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1.       kurtlovesgrunge
1435 posts
 13 Aug 2008 Wed 09:55 am

Talking Turkey: The Story of How the Unofficial Bird of the United States Got Named After a Country
(by Giancarlo Casale)

How did the turkey get its name? This seemingly harmless question popped into my head one morning as I realized that the holidays were once again upon us. After all, I thought, there´s nothing more American than a turkey. Their meat saved the pilgrims from starvation during their first winter in New England. Out of gratitude, if you can call it that, we eat them for Thanksgiving dinner, and again at Christmas, and gobble them up in sandwiches all year long.

Every fourth grader can tell you that Benjamin Franklin was particularly fond of the wild turkey, and even campaigned to make it, and not the bald eagle, the national symbol. So how did such a creature end up taking its name from a medium sized country in the Middle East?

Was it just a coincidence? I wondered. The next day I mentioned my musings to my landlord, whose wife is from Brazil. "That´s funny," he said, "In Portuguese the word for turkey is ´peru.´ Same bird, different country." Hmm.

With my curiosity piqued, I decided to go straight to the source. That very afternoon I found myself a Turk and asked him how to say turkey in Turkish. "Turkey?" he said. "Well, we call turkeys ´hindi,´ which means, you know, from India." India? This was getting weird.

I spent the next few days finding out the word for turkey in as many languages as I could think of, and the more I found out, the weirder things got. In Arabic, for instance, the word for turkey is "Ethiopian bird," while in Greek it is "gallapoula" or "French girl." The Persians, meanwhile, call them "buchalamun" which means, appropriately enough, "chameleon."

In Italian, on the other hand, the word for turkey is "tacchino" which, my Italian relatives assured me, means nothing but the bird. "But," they added, "it reminds us of something else. In Italy we call corn, which as everybody knows comes from America, ´grano turco,´ or ´Turkish grain.´" So here we were back to Turkey again! And as if things weren´t already confusing enough, a further consultation with my Turkish informant revealed that the Turks call corn "misir" which is also their word for Egypt! By this point, things were clearly getting out of hand.

But I persevered nonetheless, and just as I was about to give up hope, a pattern finally seemed to emerge from this bewildering labyrinth. In French, it turns out, the word for turkey is "dinde," meaning "from India," just like in Turkish. The words in both German and Russian had similar meanings, so I was clearly on to something. The key, I reasoned, was to find out what turkeys are called in India, so I called up my high school friend´s wife, who is from an old Bengali family, and popped her the question.

"Oh," she said, "We don´t have turkeys in India.They come from America. Everybody knows that."
"Yes," I insisted, "but what do you call them?" "Well, we don´t have them!" she said. She wasn´t being very helpful. Still, I persisted: "Look, you must have a word for them. Say you were watching an American movie translated from English and the actors were all talking about turkeys. What would they say?"

Well...I suppose in that case they would just say the American word, ´turkey.´ Like I said, we don´t have them." So there I was, at a dead end. I began to realize only too late that I had unwittingly stumbled upon a problem whose solution lay far beyond the capacity of my own limited resources.

Obviously I needed serious professional assistance. So the next morning I scheduled an appointment with Prof. Şinasi Tekin of Harvard University, a world-renowned philologist and expert on Turkic languages. If anyone could help me, I figured it would be professor Tekin.

As I walked into his office on the following Tuesday, I knew I would not be disappointed. Prof. Tekin had a wizened, grandfatherly face, a white, bushy, knowledgeable beard, and was surrounded by stack upon stack of just the sort of hefty, authoritative books which were sure to contain a solution to my vexing Turkish mystery.

I introduced myself, sat down, and eagerly awaited a dose of Prof. Tekin´s erudition.

"You see," he said, "In the Turkish countryside there is a kind of bird, which is called a Çulluk. It looks like a turkey but it is much smaller, and its meat is very delicious. Long before the discovery of America, English merchants had already discovered the delicious Çulluk, and began exporting it back to England, where it became very popular, and was known as a ´Turkey bird´ or simply a ´turkey.´ Then, when the English came to America, they mistook the birds here for Çulluks, and so they began calling them ´turkey" also. But other peoples weren´t so easily fooled. They knew that these new birds came from America, and so they called them things like ´India birds,´ ´Peruvian birds,´ or ´Ethiopian birds.´ You see, ´India,´ ´Peru´ and ´Ethiopia´ were all common names for the New World in the early centuries, both because people had a hazier understanding of geography, and because it took a while for the name ´America´ to catch on.

"Anyway, since that time Americans have begun exporting their birds everywhere, and even in Turkey people have started eating them, and have forgotten all about their delicious çulluk. This is a shame, because çulluk meat is really much, much tastier."

Prof. Tekin seemed genuinely sad as he explained all this to me. I did my best to comfort him, and tried to express my regret at hearing of the unfairly cruel fate of the delicious çulluk.

Deep down, however, I was ecstatic. I finally had a solution to this holiday problem, and knew I would be able once again to enjoy the main course of my traditional Thanksgiving dinner without reservation.

 

Note:Çulluk=Woodcock

2.       hanan
197 posts
 13 Aug 2008 Wed 10:25 am

that was original, really its a good way of learning when you ask question that none asked before and making this huge effort to know the answer.

i really enjoyed it and enjoyed to know where the name came from.keep up the good work.{#lang_emotions_ty_ty}

3.       pmitride
47 posts
 13 Aug 2008 Wed 10:36 am

excellent piece. Behind every language and every single word, there are sometimes centuries of history.

4.       hanan
197 posts
 13 Aug 2008 Wed 10:45 am

i will add something to that lovley piece in Arabic we also call the turkey(at some places)  the "Roman bird"

5.       lovebug
280 posts
 13 Aug 2008 Wed 01:51 pm

I really enjoyed your post! It was so interesting and very well written!! Thanks for solving the mystery

6.       lady in red
6947 posts
 13 Aug 2008 Wed 02:26 pm

Nice post kurt!

7.       zhang ziyi
205 posts
 13 Aug 2008 Wed 02:42 pm

An excellent article, very interesting.

However, I don´t believe this part.

 

Quoting kurtlovesgrunge

 

"You see," he said, "In the Turkish countryside there is a kind of bird, which is called a Çulluk. It looks like a turkey but it is much smaller, and its meat is very delicious. Long before the discovery of America, English merchants had already discovered the delicious Çulluk, and began exporting it back to England, where it became very popular, and was known as a ´Turkey bird´ or simply a ´turkey.´ Then, when the English came to America,

 

 

8.       lady in red
6947 posts
 13 Aug 2008 Wed 02:44 pm

 

Quoting zhang ziyi

An excellent article, very interesting.

However, I don´t believe this part.

 

 Why not??

9.       gordios
104 posts
 13 Aug 2008 Wed 02:48 pm

"Long before the discovery of America, English merchants had already discovered the delicious Çulluk, and began exporting it back to England, where it became very popular, and was known as a ´Turkey bird´ or simply a ´turkey.´ "

 

 

in Turkish the word "Turkey" is written as "Türki" (from the word -Türk-).it is made of "Türk+i" and "i" at the and expresses possession.So when you say "Turkey or Türki" it means; "something belonging to Turks or Türkiye or Turkish language".

 

Arabic and Persian speakers can easily recognize what i mean. "i" at the and originally comes from Arabic you allready know lots of similar words,like (Türki,İrani,Pakistani...etc.)

 

According to what proff. said, i think English people took that word "Türki" but they wrote it as  "Turkey".(they both sound same)

 

in Arabic when they ask your nationalityi you answer, "ene Türki" and that means you belong to Turkey.

 

So i think what proff. said is right if we suppose that English merchants took that bird from Turks.They didn´t use a spesific name and just said "Turkey" (the bird belonging to Turks)

10.       doudi94
845 posts
 14 Aug 2008 Thu 02:07 am

 

Quoting gordios

"Long before the discovery of America, English merchants had already discovered the delicious Çulluk, and began exporting it back to England, where it became very popular, and was known as a ´Turkey bird´ or simply a ´turkey.´ "

 

 

in Turkish the word "Turkey" is written as "Türki" (from the word -Türk-).it is made of "Türk+i" and "i" at the and expresses possession.So when you say "Turkey or Türki" it means; "something belonging to Turks or Türkiye or Turkish language".

 

Arabic and Persian speakers can easily recognize what i mean. "i" at the and originally comes from Arabic you allready know lots of similar words,like (Türki,İrani,Pakistani...etc.)

 

According to what proff. said, i think English people took that word "Türki" but they wrote it as "Turkey".(they both sound same)

 

in Arabic when they ask your nationalityi you answer, "ene Türki" and that means you belong to Turkey.

 

So i think what proff. said is right if we suppose that English merchants took that bird from Turks.They didn´t use a spesific name and just said "Turkey" (the bird belonging to Turks)

 

YES I agree but over all this is a good article i was just asking my friend the smae question yesterday!!! and i think they said turki in mistake of turki from arabic, make s a lot of sense,

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