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    The President Wants the Wish Bone

    turkey_moslem.jpgWe just received this question on Ask Figaro:

    Dear Fig.,
    What does “turn turkey” mean, and what are its origins?

    Dear Meg,

    To turn turkey means to switch sides.  This idiom is almost certainly a corruption of the phrase “to turn Turk.”  Back in the 16th and early 17th centuries, “Turk” was a common English name for a Moslem.  A Christian who converted to Islam “turned Turk.”  (Shakespeare’s Hamlet worries that his fortunes might “turn Turk with me.”)

    Figaro has sometimes heard “turn Turkey” in the context of retreating in a cowardly fashion.  As he writes, he looks out onto a meadow with a flock of wild turkeys.  He can tell when someone is approaching his writing cabin, because the turkeys will turn and hightail it out of there.

    The White House would say that withdrawing from Iraq would be turning turkey.  But what if one stayed and converted to Islam?  Would that be a turkey done to a turn?

    Figaro is getting dizzy.


    Do cool things with cliches and idioms!  Turn to page 213 of Figaro’s book

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    Reader Comments (7)

    In Finnish people who "turn Turks" turn around coats. Probably the other side of the coat is of different color...
    May 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJussi
    Sorry, turn coat around.
    May 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJussi
    So they're turncoats, right, Jussi? We have them in English. Plenty of them, in fact.
    May 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    I am enjoying your book (it competed with Endurance over spring break). To answer your question, what would happen if we stayed and converted to Islam, I might reply, stick a fork in it; this turkey’s already well done (done as in cooked and ready to serve, we’ve solved everything, we’re finished, mission accomplished, … or toast, dead in the pan….)
    May 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRoger
    That's what you might call a poultry excuse, Roger.
    May 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Possibly your best art ever. I also like the bit about staying in Iraq (which Bush insists on doing) and converting to Islam (which would surely horrify him).
    May 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy
    I actually meant one soldier, not the entire U.S. army, but most people interpreted the phrase more, um, liberally.
    May 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro

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