An obvious Thanksgiving post to make. Many people have speculated whether the country Turkey and the bird turkey are etymologically related. Indeed, it's been the source of myriad obfuscation. The truth is they are connected! Back in the early 16th century, a type of guinea fowl from Madagascar became quite popular among the European aristocracy, who clamored from its import. However, the Ottoman Empire was between Europe and Madagascar geographically, so the bird had to pass through Turkey first. Thus a European bird became known as a turkey. This was, however, a completely different species from what we now call turkey. The present definition came along when European explorers came to the Americas and discovered a bird similar in looks and taste to their guinea fowl, and decided to call it turkey too. Meanwhile, to avoid confusion, they dropped the old definition. Thus we get our similarity between a Thanksgiving meal and an Asian country.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.