One Couple's Stumblings Through Parenthood and Marriage

Monday, November 14, 2005

Turkey and Turks

I love the build-up to Thanksgiving. Fall has arrived, the trees are turning color, the air is cold with the promise of winter. A huge feast is planned, to be attended by wonderful friends and family. Ah, the food, the company, the bulging waistline and heartburn. Ah, the turkey.

But, of course, this season is about more than just food. It's about giving thanks. So, I think about the holiday, with the pilgrims and Squanto and the turkey and all that. Then I think, turkey?

Why the turkey? What is this bird? Why does it share a name with an eastern Mediterranean country?

Then I am cast back to my history class where we learned about this. The turkey is native to the Americas, but became a big hit in Europe hundreds of years ago and was exported overseas for food. When the English first laid eyes on it, they mistook it for another bird that they called turkey. This original turkey was from Africa, but was shipped by way of Turkey, ergo the name. Even after figuring out the mistake the name stuck. So we have a bird named after a country to which it isn't even indigenous, and it was all a case of mistaken identity!
So then how did the nation of Turkey get its name? From the Turks of course.

They were a people native to Central Asia who for several hundred years waged a war of conquest against the Byzantine Greeks of Anatolia. Finally, in 1454, they captured Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul. Now we have a land of Turks, aptly named Turkey.

This holiday season, when we are stuffing our faces with turkey, let's also give a little thanks for the Turks, alright?

Of course, this begs the question - how did the Turks get their name?

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