Eat a Turkey: A Carniverous Tribute

Eat a Turkey for God
Because it’s Food — Psalm 118

There is some confusion about the origin of the bird we call turkey. I believe the animal is native to the Americas, yet in many languages it is linked to India, perhaps from some confusion between India and the new Indies, that is, this hemisphere where the bird is indeed indigenous. But why turkey?

The bird we call turkey was given the name referring to the guinea fowl, because the bird was traded in the eastern Mediterranean by guys who were called turkey merchants trafficking in or near present day Turkey [I am descended from turkey merchants, by the way, as well as word merchants].

The British saw the bird in the mid 16th century. It reminded them of the guinea fowl known in the eastern Mediterranean, and they called the bird turkey bird. So what we call a turkey is a name applied to two different birds: the American bird and the guinea fowl.

Another opinion: The word turkey has also been credited to Luis de Torres, who was the interpreter for Columbus. He was a converted [out] Jew, and his knowledge of the Hebrew Bible was good. On Columbus’s expedition, he discovered a large wild bird with a head and body very similar to the peacock. He called it a tukki (see I Kings 10:22 and II Chronicle 9:21), which over the centuries became corrupted into our word turkey. Tukki is used in Hebrew today to signify a parrot.

Note that even in Turkey, the bird is called hindi, linked to India, as it is in French (dinde – d’Inde from India), and many other European languages including Yiddish (indik) and Polish and Russian.

In Hebrew, turkey is hodu as a noun because that is Hebrew for India, but hodu is also an imperative form of “give thanks,” as in the Psalms: give thanks to God, for God is good or Have a turkey for God, because – it’s food.

jsg, usa