If you order iced tea in a restaurant in the south, you are likely to be asked, “Sweet or unsweet?”. I am fairly certain that “unsweet”, in the sense of “not having sugar added”, is not really a word. I say that because my word processing program has it underlined in red, and when I look it up in my inline dictionary I get the answer “No entries found. Do you mean ‘unseat’?” Looking the word up on dictionary.com, I do get a definition:
1. (of champagne) moderately dry [syn: sec]
2. distasteful; "he found life unsweet"
I’m not sure either of these definitions fit iced tea, especially the second one, but you won’t convince anyone down south that the word they are looking for is “unsweetened”. Nonetheless, whenever I order iced tea in a restaurant, I specify “unsweetened” and add, “with no lemon” because I really don’t like lemon in my iced tea. Half the time it arrives with a lemon slice on the rim anyway, and then we have to do it all again. I suspect that in the restaurants we frequent, I am known as Her Again. Her Again is actually a good tipper, but it doesn’t matter, because most of the time my husband is paying for dinner. So I also suspect I get the same glass back minus the lemon slice. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone spit in it either, but I figure that’s why I have such a sturdy immune system.
I tell people that I live south of the tea line. In the north, at least when I was growing up in New York, if you asked for tea in a restaurant you would get a cup of hot tea, unless you specified iced tea. Down here, if you ask for tea in a restaurant, you get iced tea, unless you specify hot tea (which they might not even have).
I ran into a similar distinction when I went to college in Buffalo, NY. Where I grew up, “soda” meant a carbonated beverage. In Buffalo, a carbonated beverage was “pop” and “soda” meant an ice cream soda. Down here, of course, a carbonated beverage is a Coke, or sometimes a cold drink.
I suspect in time “unsweet” for “unsweetened” will make its way into dictionaries. After all, it does fit a grammatical rule. I’m still going to take it with no lemon.