Cold turkey; which refers to the withdrawal effects from abruptly ending a dependency such as drugs or alcohol. The expression seems to have been first used in this sense in the 1950’s and appeared in the dictionary of American slang in 1960. The cold turkey expression is a metaphor for the cold sweat condition, and particularly the effect on the sufferer’s skin, experienced during dependency withdrawal. Prior to this and certainly as early as 1928 (when it appeared in the British Daily Express newspaper), the cold turkey expression meant the plain truth, blunt statements or simple facts of the matter, in turn derived from ‘talk turkey’, now meaning to discuss seriously the financial aspects of a deal, and earlier to talk straight and ‘down-to-earth’. This early ‘talk turkey’ usage dates back to the early-1800’s USA, and came to the UK later, as Brewer doesn’t list it in his comprehensive dictionary of 1870. The word turkey is interesting: the turkey species was originally native only to Mexico where it was found domesticated by the Mexican people when the Spanish invaded in 1518. The birds were brought to England in 1524 and appeared in Europe in 1530, and by 1575 had become associated across Europe with Christmas celebrations. Turkey is a shortening of the original forms turkeycock and turkeyhen, being the names given to guinea-fowl imported from Africa by way of the country of Turkey, as far back as the 1540’s. The word was soon (circa 1550’s) applied erroneously to the turkey because it was identified with and/or treated as a species of the guinea fowl. Turkey came to mean an inept person or a failed production in the mid 1900’s, because the bird was considered particularly unintelligent and witless, and this too no doubt contributed to the modern meaning of the cold turkey expression (no offense to those who have gone cold turkey. . . I’m just quoting Brewer here).
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