Antedating of "cold turkey"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 15 20:29:52 UTC 2013

> Is there any received view on where the expression comes from (as opposed to when and from whom), i.e. why turkey?

It was discussed on this list in 2002, but the Online Etymology Dictionary sounds about right:
"without preparation," 1910; narrower sense of "withdrawal from an addictive substance" (originally heroin) first recorded 1921. Cold turkey is a food that requires little preparation, so "to quit like cold turkey" is to do so suddenly and without preparation. Cf. cold shoulder.

The other OED has:
to say or talk turkey  , to talk agreeably or affably, to say pleasant things; now usu. (in this sense also to talk cold turkey  ) to speak frankly and without reserve; to talk hard facts, get down to business; (no longer restricted to N. Amer.); to talk turkey  , to use high-flown language; hence absol. language of this character;

Here's a bunch that seem to indicate "without preparation" (and also seem to be military/WW1 uses):

1919-01 which made the Hun quit cold turkey.

1919-02 without a round of ammunition, we'd be cold "turkey."

1919-04 went in cold turkey

These seem to be generally "plain talking" (quite a few in a baseball stories):

1915 No soomer had he presented himself than he put his business up to the mountaineer, "cold turkey," as the agents say when they lay all the cards on the table.

1918 ... talked cold turkey on no unmistakable terms.

1918-03 Kay Morgan will hear "cold turkey stuff" today from Manager Clark Griffith, for the Washington lnflelder is due for a contract conference at the Southern building.

1919 We're Talking Cold Turkey Now

1919 But to get back to cold turkey. As I was saying,

1919 now tell me cold turkey why you are so anxious

1920 That's the cold turkey description. We might adorn ...

Some others, less clear:

1918-04 "offering $75,000 plumb cold turkey". The cold turkey stuff means they will offer the sum in order to bring the show here, regardless of financial prospects.

1918-09 you can not talk or cough or sneeze as you would at home, for it might be cold turkey if you did, as a hand grenade might come too close for your good.

1918-12 [wartime cartoon title]


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