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Where the turkey got its name

Posted by / November 24, 2010


With tensions being what they are in the world today, it’s a small wonder that some segment of the population hasn’t tried to rename America’s favorite bird the “freedom chicken.” The question still remains: How did the runner-up for our national bird get named for a country across the globe?

The answer harkens back to the days of the Middle East traders and a few key misunderstandings on the part of early American settlers. The Middle East was once known for its key role in trade between the Far East, Africa and Europe, and oftentimes, the items they traded became associated with the traders rather than their place of origin.

The African Guinea fowl was one of these items that became particularly popular in England and renamed the “Turkey cock” thanks to the hand that delivered the treat into European hands. The bird we know today as the turkey apparently resembled the Guinea fowl enough to take on its name, though the “cock” was eventually dropped.

As its popularity spread internationally, so did the name; it didn’t hurt that they continued to be traded by Turkish merchants, either. Perhaps someday Turkey can celebrate its role as east-west mediator by serving up the bird that took its name.

Full story at Treehugger.

Strange twists of history.

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  • Philip

    In Israel it’s called Hodu, which is the Hebrew name for India.