Today I found out why turkeys are called turkeys.
In the 16th century, when North American turkeys were first introduced en masse to Europe, there was another bird that was popularly imported throughout Europe and, most relevant to this article, England, called a guinea fowl. This guinea fowl was imported from Madagascar via the Ottoman Empire. The merchants who did this were, thus, known as “turkey merchants”. The guinea fowl themselves eventually were popularly referred to as “turkey fowl”, similar to how other product imported through the Ottoman Empire acquired their names, such as “turkey corn”, “turkey wheat”, etc.
The North American turkey was then first introduced to Spain in the very early 16th century and later popularly introduced to all of Europe shortly thereafter. The North American turkey was thought by many to be a species of the type of guinea fowl that was imported via the Ottoman Empire and thus, began also being called a “turkey fowl” in English, with this eventually being shortened to just “turkey”.
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- A group of turkeys is technically called a “rafter”, though they are often incorrectly referred to as a “gobble” or simply a “flock”.
- Due to the reputation of turkeys being incredibly stupid, the term “turkey” began being used as a slang, derogatory term meaning something akin to “idiot” around…
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