A Matter of Perspective

During a recent visit to my local bank, I produced a document bearing the Virginia State seal. The banker commented on how terrible the seal is for men.

What an odd thing to say!

Mrs. Judith Gue taught third grade at the small private school I attended in a bucolic part of Virginia. Mrs. Gue was a plump woman who favored silk dresses, kept a paddle on her desk as an unspoken and ever-present threat, smoked cigarettes like a fiend and had also taught my mother. She relished the first story in the Virginia history book, about how Sir Walter Raleigh covered a mud puddle with his cloak so his queen’s feet would not be sullied. Pride filled her voice when she shows us the seal, speaking of “Victory over Tyrants” for our great state. The woman depicted is the Roman Goddess Virtus, the goddess of virtue, and the defeated man is a tyrant. I have my doubts that the men responsible for the seal, designed in 1776, were raging feminists.

I said to the banker, “You’re not a native, are you?”

“No. I’m from Indiana.”

To this day I’m still surprised by how our Virginia state seal, a source of pride for me, had evoked such negative emotion in anyone.

It made me think of the writing life where you never know the thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs your readers bring when opening the pages of your book. One influential family member, one life-changing event, or even the region of the country where your reader lives will affect his or her response to your work.

Let’s be even more concrete. Some readers may be critical based on the use of the words, “soda,” “pop,” and “Coke” to talk about carbonated beverages. Follow this link to a map of the U.S. that shows that it is a matter of where one lives that determines which word you use and creates your own perspective! (Tell us which word you use and if the map is correct!)

When writing for publication realize that it is impossible to know everyone’s background. Instead endeavor to write stories that connect universally to all emotions. Details like the name of a carbonated beverage are important, and accuracy is a responsibility, but ultimately what the reader brings with them to the story is what will let your story challenge and even provoke them to new thoughts and emotions – just honor the Lord by choosing your words with care and let Him do His work through you.







14 Responses to A Matter of Perspective

  1. Avatar
    Lisa Carter Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder August 25, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    The map was accurate for my part of NC. Coke. I also noticed that the bucolic, rural county where my parents grew up and where my extended family still lives is blank for data. No doubt when the survey conductors showed up they were met with the same response others, circa 1865, did—with a shotgun and a snarl to “Get out of our county!” 🙂

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    Diana Lesire Brandmeyer August 25, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    That is a fascinating map! Now I know why most people look at us odd when we travel. I’m in a green area- soda or as my momma says, ‘sodee’ is what gets the drink in the glass.

    It’s a good way to look at reviews, sometimes the bad reviews come because you touched a wound in the person reading.

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    Sandra Ardoin August 25, 2011 at 5:54 am #

    This is a great reminder that we can’t please everyone all the time.

    Loved the map. I grew up on “pop” in Indiana, moved to “Coke” in Texas, and seem to have migrated to “soda” in North Carolina.

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    Susie Finkbeiner August 25, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    I didn’t realize that “pop” wasn’t a universal name for carbonated beverages until I was 21. I was in a Wal-Mart in Tennessee and asked the lady at the register if she scanned my “pop”. She looked at me like I had 6 hands coming out of my ears.

    Then she asked me to “swing my buggy” out of the lane. (My sister told me she meant my cart)

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    Rhonda Gibson August 25, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    This morning I smiled as I read your post. We called it coke in Oklahoma where I grew up. I didn’t realize, been here over 20 years, that New Mexico calls Coke “pop”. Interesting indeed. Love the map!

    Thanks for the smile, Tamela.

  6. Avatar
    Liz Tolsma August 25, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    This is a great post and something to keep in mind as we write and as we read reviews. Yes, the map looks correct – almost everyone here in my part of WI says soda, unless they are immigrants from Chicago. You can spot them in a second b/c they say pop!

  7. Avatar
    Gina Welborn August 25, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Tamela, that map is amazing! The maternal side of my family lives in South Dakota so they all say “soda pop” or just “pop.” The paternal side lives in Texas. They say “cokes” referring to all even if there’s not a single can of Coca-Cola. Seems like wehen we lived in OK, most I heard was “cokes” since it was southwest OK. Then when we moved to Virginia, I realized people say all sorts of things. A lot of the time I’ll say either “sodas” or “soft drinks.

    Why is it I’m suddenly thirsty?

  8. Avatar
    Bonnie Toews August 25, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    Tamela, us Canucks north of the border use all three words — coke for Coca Cola, soda for the soda drink and pop for anything fizzy other than coke or pepsi. The map is fascinating — a keeper, for sure.

  9. Avatar
    Elise in AZ August 25, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I grew up in New York (soda) and went to college in Michigan (pop), but was totally unprepared when I moved to Boston because it’s frequently “tonic” there. (Which didn’t make the map at all.)

  10. Avatar
    Sandy August 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Yep. It was “pop” in Ohio where I grew up. Interesting map, but I wish I had as much time on my hands as its creator obviously does.

  11. Avatar
    Paige August 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    Too funny! When we lived in St. Louis it was soda. Kansas City area where I grew up, pop. Deep South, Florida panhandle, Coke.

    That chart is right on in my experiences!

    Good article,

  12. Avatar
    Crystal Laine Miller August 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    I loved this post–and yes, most of my life I’ve been a Hoosier (and was born here ON Indiana’s birthday.) Anyway, I always called it “Coke” but most everyone calls it “pop” around here. I love this sort of thing. And I spent a couple of my toddler years in Tennessee with family, so maybe that influenced me.

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    TC Avey September 1, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    I hear the characters in my head as I write them and therefore see them from my perspective. I can forget how others might view them, thanks for the reminder! Also, my husband and I differ on what we call carbonated beverages,I don’t have one set word I use (and since I don’t drink the stuff I don’t really care what it is called) whereas he is big on “Soda” and notices when anyone uses anther name for it. My mom tends to call everything “coke”, I’m not sure if that is because she is a coke drinker or not?

  14. Avatar
    Penny Zeller October 13, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Thanks for the great post, Tamela! I really enjoyed the map too and found it to be right on target. I’ve always been a “pop” gal, and I remember one time while in high school and working at an after-school job, we had a new employee from another part of the country. One day, she asked me if I’d like to go have a “sodee” with her. I’m sure you can imagine the blank and confused look she received, lol. It took me awhile, but I finally figured out she was talking about having a pop during break time. 🙂

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