Appalachian Dialect

A Dope is a Soft Drink

crate of coke bottles

dope noun
Any flavored carbonated drink, not only a cola. Same as soda dope.
c1959 Weals Hillbilly Dic 3 = soft drink. “All I had was a dope and a moon pie.” 1967 DARE = carbonated soft drink (Maryville TN). 1979 Carpenter Walton War 163 I’m goin’ to the store and drink me a dope. 1981 Dumas Appal Glossary 17 I want a brown doper (Coca-Cola). An orange doper is an orange drink. 1995 Williams Smoky Mts Folklife 103 Inhabitants also resemble other southerners in their passion for soft drinks (still called “dope” or “sodey dope” by old-timers). 1996-97 Montgmoery Coll. (Jones, Ledford, Norris); I want a yellow dope and a moon pie (Brown). 1997 Nelson Country Folklore 41 There was always someone hanging around drinking the drinks like Orange Crush, strawberry and grape Nehi or Cokes (all called dopes).

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Several months back Jo left this comment in reply to one left by Ken Roper:

“Ken and Tipper,
The only person I ever heard say Dope, to describe a soft drink, was my Dad. Is that commonly used in the areas you live?”

The first dopes I ever remember seeing were Big Grandma’s RC colas that came in those old wooden crates. I was very young when she died so my memories shouldn’t be trusted completely, but it seems she only shared her dopes with the favorite grandchildren and I wasn’t one of them.

Most people I know say coke for every soft drink there is. You might say “We have coke. Do you want Coke, Sprite, or Mountain Dew.” But I’ve heard people use the term dope for cokes my whole life. Since not many people use the term, the usage is usually said with a wink and a twinkle in the speaker’s eye.

We don’t drink soft drinks, but I’d like to ensure the dope usage continues. Maybe next time Granny puts cokes on her grocery list I’ll tell her I got her dopes for her 🙂


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  • Reply
    Howard Reese
    April 3, 2022 at 7:59 pm

    27 Wagons Full of Cotton, a one-act by Tennessee Williams was where I first heard pop/soda called dope.

  • Reply
    June 23, 2020 at 8:49 pm


    Thank you for responding to my question about using Dope as a description of a soft drink. Like you, I knew older relatives that called all soft drinks Coke, too. And thank you Ken, for using the term in a reply that brought back memories I had always wondered about.

    But a really Big Thank You to all the Blind Pig and the Acorn readers that replied!! I am always amazed at the information I learn from you everyday. You continue to encourage me and inspire me to be proud of my Appalachian culture and roots.


  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    June 9, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Mama ( or Daddy) can I have a nickel for a dope? Common sayings in western NC, Macon county. Or sodie dope was used also. Not pop, Coke, RC, or Pepsi.
    The first dope, coca-cola, I ever had was on a hot summer afternoon. I turned it up and drank down; ice cold it was delicious. Then it fizzled out my nose from the carbonation I guess. I was hooked from then on. It seems nowadays the ” original” Coke is not as tasty as it used to be.

  • Reply
    Susanna Holstein
    June 9, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    I have heard the term before, and as others said in their comments, it refers back to the early days of pop. Coke isn’t coke for nothing 🙂

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    June 9, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    When I was a kid in the ’50’s my favorite “dope” was a Dr. Pepper, the Friendly Pepper Upper. But sometimes I needed a Nugrape or Nehi…..with some cheese crackers of course.

  • Reply
    June 9, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    Now that is a term I’ve never heard for carbonated soft drinks….Here in Western Ky. we called each by it’s name Coke,Pepsi, Seven-up, Orange Crush, Grapettes(sp)? , Dr.Pepper etc. We each had our favorites. My Pepsi Uncle, wouldn’t have a Coke . 🙂 Never heard the word dope used that away. We had cousins that lived in Detroit Michigan who always called their drinks Pop ..The first time they said that to us Kentucky gals we had no clue, ha we said you wanna a what??? Come to think of it, how did a word like soft get mixed up with word like drink… wonder wonder …:) Wish they still made Grapettes, loved them ,orange crush too.

  • Reply
    June 9, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    Mamma and her brother would say ‘dope’ just for fun, as that’s what they grew up saying. We said ‘coke’ for all soft drinks.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    June 9, 2020 at 1:15 pm

    The term “dope” came about because Cocaine was an original ingredient in Coca Cola and really had a jolt! Dope has always referred to drugs or medications whether legal or otherwise.

  • Reply
    June 9, 2020 at 11:51 am

    Thats what we call them as kids to. Take the empty bottles back and get money for them. How things change over the today don’t know what a dope is.

  • Reply
    Glenda Simpson
    June 9, 2020 at 10:54 am

    I grew up on a tobacco farm in East Tennessee in the Tri-Cities area but have been a resident of Houston, Texas, since the 1970’s. I don’t know exactly how I found your blog, but I have been a daily reader of Blind Pig for a couple of years now. I have been brought to tears by so many of your stories that I connected with, but never left a reply until I read your “dope” story, and was compelled to do so. My brother and sister and I called all soft drinks “dopes”. The town folk called it “soda pop” or just “pop”. It would have felt phony for us to do so, so we never gave up our dopes! We would plead with our mother, “Mama, please let us walk to Uncle Bob’s for a dope”! Uncle Bob and Aunt Verna (Vernie) had a small country store about a mile up the road from us on Goshen Valley Road. Thank you Tipper for taking us back to sweet remembrances of our childhood and for all your wonderful stories.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    June 9, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Was there any reason for calling them dopes? Was the person wasting money on a drink? A dope was a foolish person. I never heard anyone call them dopes in SC. I can’t even remember what we called them growing up other than Coke, Pepsi or maybe soft drink. I remember the football coaches forbidding the players from drinking any carbonated beverage. Wouldn’t they have a time now? I am sure half the team clandestinely smoked. All the coaches smoked.

    My grandfather would only drink the 6 1/2 oz Cokes. The larger ones were diluted to make them bigger. And who knows they may have been. The taste certainly changed when cane sugar was no longer used. On business trips to Mexico and Brazil I loved the good Cokes. Of course even that has changed in Mexico. A Coke rep on the airplane laughed when I told him that. He said most people can’t tell the difference. “Kids don’t care and adults smoke” is what he said.

    • Reply
      Sue McIntyre
      June 9, 2020 at 3:44 pm

      Hi Harry, I am sure lots of people have asked the same question “Why were Cokes called dopes?” It is my understanding that Cokes contained cocaine at one point. In what amount, I am unsure. My Daddy, born in 1929, was not allowed to drink them at all. His Daddy born in 1890, believed them to be extremely addictive. My brothers and myself were not allowed to drink them in the Sixties. That mentality carried over into the next generation. Funny how things get passed from one generation to the next. I am not sure if this information is correct, but to this day, I had rather have a cold drink of water than a dope. LOL

      • Reply
        June 9, 2020 at 5:19 pm

        I’ve heard that too ..

  • Reply
    June 9, 2020 at 10:01 am

    Early Coca Cola actually contained some dope in the form of coca leaves/cocaine. The ingredients were not deleted till sometime in the 1920’s. So it was accurate to refer to it as a dope. The last time I heard that usage was in the 1960’s.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 9, 2020 at 10:01 am

    At points in my life cola drinks were called Dopes, Sodeys, Sodey-dopes. The fruit flavored drinks were described by their flavor with big as a prefix, Big Orange, Big Grape. No matter the size of the bottle they were always big. Add to that a pack of Nabs and and you have a square meal. For those who don’t know, Nabs are cheese flavored sodey crackers filled with peanut butter.
    Now I have a question! At what point in one’s life does one become an old-timer? In certain aspects it appears I was born an old-timer.

  • Reply
    Ed Mauney
    June 9, 2020 at 9:40 am

    In Shady Rest Gaston County N.C.
    My dad worked in the cotton mill in High Shoals and he took my brother and myself to work with him and he said he would get us a dope when the dope wagon came thru.
    This was cart that had drinks and snacks on it , this was back in the early 40s.

  • Reply
    June 9, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Never heard dope for a soft drink. Since I was a kid I related “dope” to bad stuff. I’ve heard them called “soda,” “sodie” or “pop.” I can just see me putting my hand on one of those drinks (Orange Crush, strawberry and grape Nehi) as they sat in the old coke container filled with ice. That was the best soda I ever tasted and was always good with a moon pie:)

  • Reply
    Roger Fingar
    June 9, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Is there a connection between the old term “dope” and cocaine as an ingredient in early Coca Cola and similar beverages?

  • Reply
    Michael Miller
    June 9, 2020 at 9:12 am

    Such memories, thank you

  • Reply
    Jim k
    June 9, 2020 at 8:24 am

    When I was growing in the 50-60s my family ran country store, the term dope for a soft drink ( usually a Coke-cola in the small bottles) was quite common.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 9, 2020 at 8:16 am

    I expect others will say this to but I think the term ‘dope’ came out of the original coke formula containing cocaine. And that may be where ‘coke’ came from to. At Mt. Airy, NC when they tore down a narrow building on Main Street they discovered a painted sign advertising Coke on the brick wall of one of the adjoining buildings. It has been restored in vibrant colors of mostly red and green but there is a little slogan “relieves fatique”. So it was the original formula with the pick-me-up ingredient. Back then, it was 5¢.

    Like Barney, we called all forms of carbonated soft drinks “pop”. I was probably around seven before I ever heard “coke”. We didn’t have pop at our house.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    June 9, 2020 at 8:14 am

    That is one I never heard. My Grandmother did believe that only dopes drank sodie pops as she called them. She was a firm believer in water. I think she thought it cleansed your soul. She always had a glass on the table next to her.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    June 9, 2020 at 8:12 am

    I’ve heard soft drinks called dope but not recently and I’ve never used it. Wonder if it was called dope because coke at one time actually had cocaine in it. This made me think of how I used to hear the word drug used. When an engine wasn’t running right I’d hear that there was a drug in the gasoline and stuck in the corborator.

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    June 9, 2020 at 8:01 am

    I recall that use of “dope” when I was young. It does have a factual basis. I don’t hear it used anymore.

    “Coca-Cola was invented in 1885 by John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia, who concocted the original formula in his backyard. Pemberton’s recipe contained cocaine—in the form of an extract of the coca leaf, which inspired the “Coca” part of the beverage’s name. The “Cola” in the name comes from the kola nut, which contains caffeine, another stimulant.”

  • Reply
    June 9, 2020 at 7:44 am

    My grandfather would use the term dope – usually to make us kids laugh. My mother used to say jokingly, “I’ll have a Pepsi coley dope and a Hershey bar with akerns in it.” It was obviously something she’d heard from someone in the past; don’t know if it was from someone she knew or in a song or what. I do call all carbonated beverages “coke”, as in, “do you want a coke? Ok, what kind?”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 9, 2020 at 7:34 am

    I don’t drink soft drinks either but I heard then called dopes all my life. I have frequently wondered how carbinated drinks came to be called dopes here in the south.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 9, 2020 at 7:33 am

    Back before we had a Car, we use to walk down to my Uncle Tobe’s to get a little bity Coke. Daddy would pull money out of his front pocket and pay Tobe for the Dope. Back then, it only cost a Nickle, and I thought that was the best thing ever. I remember my uncle telling my Daddy that dopes were going up to 7 cents the next week, Daddy swore he’d stop drinking any. ( But he didn’t ). I thought, how nice to have a store, so a person could get one anytime he wanted.

    Tobe’s store was a couple miles from us, we lived at Upper Topton and he lived at Lower Topton. It was hard to keep up with Daddy, since he walked fast and me and Harold could hardly keep up. Harold was a couple years older than me, so it was even hard on him. I hadn’t started to school yet, I was only about 5.

    Tobe and Lenore had one son named Bill, he use to drive here to the shop. But now he don’t even know how to get here. Before he was sent to Viet Nam, he told me about his Mama sending Goodies over there to share with his buddies. He’s about a year older than me and he was driving before he was old enough to drive. He would Drive up to the house and pick me and Harold up and we had many adventures when we were just youngin’s. …Ken

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 9, 2020 at 7:30 am

    We call all of them cokes too. I do seem to remember an older relative call it dope it has been so long ago I forget which one. But my gramma had words I had never heard like wheel for a bicycle, betting on her

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 9, 2020 at 6:54 am

    Tipper–I don’t know it as established fact, but I strongly suspect that the use of dope originated with the fact that early soft drinks literally contained “dope” in the form of cocaine.

    I have almost always heard “sody dope” instead of just dope. My Grandpa Joe wouldn’t touch soft drinks and once gave me a graphic (if misleading) demonstration of why. He placed a small piece of streaked meat in a coffee cup and poured a Coke over it. “We’ll leave it for awhile,” he said, “then come back and see what happens.” An hour or two later, after piddling around doing something outside, we checked. The fat portion of the streaked meat was gone. “I ain’t about to put something that will do that in my stomach,” he said.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    William Diamond
    June 9, 2020 at 6:53 am

    Where I grew up we called all soft drinks “pop”. Not soda pop just pop.

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