🇺🇸 How Turkey Got Its Name

Plus, why do we even eat turkey on Thanksgiving?

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Good morning, and happy Thanksgiving! Today has to be a top-five American holiday, right? Family, friends, food, and football? That's a lot of good "F-words" flying around. And for the soccer fans out there, this year we even get to add "fútbol" to the list. Not bad! 

Since we know you're probably trying to relax today, we're switching up the format with a quick-hitting trivia post from Dan Lewis of Now I Know. How the heck did Turkey get its name anyway? Scroll down to find out and be sure to show off your new-found knowledge at the dinner table tonight.


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Active Thanksgiving, Ditching the Bird, White House Pardon

Be Active: 5 Fun Thanksgiving Activities To Help You Feel Happier and Healthier (Woman's World)

Change-Up: Not all families serve turkey on Thanksgiving. Here's why some are ditching the bird for other options. (Yahoo! Life)

So You Know: USDA advice clears Turkey confusion before Thanksgiving (Food Safety News)

Sign of the Times: The rising cost of Thanksgiving (CNN)

Pardon Me? Biden Pardoned The Thanksgiving Turkeys. Read The Strange Truth Behind The Tradition (LAist)


How Turkey Got Its Name

GIF Credit: Cooking Light

This week, many American families will gather around the lunch or (and?) dinner table, feasting on a Thanksgiving meal centered on turkey. It’s a celebration of many things, but historically, stems back to 1621, when European settlers (“Pilgrims,” as any American elementary school children will surely tell you) marked the harvest by having a similar meal.

Turkeys are indigenous to the United States and Mexico; in fact, Europeans only first came into contact with turkeys roughly 500 years ago, upon discovery of the New World. So how did turkeys (the bird) end up being named so similarly to Turkey (the country)? Let’s follow that bird’s history from the New World to the Old.

As far as we can tell, the first European explorers to discover (and eat) turkey were those in Hernan Cortez’s expedition in Mexico in 1519. This new delicacy was brought back to Europe by Spanish Conquistadors and by 1524, had reached England. The bird was domesticated in England within a decade, and by the turn of the century, it’s name — “turkey” — had entered the English language. Case in point: William Shakespeare used the term in Twelfth Night, believed to be written in 1601 or 1602. The lack of context around his usage suggests that the term had widespread reach.

But the birds did not come directly from the New World to England; rather, they came via merchant ships from the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Those merchants were called “Turkey merchant” as much of the area was part of the Turkish Empire at the time. Purchasers of the birds back home in England thought the fowl came from the area, hence the name “Turkey birds” or, soon thereafter, “turkeys.”

Not all languages follow this misconception. Others, such as Hebrew get the origin just as wrong, but in the other direction. The Hebrew term for turkey, transliterated as tarnagol hodu, literally translates to “chicken of India,” furthering the Elizabethan-era myth that New World explorers had found a route to the Orient. This nomenclature for the bird is so wide-spread that it self-defeats the historical basis for the term “turkey” in English, as the Turkish word for turkey is “hindi.”

Bonus fact: As for Turkey, the country? The story isn’t as interesting. The word Turkey — actually, Türkiye in Turkish — can be broken up into two parts. “Türk” is a reference to people, potentially meaning “human beings” in an archaic version of the Turkish language. The “-iye” suffix most likely meant “land of.”


Someone to Speak to, Important Year-End Info, and Single Serve Wine (Count Us In)

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The First Thanksgiving, Why We Eat Turkey, and Korean Thanksgiving 

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. At the time the festival lasted for three days. Click here to keep reading.

Star-Ledger: How did the turkey come to be our feast bird?

Fox News: Meet the American who gave the nation our Thanksgiving origin story: Pilgrim Edward Winslow

Mental Floss: 11 Tasty Regional Thanksgiving Food Words

Today I Learned, shortly after the Korean War, there were few refrigerators or protein-dense foods in South Korea. Koreans would barter with American troops for Spam (canned pork). As South Korea continued to develop, Spam became a staple food and is often a common gift given during Korean Thanksgiving.