The Language of Thanksgiving

Every holiday has its own unique expressions and phrases, and Thanksgiving is no exception. This year, with its limited celebratory options, I decided to investigate two of my favorites.

Why are male turkeys called gobblers? According to Merriam-Webster, Gobbler appeared in the 18th century as the nickname for a male turkey, in imitation of the bird’s characteristic guttural noises. Its origin is the verb gobble, meaning “to swallow or eat something quickly or greedily,” which goes all the way back to the 16th century and probably came from the earlier noun gob, which is used as a name for a lump or large mass. Gobble also means taking or grabbing something eagerly or suddenly, as in rapidly reading a book (https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/word-history-of-gobbler-turkey?).

What does it mean to “talk turkey”? As for many expressions, there are multiple origin stories. Merriam-Webster traces it back to the 19th century, suggesting frank or blunt speech, as in to talk noisily or indistinctly like a turkey. But I prefer the explanation from the Idioms tab of The Free Dictionary, of which I have also found multiple versions (https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/talk+turkey) —

“This expression allegedly comes from a tale about an Indian and a white  man who hunted together and divided the game. When the white man said, “I’ll take the turkey and you the buzzard, or you take the buzzard and I the turkey,” the Indian replied, “Talk turkey to me.” Whether or not this tale has a true basis, the term was recorded in its present meaning by about 1840.” 

No matter how you say it, I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.

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