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What's the origin?

Posted by ESC on January 30, 2000

In Reply to: What's the origin? posted by Vincent Jackson on January 30, 2000

: Does anyone actually know the origin of the popular phrase "Stop Cold Turkey"? I know it is used to mean a sudden and complete stop, as to "Stop smoking cold turkey" or to "Stop eating red meat cold turkey," but I don't know how and when it was started. Any guesses?

TALKING TURKEY -- "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (1982, Simon and Schuster) has a big section on "turkey" including why turkey is called turkey. ".Our North American bird was erroneously named 'turkey' by European explorers as early as 1587, in confusion with the European turkey cock, a completely different bird.Other stories, that our word turkey comes from some Indian word for it, or from the doctor on Columbus' ship shouting 'Tukki!' (Hebrew for 'big bird') when he first saw one, are not convincing." But getting back to your question: "To talk turkey meant to speak plainly by 1830 (turkey gobbling was a distinct, natural sound on frontier farms) and the expression soon became 'to talk cold turkey'; hence 'cold turkey' came to mean cold facts, unpleasant truths. By the 1940s 'cold turkey' was a drug addict's term for a sudden and complete withdrawal from drugs (reinforced by the addict's goose bumps, resembling uncooked turkey skin)..."