Soda or Float?

Sometimes, I feel like I come from another planet.

In 1969, when my family moved to South Jersey from Central Jersey, some things were so different that we felt like we were speaking another language. It was crazy because we had just moved an hour south! But the truth was that all our new neighbors had come from Philadelphia, and all our old neighbors, like us, had come from Brooklyn, New York.

BIG difference. Huge.

For instance, we ate Hero Sandwiches–Heroes for short– and they eat Hoagies. We call a towel a TOW-ell; they say “tal” like “gal.” They say “greeze” while we say “grease.” And when they color, they use “crowns” rather than CRAY-ons.

They go “down the shore” but we always just went to the beach. They root for the Phillies and Eagles, while we are Mets and Giants fans.


Of course, there were other, more important differences in the ways we spoke and thought, but tonight–43 years later–it happened again: I was the only one of five people out for a late night snack, who knew what the hell I was talking about. The others thought I was crazy, but I’m here to set them straight, once and for all. Like a Boss.

So here you go– THIS is an ICE CREAM SODA:

ice cream soda

It is made with chocolate syrup (not “surrup” like the Philly-South Jerseyans say, but “sear-up”) and seltzer: that makes the chocolate soda. Add a dollop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry and you have the standard Black and White Ice Cream Soda. You can also make a vanilla or coffee soda the same way, and although the ice cream is usually vanilla, you can add any kind you want, really. That part’s flexible.

Now, THIS is an ice cream FLOAT:rb

A FLOAT is made with actual soda, like root beer or coke. It’s best to put some ice cream in the glass first, then slowly pour the soda over it, as it tends to bubble up alot. It does not normally get topped with whipped cream or a cherry.

Now, going a little further, no one in South Jersey had ever heard of an Egg Cream before The Silver Diner opened across from the Cherry Hill Mall. I used to go get Egg Creams with my Nana in Brooklyn and it remains my favorite drink (except for Cafe Mochas, I guess, which I’ve been drinking for about 20 years and I blame for at least 30 pounds of excess weight, but I digress).

An Egg Cream, as has been explained often, contains neither eggs nor cream but is actually just a chocolate soda made with U-Bets chocolate syrup, a little milk, and seltzer–out of the fountain is better. In fact, I guess that’s where the term fountain soda came from, though they probably never heard of fountain sodas down here either. Who knows?

egg cream

So, for the waitress who was all of 16 years old and looked at me like I was crazy; for my friend Krista who posted about it on facebook; for the other two ladies at the table who had not known the difference–here ya go. You may never have known the difference between an ice cream soda and an ice cream float, but now you do! And of course, perhaps the more important point is that you cannot go wrong: whether soda or float, chocolate or vanilla, sundae or frappe, it’s alllll good. Enjoy 🙂


7 thoughts on “Soda or Float?

  1. Patti:

    Can’t seem to log in to comment but love this!

    I have akways gone to the beach, ate subs, Yankess not Mets. Knicks over 76ers

    Growing up in North Jersey ( not much further North than you) we went to the CITY.. the only real city the one that you could see the skyline of at night – NYC

    When we cross the delaware here we are going to philly and I always make sure no one thinks we are going to NYC.

    When asked where did I grow up and say North Jersey (essex county) people here say oh like Freehold or Trenton or some other random central jersey town. Newark ( 1 syllable) & they correct me and tell me its NewArk – (2 syllables) I know how to pronounce the town where I was born…

    Thanks for letting me rant!


    • LOL Michelle…sorry it’s taken me so long to reply, I just saw this for some reason! Yes, it’s a whole new world down here in the Philly suburbs. The funny thing is, they all think they’re the norm, when we know the whole country is on our side! I have traveled the country and know that there are many things that Philly does/says that are ALL Philly. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s true!!

  2. As long as I can have my ice cream, you can call it whatever you want:) In South Philly, we only ordered Ice Cream floats and egg creams were a North East Philly drink. The big hit of the summer was water ice and soft pretzels. You went to Pop’s without me:( Only kidding. loved the post

    • Wow–nobody down here had ever heard of Egg Creams when we came down, I thought it was a Brooklyn/NY thing! I wonder if they make them the same way in NE philly? When I went to the Silver Diner for the first time I was soooo excited to order one, then the waiter asked me: ice or no ice? and I knew it would never be the same. BUT I’ve schooled them too, and now they make it for me just right, lol! Maybe this should be my life’s mission…

  3. I only thought it was funny that you told the waitress off lol. Thank you for the educational post – as i said in an earlier blog post, NJ is like 2 different countries!
    And yes, Marie – water ice and pretzels were pretty much the standard in south philly anyway.

  4. I love this post. Language shifts are so interesting to me (and your phonetic South Jersey/Philly spellings are hilarious). I have to say, though, that I do know what an egg cream is, and like them very much! I’m not sure I’ve ever had the ice cream and seltzer combo.

    • Thanks Robin! I was with Glenn today at the coffee house and I had to teach them ALL what a black and white milkshake is (vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup)…my mission continues…

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