cold turkey

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jan 30 12:13:35 UTC 2002

At 3:20 PM -0500 1/30/02, Mark A Mandel wrote:
>I just saw "cold turkey" used in the context of beginning an undertaking
>with no preparation, rather than ending a habit or addiction by stopping
>abruptly, as I have always seen it used before. If I can find the quote
>I'll post it.  Is this a new usage?
>-- Mark A. Mandel
>    Linguist at Large

It struck me that this generalized "cold turkey" wasn't entirely
foreign to my ear (although I hasn't to add it *is* to my tongue), so
I checked google for "go into it cold turkey", and came up with three
John Ostrom never thought about much about the sciences and math
while in high school..."SMC has opened all the doors for me to Math
and Science."  It was tough.  "I had to go into it 'cold turkey'," he
recalls with a chuckle.  "But now I've progressed all the way to
linear algebra, and I'm liking it."

Hi Sheila! I am a 14 year old girl and I met this really nice 16 year
old guy at rugby yesterday. I got his phone number and I called him
today and we are going out next Saturday. The problem is I don't know
him and I don't know what he expects on the first date and I don't
know what to talk about and I don't know what to wear!!! Please help


It depends on where the two of you are going. If you're going out to
dinner, dress up a little more. If you are going some place casual,
like to a friend's house, a movie or to the mall, dress nicely but
don't overdo it. Dresses are nice for more intimate occasions like
dinners or lunches, but I prefer jeans when going some place more
casual. A nice sweater and a pair of jeans, do your hair nicely and
wear a bit of make-up and you're set.

As for talking, think of some things you would like to find out about
him. Maybe write them down on a piece of paper and go over them.
Think of a scenario the day before so you have some time to think of
some things to say. Ask him what he did the night before, or if it is
the evening, ask him what he did during the day. Ask him what he
normally does on the weekend. Focus your attention and topics on him.
Guys don't like it when you talk alot about yourself, unless he
specifically asks you some things. But don't go into it cold turkey.
Think of some things you'd like to talk about, write them down and
get a better idea of where you'd like the conversation to start.
...How many times have we heard that? Any brother wishing to take on
this challenging
work, don't go into it `cold turkey'.

It's kinda neat, I think, a little like positive vs. "normal"
"anymore", but it looks from HDAS as though it's not necessarily new,
in that adverbial/adjectival "cold turkey" is glossed as 'outright;
directly; without preparation or warning', with cites back to 1910 or
this one from 1920 that TAD (T. A. Dorgan) produced with all that
free time he had because he wasn't drawing hot dog cartoons:

"Now tell me on the square--can I get by with this for the
wedding--don't string me--tell me cold turkey."

Related query:  whether or not we assume that the drug-withdrawal
sense is the earliest for "cold turkey", whence the metaphor?  Why a


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