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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

A real turkey



Turkeys don't come from Turkey. Why are they called that? In the 1500s, a West African bird with wattles and a featherless neck and head was imported into Europe via North Africa, which, being part of the Turkish-controlled Ottoman Empire, was thought of as Turkey. Thus the bird was called a “turkey cock”. When English settlers first saw a tasty but unrelated native American bird which had the same features, they called it a “turkey cock” as well.

And the original turkey cock? We now call it a “guineafowl”, as Guinea was formerly the name for West Africa.
 

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.