftpondia is simply alcoholic cider, and that ‘cider’ tout court “usually refers to non-alcoholic apple juice”. This would never have occurred to me, because in Rightpondia ‘cider’ - like ‘beer’ or ‘wine’ - is universally assumed to be alcoholic; where these beverages have been de-alcoholised this always needs to be specified.

That got me thinking about ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ in the sense ‘containing/not containing alcohol’.

In Rightpondia we routinely use the term ‘soft drinks’ in both the plural and the singular (‘a soft drink for the driver’) to encompass all cold drinks that are by nature non-alcoholic – e.g. juices, squashes, colas, fizzy drinks. Hot drinks, although non-alcoholic, are understood not to be included in that category – you see signs like “Sandwich + tea, coffee, or any soft drink: £2.50”. Alcohol-free ciders, beers or wines are not normally assumed to be in that category either.

If language were logical we would also speak of ‘hard drinks’: but we don’t (although we do use ‘hard liquor’ to mean spirits). And oddly, when speaking of a drink which is equally likely to be alcoholic or non-alcoholic, such as ginger beer, we don’t specify it as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ but, far more clumsily, ‘alcoholic’ or ‘non-alcoholic’.

I’m prepared for another Rightpondian to tell me that where they come from the usage is different, but that’s certainly the Rightpondian norm. How does Leftpondian usage compare?

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Posted: 30 April 2012 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Actually, people do speak of hard drinks, though not as often as of soft ones.  Here are the OED citations for this sense of “hard”:

c. Intoxicating, spirituous, ‘strong’. colloq. orig. U.S.
1789 F. Asbury Jrnl. (1821) II. 304 [A] drink made of one quart of hard cider, [etc.].
1810 M. L. Weems Let. in Ford’s M. L. Weems: Wks & Ways (1929) III. 13 What could possibly have kept me from hard drink?
1840 Congress. Globe 13 Feb. 197/3 He had heard‥the same arguments preached nine hundred and ninety-nine times over a barrel of hard cider.
1848 Congress. Globe 27 Apr. 688/2 They had charged him [sc. President Harrison] with drinking hard cider.
1857 Spirit of Times 3 Jan. 281/1 It was not infrequent, as late as the hard-cider campaign of 1840,‥that [etc.].
1861 H. W. Harper Lett. from N.Z. (1914) iv. 67 Order up some hard stuff to give them something to drink.
1879 Boston Trav. 20 Sept., Before the court‥for selling hard liquor, when he had only a licence for selling ale.
1884 J. Purves in Good Words May 330/2 Two or three kegs of the ‘hard stuff’.
1888 Pall Mall Gaz. 17 Sept. 7/2 The consumption of ‘hard liquors’‥ has steadily decreased.
1946 F. Sargeson That Summer 35 They all started on hard stuff and went on to beer later.
1964 C. Willock Enormous Zoo ix. 169 With a hard drink in the hand the day lengthens and softens.
1965 O. A. Mendelsohn Dict. Drink 90 Cider,.‥ If fermented and therefore alcoholic, the term hard cider is frequently used.

I’ve bolded the occurrences of the phrase.

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Posted: 30 April 2012 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, but my point is that in Rightpondia ‘hard’ in this context is not simply an antonym for ‘soft’, because hard stuff and hard liquor mean not just alcohol but spirits: as quotes such as “They all started on hard stuff and went on to beer later” bear out.

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Posted: 30 April 2012 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Ah, gotcha.  Quite right.

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Posted: 30 April 2012 02:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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In Leftpondia, wine and beer would not generally be considered hard, except in response to a question like “would you like a soft drink, or something hard?”

Hard cider would be the exception to the ”hard = distilled spirits” rule.

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Posted: 30 April 2012 06:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Mike’s Hard Lemonade and related products would be additional exceptions.

(Link doesn’t work because the board’s software won’d accept a URL with an apostrophe.  Try copying and pasting into your browser window:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike’s_Hard_Lemonade_Co.

[ Edited: 30 April 2012 06:54 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 01 May 2012 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I think we have enough exceptions to the ”hard = distilled spirits” rule to formulate a corollary to the rule:  ”hard = with alcoholic content in a drink that would not normally have alcoholic content.” In South Leftpondia cider is normally non-alcoholic.

[ Edited: 01 May 2012 04:46 AM by Faldage ]
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Posted: 01 May 2012 03:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I agree with the above posters re: US usage of “hard” in th context of drinks.

I would note that, at least in my experience (in California and the state of Washington) “soft drink” (singular or plural) almost exclusively refers to carbonated beverages like Coke (including non-cola drinks like Seven Up or Sprite) and would rarely, if ever, be used to refer to, say, milk, orange juice, or tomato juice.  Even a non-alcoholic spritzer would normally not be called a “soft drink”, but something like a fizzy orange drink (I.e., a Fanta) could be. 

This is not to say that no human being in the US has ever called orange juice a soft drink.  I would not be surprised if google would point to at least a few examples of such usage.  But this is non-standard usage of term, much like “hard drinks” - hard drinks isn’t a term of art, but one might say that a drink is hard to indicate it has alcohol.  Similarly, I could imagine somebody in the US saying something like, “would you like whiskey or something soft?” but even then I would find it odd to end the sentence with “something soft” instead of “something softer” - and the same goes for hard drink: “would you like a cola or something a little harder?” would be more natural, I think, than “would you like a cola or something hard?”

Now, a restaurant, fast food joint, deli, or super market in the US might well have a sign referencing “any soft drink” as short hand for any non-alcoholic cold beverage, and a customer would know that the term is broad in that context.  But this, I think, is a short hand used for the sake of convenience in a commercial context, and it is not reflective of typical conversational use: if I asked a buddy if I could have a soft drink I’d be pretty darn surprised I he came back with iced tea, even though I would assume iced tea is probably included in “soft drink” if a fast food place had an ad for a combo meal which includes “any soft drink”.  And I’d think my friend was being a smart Alec if he came back with some tomato juice.

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Posted: 03 May 2012 07:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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In the UK, “soft drinks” pretty much means “carbonated drinks and fruit juices” in my experience, and generally it would be taken to refer solely to carbonated drinks: certainly never tea or coffee. But I don’t believe there’s a contrasting BrE category “hard drinks”: “hard liquor” would be taken to mean “spirits”, and that’s about the only time “hard” would be used to mean “alcoholic”. Certainly “cider” is ALWAYS alcoholic. and “apple juice” is used to refer to both the filtered and unfiltered sort. There’s a story I read once (but now can’t find) about an American expat mother in Britain who gave her children Woodpecker cider thinking it was plain apple juice: fortunately the children came to no harm.

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Posted: 03 May 2012 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It took me a while to work out that American soda means soft drink. I thought it was short for soda water.
I had always thought soft drinks in the UK were not fizzy until I read this post.
There’s also an Irish expression a ball of malt for a glass of whiskey. Is it served in spherical glasses there or is there another reason?

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Posted: 03 May 2012 08:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Where are you from, vb?

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Posted: 03 May 2012 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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My first experience with British cider was in a pub that featured a locally made scrumpy. Tasted like unfiltered apple juice… unlike above, there were injuries.

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Posted: 03 May 2012 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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venomousbede - 03 May 2012 07:51 AM

It took me a while to work out that American soda means soft drink. I thought it was short for soda water.
I had always thought soft drinks in the UK were not fizzy until I read this post.
There’s also an Irish expression a ball of malt for a glass of whiskey. Is it served in spherical glasses there or is there another reason?

When living in Phoenix back when almost everyone came from somewhere else persons mentioned brief confusion over “soda” and “pop” and “soda pop’’. Perhaps someone who knows how to use one of those dialect maps might sort all this out for us.

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Posted: 03 May 2012 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy

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Posted: 03 May 2012 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Something’s gone wrong with that map, happydog. It shows the US divided between “soda”, “pop” and “coke”, with “coke” taking up much of the South. Unless they are saying people there use “coke” for a generic term for carbonated beverages, it doesn’t make much sense.

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Posted: 03 May 2012 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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OP Tipping - 03 May 2012 02:58 PM

Something’s gone wrong with that map, happydog. It shows the US divided between “soda”, “pop” and “coke”, with “coke” taking up much of the South. Unless they are saying people there use “coke” for a generic term for carbonated beverages, it doesn’t make much sense.

Yes, in the South, “coke” can be a generic term. It makes a little sense when you remember that Coke is headquartered in Georgia and they were the only game in town for decades. I’ve even heard a Southerner say, “I’ll try a Pepsi coke.”

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