The Red Solo Cup's Viral Hold on America

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Not that we needed another piece of evidence for the cultural hegemony of the red Solo cup, but the Internet gave us one anyway Wednesday when a clever blog post about the meaning of the ridges on the iconic college party tool took the Internet by storm. The super-link spreading site Kottke, run by blogger Jason Kottke, picked up reports lurking on the Web that the horizontal lines on the Solo cup correspond with the recommended volumes for a single serving of (from the bottom up) liquor, wine, and beer. While that makes perfect sense and is a wonderful example of form following function, Solo's people have noted that this is purely coincidence. (Snopes, the Internet's fact-checking arm, debunked it as well.)

Nevertheless, it's quite a coincidence, and a useful one at that. Kottke's post quickly bounced around the Internet like an errant beer pong shot bounces through the halls of a frat basement.

[image via Kottke]

What we love about the red Solo cup is its sheer randomness. The purpose it serves -- holding our beverages -- could obviously be provided by any other plastic cup, but this particular color of this particular brand has somehow cornered the hard-partying beverage-containing market. Slate's Seth Stevenson has called it "an American party staple" and country singer Toby Keith's epic ballad on the subject notes: "Now I've seen you in blue, and I've seen you in yellow, But only you, red, will do for this fellow."

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Solo has infiltrated our parties so successfully, and America (and we include ourselves in this) is so deeply interested  in a discovery about its ridges, that we will tweet and Facebook and email it around as fast as we can.  The explosive viral nature of a discovery about what is, and we cannot stress this enough, a piece of colored plastic is, if nothing else, another point of evidence that our country has an oddly deep connection with this brand of cups. Take this knowledge, America, and use it to drink responsible serving sizes—even if that's entirely unintentional.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.