The Why Behind the Turkey

If you stayed tuned (ha! another one!) from yesterday, we are answering the important question:

Why do they call it “quitting cold turkey?”

What does a turkey have to do with quitting? And why is it cold?

If you were able to restrain yourself from Googling “why we say quitting cold turkey,” last night I have, at long last, the answers for you.

From American Idioms:

The expression originates from the goose bumps and pallor which accompany withdrawal from narcotics or tobacco. One’s skin resembles that of a plucked, cold turkey…

Hmm…I’m a bit disappointed. That wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.  Let’s keep going…

A chip on your shoulder
“The phrase ‘a chip on one’s shoulder’ is reported as originating with the nineteenth century U.S. practice of spoiling for a fight by carrying a chip of wood on one’s shoulder, daring others to knock it off. This suggested derivation has more than the whiff of folk-etymology about it.”
Let the cat out of the bag
This “relates to the fraud of substituting a cat for a piglet at markets. If you let the cat out of the bag you disclosed the trick – and avoided buying a pig in a poke (bag). This form of trickery is long alluded to in the language and ‘pigs in a poke’ are recorded as early as 1530.”  Basically medial marketmen would display a nice juicy pig, then pull a switcheroo with a not-so-tasty-cat. Sneaky.
It’s raining cats and dogs
Apparently, this is a much debated idiom.  Who knew? According to one source, “the much more probable source of ‘raining cats and dogs’ is the prosaic fact that, in the filthy streets of 17th/18th century England, heavy rain would occasionally carry along dead animals and other debris. The animals didn’t fall from the sky, but the sight of dead cats and dogs floating by in storms could well have caused the coining of this colourful phrase.”
Hold on to your horses
Military origin. In  Hunt and Pringle’s Service Slang: “Hold your horses, hold the job until further orders. (comes from the Artillery)”
Riding shotgun
From stagecoach days. The passenger literally had to carry a shotgun to ward off highway robbers.
Spill the beans
“The derivation of this expression is sometimes said to be a voting system used in ancient Greece. The story goes that white beans indicated positive votes and black beans negative. Votes had to be unanimous, so if the collector ‘spilled the beans’ before the vote was complete and a black bean was seen, the vote was halted.”
Brand spanking new
Doctors used to spank those babies straight out of their mommas.  Thus, brand spanking new!
Busting your chops
“At the turn of the century, wearing very long sideburns—called mutton chops or lamb chops — was en vogue. Lamb chop side burns also made a comeback in the late 1960s. A bust in the chops was to get hit in the face.”
In the crapper
“Thomas Crapper of England is credited for the design and implementation of modern indoor plumbing (including the flushable toilet). Although there is conciderable evidence to the contrary, restrooms/bathrooms are still often referred to as “The Crapper.” This word (among others) was introduced to America by their World War I soldiers returning home from Europe.” Ok, I somehow was not aware of this little fact of life.  The guy that inveted the toilet was named crapper?? Who doesn’t believe in destiny now?
Crocodile tears
“It was often thought that crocodiles shed tears that slid down into their mouths, moistening their food and making it easier for them to swallow. Hence the tears appear to be an expression of emotion but are in fact a means to make it easier to swallow (possibly the observer).”
Dead as a doornail
“Nails were once hand tooled and costly. When an aging cabin or barn was torn down the valuable nails would be salvaged so they could be reused in later construction. When building a door however, carpenters often drove the nail through then bent it over the other end so it couldn’t work its way out during the repeated opening and closing of the door. When it came time to salvage the building, these door nails were considered useless, or “dead” because of the way they were bent.”
Dressed to the nines
“Common lore has it that a tailor making a high quality suit uses more fabric. The best suits are made from nine yards of fabric. This may seem like a lot but a proper suit does indeed take nine yards of fabric. This is because a good suit has all the fabric cut in the same direction with the warp, or long strands of thread, parallel with the vertical line of the suit. This causes a great amount of waste in suit making, but if you want to go “dressed to the nines”, you must pay for such waste.”
Three square meals a day
British war ships in the 1700s including the HMS Victory did not have the best of living conditions. A sailors breakfast and lunch were sparse meals consisting of little more than bread and a beverage. But the third meal of the day included meat and was served on a square tray. Eating a substantial meal onboard a ship required a tray to carry it all. Hence a “square meal” was the most substantial meal served.”


Don’t you feel smarter? Now you can amuse all of your friends at the next dinner party.  Or on your next hour and a half drive home with your sister..


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