Talking turkey (or bloggle bloggle bloggle)

Nov 23, 2012 | Language

Yesterday, the people of America celebrated Thanksgiving Day and so starts the festive season. And what is more festive than a Thanksgiving, or indeed Christmas, turkey? Be prepared to learn more about these strange, ugly (sorry turkeys…) birds than you ever needed to know.

So, the turkey. Firstly, it is not from Turkey. Its connection with Turkey seems to be that the traders who supplied them were Turkish and it was therefore originally called a Turkie cock. According to my wonderful source (which is the QI website – well worth a visit!), it is peculiar across the world for being named after other countries, mostly India. The French word is dinde, originally d’Inde or from India, in Polish it is indyk, in Hebrew Tarngol Hodu or  Indian fowl and in Dutch Kalkoen or Calcutta hen. Ironically, in India it is called a peru.

According to the Pilgrim fathers (again, via QI), the Native American word for turkey was furkee, although it seems the Choctaw people called it a fakit from the noise it makes. This has now been changed to akank chaaha (tall chicken) for obvious reasons!

The poor old turkey doesn’t even have a defining latin nametranslated literally, Meleagris gallopavo means guinea-fowl chicken-peacock. Poor old turkey.

Another couple of great facts (I can’t thank QI enough – don’t forget to go and look at their website!). I can imagine it would’ve been pretty difficult to load, and keep loaded, 1000 turkeys on a wooden cart to get them from East Anglia to London. So they were herded, all wearing little leather turkey shoes to protect their little turkey feet. Moving at a speed of one mile an hour and stopping at night for turkey rest, it took two drovers and three months. Think about that while you’re queuing at Tesco!

QI also notes that, although turkeys are native to the Americas, the original Thanksgiving dinner in 1620 probably came over with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. So, a nice long walk, followed by a little boat trip. Then dinner. (And if you want to find out more about the Pilgrims, can I suggest Horrible Histories? You will laugh.)

So, my thanks today, on this post-Thanksgiving Day, are to QI, Horrible Histories and turkeys everywhere. What are yours?

image: © David Coleman |