What's in a name?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Turkey

That which we call a turkey by any other name would taste as sweet

In celebration of festive season, the highly trained owls in our research department have yet again struck gold with a little known and lesser known observation regarding the origin of the humble turkey.

For the first, despite being native to the Americas the turkey came to be known as such after Turkish merchant traders established a near monopoly on their importation to the UK. Thusly known as Turkey birds, the name was soon thereafter shortened to turkey and so we are today.

Oddly enough however the English speaking world is somewhat unique in this national association with Turkey. In France, Italy, Russia, Poland, Holland and indeed in Turkey on the other hand, the local word for the turkey bird refers in one way or another directly to India, from which the majority of their own import came. In fact following the trail on, in the Indian language of Hindi the chicken is known as पीरू, or ‘Peru’, which they in turn borrow from the Portuguese, who likely had some realistic idea of the intercontinental bird’s origins.

Surely few names have ever travelled so far or been so altered in such an international game of Chinese whispers (where out of interest they even more bizarrely call the turkey a fire chicken or a seven-faced bird – no, me neither).


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