December 5, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 49

Our day for talkin' turkey

Wick's World

This year our traditional Thanksgiving meal consisted mainly of a party of three people — myself, my wife and a real live Mall Santa Claus. This was Santa’s only day off during his 42-day run up to Christmas Eve. The grueling schedule included a 12 hour day with a half hour break. This made for an easy decision for us to celebrate with Santa at home, giving him a much needed rest.

Three people were far too few to eat a giant gobbler, so I opted for three wild rice-stuffed Cornish game hens. They were a total success!

As we hadn’t seen my sister or her husband for a couple years, on Friday night we hightailed it to Sioux City, Iowa. Arriving near midnight, we quickly hit the rack and caught up on some much needed sleep. Saturday was our day for "talkin’ turkey." No one seems to know exactly where this phrase originated, but it most likely appeared in this country sometime in the 1800s. It is usually used in reference to "a serious discussion," although most sources claim it began with turkey hunters trying to mimic their prey. Others claim that it refers to a nervous suitor trying to woo a young lady and getting all of his words and syllables mixed up, thus sounding like a gobbling turkey.

Another explanation from the early 1900s: A turkey was considered a stupid and funny bird. When someone was joking around or talking pretty stupidly, he was said to be talkin’ turkey.

Most people prefer to go "cold turkey” after Thanksgiving, at least until Christmas Day when once again the old gobbler puts its neck on the chopping block. That is unless, of course, that turkey is the lucky one annually pardoned by the president of the United States. The origin of the phrase “cold turkey” is uncertain, but it was used in a 1951 Time magazine article about juvenile addicts housed at New York’s Riker’s Island who had to endure the horrors of a "cold turkey" sudden withdrawal from narcotics.

Incidentally, some of our Founding Fathers cast their ballot for the turkey as our nation’s symbol. Fortunately there were enough votes cast for the elegant bald eagle to save our nation from becoming the laughing stock of the world — kind of like the Minnesota Gophers. What kind of state would give their sports team a gopher as a mascot?

John Lennon wrote a song about heroin withdrawal called “Cold Turkey” about the same time Norman Lear made the movie “Cold Turkey.” In the movie, a fictional town was offered $25,000,000 if the entire town would quit smoking for a whole year. Now that’s both “talking turkey” and going “cold turkey.”

Did the turkey originate in Turkey? The answer is no; it came from right here in North America.

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