Does Anyone Know the Origin of the Saying to “Quit Cold Turkey”?

Question by Lemonada: Does anyone know the origin of the saying to “quit cold turkey”?
I just don’t get it.

Best answer:

Answer by D. Foreal
cold turkey
Origin: 1922

By 1922, cold turkey was not always a leftover from Thanksgiving dinner. For an addict, it was quite the opposite. “This method of sudden withdrawall,” explained a writer that year, “is described in the jargon of the jail as ‘the cold turkey’ treatment,” It meant “to immediately and completely give up a substance, such as narcotics or alcohol, to which one was addicted.”

The shock to the system was such that few addicts voluntarily chose it. “Mention of the ‘cold turkey treatment’ gives a chill of horror to a drug addict,” said Newsweek in 1933. “It means being thrown in jail with his drug supply completely cut off.” And Mickey Spillane wrote in I, the Jury (1947), “I doubt if you can comprehend what it means to one addicted to narcotics to go ‘cold turkey’ as they call it.”

This use of cold turkey is an outgrowth of a previous sense, attested as early as 1910, meaning “extreme plainness and directness,” going back to talk turkey, attested in 1830. Carl Sandburg used the term this way in a 1922 letter: “I’m going to talk cold turkey with the booksellers about the hot gravy in the stories.”

Nowadays going cold turkey is not restricted to narcotics and alcohol addiction. We speak of it as an extreme means of quitting any attachment or habit that we find hazardous to our health: cigarettes, chocolate, a television show, sex–perhaps even a sports team.

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5 Responses to Does Anyone Know the Origin of the Saying to “Quit Cold Turkey”?

  • Kelly R says:

    “without preparation,” ; narrower sense of “withdrawal from an addictive substance” (originally heroin) first recorded in 1921.
    Cold turkey is a food that requires little preparation, so “to quit like cold turkey” is to do so suddenly and without preparation.

    Quit smoking without help. just throw the pack away, deal with the withdrawal symptoms. Little preperation is, “throwing the pack away” easy as that!

  • Liberty says:

    The etymology derives from the phrase talk turkey, in which someone deals matter-of-factly with a subject[1]. Some, however, believe the derivation is from the comparison of a cold turkey carcass and the state of a withdrawing addict — most notably, the cold sweats and goose bumps. It is often preceded by the verb “to go,” as in “going cold turkey.”

  • suisseshoggi says:
  • priscilla m says:

    to automaticly quit something

  • Love-Beylaqan says:

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