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Why Do We Say, “Quit Cold Turkey”?

Why Do We Say, “Quit Cold Turkey”?

This morning I was responding to a comment on Facebook.  Someone’s eCig exploded, someone commented on when they quit smoking, I had to respond with my brief quit smoking story:

“Congrats on quitting. I quit back on August 2nd 2013. I had tried the eCigs thinking it would help me quit. I finally decided to just quit cold turkey.”

It made me think, what a stupid thing to say?  “Quit cold turkey”?  How did that even become a saying?  What they hell were people doing with cold turkeys in the first place that made it important that they quit right away?  I almost didn’t want to know!  But, like the cat, curiosity got the best of me.  So, I went to my old friend Google and asked.  I figured, let’s start my day with some knowledge.  Let’s learn something new this morning.  What I found was so anticlimactic.

There’s some people who believe the phrase goes back to the first Thanksgiving.  That would be an ignorant assumption for several reasons as I found out.  The main reason being that there’s no documentation of what anyone said at the time and there isn’t even proof the pilgrims ate turkey on that fateful day.  So not a minute into my research and I’m already ignorant because that’s kinda where I thought it came from.

So what do we know?  Here’s the facts, with a subtle splash of speculation thrown in.  It was in 1914 when the term “cold turkey” was first used in print.  It was used for some reason to express a person’s ability to talk plainly by not sugar-coating things.  Sometime between then and 1921 it’s meaning changed to mean quitting something abruptly.  There was a Canadian paper that used the phrase to mean quitting something abruptly.

“Perhaps the most pitiful figures who have appeared before Dr. Carleton Simon are those who voluntarily surrender themselves. When they go before him, they [drug addicts] are given what is called the ‘cold turkey’ treatment.”

Sadly in nutshell, no one knows.  My morning started off with complete failure.  Just thought I would share the failure with you. You’re welcome.


Where the Phrase Quitting “Cold Turkey” Comes From

Cold Turkey