“Turkey Day” Is A Misnomer

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for November 28, 2019, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            When someone calls a person a “turkey,” he usually means the person is a flop, a failure, a stupid person. In show business, a show that flops is called a “turkey.” Considering the negative connotation the word has taken on, it seems strange to me that many Americans call Thanksgiving Day “Turkey Day.” Rather sad, considering the fact that the holiday was and is supposed to be a day of thanksgiving and praise to God. “Turkey Day” is a misnomer.

            What’s so odd about calling this very meaningful American celebration “Turkey Day” is that there’s no clear evidence turkey was served at that First Thanksgiving feast in 1621 between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony. Records from that time show a menu of “waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, and pumpkin.” It is very likely they did serve turkey, because wild turkeys were so plentiful in the area, — but it wouldn’t have been the main course.

            While we’re trying to clear up misrepresentations, I would point out, contrary to the popular belief that turkeys are the dumbest animals in the world, they are not. Facts about turkeys certainly disprove that idea. According to the National Wild Turkey Confederation, turkeys have a vocabulary of 28 distinct calls (or yelps), and each call has a general meaning to the creatures, and can be used in different situations to mean different things which the flock understands. The “gobble” sound is made only by male turkeys, the “clucking” sound is made by both male and female turkeys as a socializing sound, and a “purring” sound communicates “all is well.”

            Turkeys are also smart enough to roost high in trees to keep themselves safe at night from predators. Turkeys also engage in preening and sunning themselves, followed by a dust bath, — this keeps their feathers in good condition and helps remove parasites.

            My grandparents raised turkeys, and I can tell you from personal experience that they are strong and courageous animals and will attack you if provoked. They will also work together as a group to fend off predators like snakes. In fact, because of their courage, Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national emblem rather than the eagle.

            So, to me, it’s rather annoying that people call a person they think is stupid, a “turkey.” Not only that, but over the years, Americans have come up with many different “turkey” awards, and they’re all uncomplimentary. Film critics, Michael Medved and Harry Medved, created the Golden Turkey Awards, which they announced in their 1980 book, The Golden Turkey Awards. The concept of the Golden Turkey was a sarcastic spin-off on the golden statue awards like Oscars and the Emmy Awards, and “honored” the worst acting, the worst directing, etc., in current movies. Michael Medved even hosted a TV series, The Worst of Hollywood, showing who deserved these awards.

            The giving of some kind of “turkey” award extended beyond Hollywood and included doing so in business, sports, journalism, etc. For example, bowling enthusiasts began to give the “Wild Turkey Award” for six consecutive strikes and the “Golden Turkey Award” for nine consecutive strikes. Over the years, sports writers for newspapers like the Tampa Bay Times have given the “Turkey Award” to the worst athlete or team for doing something stupid.

            So why do we demean Thanksgiving Day by calling it “Turkey Day,” and why do we demean turkeys by considering them “stupid”? And why do we emphasize the “feasting” part rather than the praying and praising G

            When someone calls a person a “turkey,” he usually means the person is a flop, a failure, a stupid person.  In show business, a show that flops is called a “turkey.”  Considering the negative connotation the word has taken on, it seems strange to me that many Americans call Thanksgiving Day “Turkey Day.”  Rather sad, considering the fact that the holiday was and is supposed to be a day of thanksgiving and praise to God.  “Turkey Day” is a misnomer.

            What’s so odd about calling this very meaningful American celebration “Turkey Day” is that there’s no clear evidence turkey was served at that First Thanksgiving feast in 1621 between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony.  Records from that time show a menu of “waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, and pumpkin.”  It is very likely they did serve turkey, because wild turkeys were so plentiful in the area, — but it wouldn’t have been the main course.

            While we’re trying to clear up misrepresentations, I would point out, contrary to the popular belief that turkeys are the dumbest animals in the world, they are not.  Facts about turkeys certainly disprove that idea.  According to the National Wild Turkey Confederation, turkeys have a vocabulary of 28 distinct calls (or yelps), and each call has a general meaning to the creatures, and can be used in different situations to mean different things which the flock understands.  The “gobble” sound is made only by male turkeys, the “clucking” sound is made by both male and female turkeys as a socializing sound, and a “purring” sound communicates “all is well.”

            Turkeys are also smart enough to roost high in trees to keep themselves safe at night from predators.  Turkeys also engage in preening and sunning themselves, followed by a dust bath, — this keeps their feathers in good condition and helps remove parasites.

            My grandparents raised turkeys, and I can tell you from personal experience that they are strong and courageous animals and will attack you if provoked.  They will also work together as a group to fend off predators like snakes.  In fact, because of their courage, Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national emblem rather than the eagle.

            So, to me, it’s rather annoying that people call a person they think is stupid, a “turkey.”  Not only that, but over the years, Americans have come up with many different “turkey” awards, and they’re all uncomplimentary.  Film critics, Michael Medved and Harry Medved, created the Golden Turkey Awards, which they announced in their 1980 book, The Golden Turkey Awards.  The concept of the Golden Turkey was a sarcastic spin-off on the golden statue awards like Oscars and the Emmy Awards, and “honored” the worst acting, the worst directing, etc., in current movies.  Michael Medved even hosted a TV series, The Worst of Hollywood, showing who deserved these awards.

            The giving of some kind of “turkey” award extended beyond Hollywood and included doing so in business, sports, journalism, etc.  Over the years, sports writers for newspapers like the Tampa Bay Times have given the “Turkey Award” to the worst athlete or team for doing something really stupid.            

So why do we demean Thanksgiving Day by calling it “Turkey Day,” and why do we demean turkeys by considering them “stupid”?  And why do we emphasize the “feasting” part rather than the praying and praising God part of Thanksgiving?  Fasting would actually be more appropriate than feasting.  So let’s face it, in the great abundance God provides us, we need to be on our knees in thanksgiving.

od part of Thanksgiving? Fasting would actually be more appropriate than feasting. So let’s face it, in the great abundance God provides us, we need to be on our knees in thanksgiving

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Ray Spitzenberger is a retired teacher and pastor, and author of the book, It Must Be the Noodles.

Posted in Spitzen-Noodle, Uncategorized.

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