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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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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Talking (glass) turkey

Christmas is coming, and you might think buying a raffle ticket for a turkey is a good idea. But would you enter a draw for a glass turkey? Why might anyone want to win something like the candy dish pictured above?

Well, if you're the lucky winner of such a raffle in Eastern Ontario, your prize will be something like this:

The Chesterville Ag Society is kicking off our holiday fundraising with a Glass Turkey of assorted alcohol and beers, in order to raise funds for upgrades at the Chesterville Fairgrounds for family events throughout the year.

The winner of the "Glass Turkey" raffle will receive assorted alcohols purchased from the LCBO. The complete prize is valued at $315.05 and is made up of the following items:

  • 12 Steamwhistle Pilsner
  • 15 Bud Light
  • Absolut Vodka (1.14 mL) 
  • Assorted Ciders
  • Assorted Wines
  • Baileys (750 mL)
  • Captain Morgan Spiced Rum (750 mL)
  • Forty Creek Cream Liquor (750 mL) 
  • Jagermeister (750 mL)
  • Sauza Gold Tequila (750 mL)
  • Sour Puss (750 mL)
I was alerted to this term on a recent visit to Ottawa, and on looking into it I found almost all the evidence is from the Ottawa region or the area of eastern Ontario between the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers.  There were some "glass turkeys" showing up in Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo about an hour west of Toronto. The earliest evidence I could find was from Chatham in southwestern Ontario:

The Globe and Mail [Toronto, Ont] 28 Dec 1977: P.8. A Christmas raffle for an ounce of marijuana instead of a glass turkey - a jug of liquor - has started a narcotics investigation by RCMP and city police in Chatham. 

One strange outlier was from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, across the harbour from Halifax, but since this is a major base for the Canadian Navy, I blame it on naval personnel picking up the concept and term on one of their regular rotations to the national capital and then taking it to the Halifax region on their next posting. (Altruistically, of course, since it is well known that naval personnel do not indulge in alcoholic adult beverages.)

Do you know this term, and if so where did you become familiar with it?

For why we call (real) turkeys turkeys, though they don't come from Turkey, please click here:

Want to know more about why the English language is the (weird) way it is? Let me know if you would be interested in taking my very popular "Rollicking Story of the English Language" course in Toronto on a weekday afternoon (or possibly a Saturday or Sunday morning) in January, February, or March. Email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com

ALSO! "Hebrew and Yiddish Words in English" on a weekday afternoon.

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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.