There’s nothing like a Meleagris Gallopavo with all the trimmings for Christmas (or Thanksgiving). That’s a turkey to you and me. Or a twrci if you’re Welsh and like spelling things oddly for the sake of it.
I’m sure you know why turkeys are called turkeys. They came to England from America, so they should really be called Americas. But they looked a bit like Guinea Fowl, which came not from Guinea but from Madagascar, via Turkey. So the English decided to call turkeys Turkey Fowl … then dropped the fowl. And the Americans followed.
But that’s nothing compared to continental Europe where the Greeks call turkeys ‘French Chickens’ and Croatians call them ‘Peruvians’.
In some versions of Arabic, turkeys are ‘Ethiopian Hens’. But they’re ‘Dutch Chickens’ in Malay.
No wonder your typical turkey looks a bit manic.
Talking of its appearance, the turkey is known as a ‘Seven-faced Bird’ in Japanese, because it allegedly has seven facial expressions. That’s quite a few more than some Hollywood actors I could name.
Over in China, they call it a ‘Fire Chicken’ because of its orange head. But it’s not a chicken, obviously, despite the Tamils, who call it a ‘Sky Chicken’ and Urdu speakers, who see it more as an ‘Elephant Chicken’.
Meanwhile in Swahili, the poor thing is a ‘Great Duck’.
Thankfully, some languages are more sensibly onomatopoeic. The Persian word is ‘Booghalamoon’, which does sound a bit like a turkey gobbling. Sort of.
And in Geordie and Scots, it’s a ‘Bubblejock’ (or ‘Bubblycock’ I’ve since discovered).
Yes – it does sound like a terrible Grindr pseudonym, but it’s for real, as in: Her Grace turned to him and said, ‘Rax me a spaul o’ that bubbly jock.’ (1862)
I have no idea what that means and I’m not sure I want to.
As for the Turkish word for turkey (the bird), well, it’s ‘Hindi’. No idea why. And the Hindi word for turkey is ‘Tarki’, which sounds more like an otter to me.
Pass me another chocolate liqueur.