Green’s Dictionary of Slang

turkey n.1

1. a state of drunkenness [drive turkeys to market ; ? one walks like the bird].

[US]Durivage & Burnham Stray Subjects (1848) 116: ‘It’s a turkey I’ve got on,’ hiccuped Tom Links, as he noticed a singular disposition on the part of the pavé to rise up and impede his progress.
[US] ‘Last Bloody Duel Fought in Ohio’ in T.A. Burke Polly Peablossom’s Wedding 177: Others who carried lesser sized ‘turkies,’ were toddling about the room in groups of two and upwards, muttering delightful sentiments, and swearing their friendship to each other.

2. (Aus./US) a vagrant’s pack, a lumberman’s kit pack [resemblance to the bulky bird which has been ‘stuffed’].

[US]S.E. White Blazed Trail 18: Shearer reached over his head and took from the rack a heavy canvas bag, which he handed to the conductor. ‘That’s his ‘turkey’,’ he explained, ‘his war bag.’.
[US]Fr. Klaeber ‘A Word-List From Minnesota’ in DN IV:i 12: turkey, n. A lumberman’s pack or kit. ‘He carried his turkey on his back.’.
[US]N. Klein ‘Hobo Lingo’ in AS I:12 653: Turkey — a canvas bag.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 192: Turkey.– A canvas tool bag ; a bed roll.
[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 102: A drum, of course, is the equivalent of swag, [...] turkey, [...] or bluey as the tramp’s rolled blanket is variously called.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 228/1: Turkey. [...] 3. (Hobo) The handkerchief-wrapped roll of belongings carried by hobos and tramps.

3. (US Und.) a suitcase; a large traveling bag [resemblance to the bulky bird which has been ‘stuffed’] .

[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 228/1: Turkey. 1. A suitcase; satchel; any piece of luggage.

4. in senses of failure, weakness [according to Cohen (ed.) Studies in Slang IV (1995) pp.100–119, originating in the theatrical turkey show, a touring show, usu. burlesque, mounted at a moment’s notice and staffed by a third-rate cast, even stage-struck amateurs].

(a) a failure, an incompetent, a dull person.

[[US] in N.E. Eliason Tarheel Talk (1956) 302: You ‘Turkey with a surname’! Why have you not written to me?].
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 17 Sept. [synd. col.] The Craig theater management [...] says it prefers a dark house to a turkey show.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 337: Jesus, them turkeys down there would ride the pants off me.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Duke 109: After almost bumping into that turkey [....] The more I thought of that the more I knew it was that stupid-looking guy that followed me that other time.
[US]H. Ellison ‘I’ll Bet You a Death’ in Deadly Streets (1983) 41: Don’t let that turkey bother you.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS 214: Turkey A person who always fools around. A person who always does the wrong thing. [...] A person without much social or academic ability.
[US](con. 1960s) R. Price Wanderers 37: Turkey was a real turkey. He was in all the honor classes [...] but the other smart kids would have nothing to do with him because he was such a creep.
[Aus]C. Bowles G’DAY 7: MACKA: Wooden mine givin that one. She's with some turkey. SHANE: The smooth bastard with the mo?
[US]‘Joe Bob Briggs’ Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In 18: Joe Bob also said Gus Simpson is a turkey ‘and you can print that.’.
[Aus]T. Winton Human Torpedo 108: If you went on what every turkey said, you’d be at my funeral.
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 69: A turkey is ‘a person who acts stupid or never seems to do things right.’.
[UK]J. Niven Kill Your Friends (2009) 14: Schneider has signed one too many turkeys on the bounce and his position [...] is increasingly shaky.
[US]J. Lansdale Leather Maiden 76: ‘Some turkey called in that her car was up there’.
[US]N. Walker Cherry 45: He’d start talking about this punk and that peckerhead and the other turkey.

(b) (drugs) inferior quality or even fake drugs.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 1 in AS XI:2 127/1: turkey. A bindle of bad dope, or a fake capsule found to contain only sugar or chalk.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 244: turkey [...] a fake capsule containing sugar or chalk, instead of the real narcotic.
[US]Anslinger & Tompkins Traffic In Narcotics 316: Turkey. A substance which does not contain narcotics or marihuana.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 394: A turkey may be a [...] fake capsule of narcotics.

(c) (US gang) a gang member who won’t or can’t fight, but runs messages etc.

[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Duke 31: If you’re a Jap or a turkey [...] it’s going to be bad stuff for you. [Ibid.] 50: We sent a turkey ahead.

(d) an unappealing or worthless thing, a disappointment.

[US]J.M. Cain Mildred Pierce 176: The beach..was studded with rocks and was therefore unsuitable to swimming. For all ordinary purposes it was simply a turkey .
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Coffin for a Coward’ in Hollywood Detective Dec. [Internet] Bonham [...] had made a smash success in a couple of Grade-B turkeys.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 228/1: Turkey. [...] 2. Anything worthless, especially a package of valueless substitute for narcotics sold to addicts; a failure; a profitless crime; a criminal victim with no money or valuables.
[US]T. Berger Reinhart in Love (1963) 103: I don’t think we’ll even bother to get out for this turkey [i.e. a house for sale].
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 47: I think we should burn this turkey right now.
[US]N.Y. Times 23 Feb. n.p.: The Shoreham [nuclear plant] is a $4 billion turkey [R].
[US]J. Ellroy Hilliker Curse 12: We [...] went to a movie. It was a seagoing turkey called Fire Down Below.

(e) a general derog. term of address.

[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Tomboy (1952) 101: What’s the delay, turkey?
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 140: ‘Later, turkey. Be good.’ ‘Yeah, baby, take it slow.’.
[US]E. Bunker Animal Factory 4: ‘Save that shit for the judge, turkey,’ someone said.
[US]A. Maupin More Tales of the City (1984) 107: The gynecologist grinned. ‘A convention, turkey.’.

(f) an unattractive man or woman.

[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 137: If I’d suddenly looked at my mother and seen her just like any other turkey I passed in the street.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Rock 81: The big turkey looks disgusted.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Oct. 6: turkey – person, particularly female, who is physically unattractive.
[UK]Roger’s Profanisaurus in Viz 98 Oct. 29: turkey n. The cracker you think you’ve pulled whilst drunk at the office Christmas party who turns out to be a rough old bird who only gets stuffed once a year.

(g) (US Und./teen, also turkeymeat) a victim, e.g. of a mugging or shooting.

[US]R.D. Pharr S.R.O. (1998) 48: ‘And what is our turkey’s profession?’.
[US]D. Pendleton Boston Blitz (1974) 132: He had lived with the constant vision of Mafia turkeymeat lurking at the threshold of his thinking mind.
[UK]Unknown T ‘Bop with Smoke’ [lyrics] Free K-Sav the judge done him dirty / Gave man 8 for soakin' up turkeys.

In compounds

turkeymeat (n.)

see sense 4g above.

turkey neck (n.)

the penis.

[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 16: ‘Like old turkey necks,’ is how they [i.e. penises] looked to this bulldagger fitted with boobs bigger than her head.
turkey spanker (n.)

a masturbator.

[UK]M. Manning Get Your Cock Out 60: She couldn’t understand why other girls her age were so freaked out by these underground turkey spankers.

In phrases

bleed one’s turkey (v.)

to urinate.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 93/1: since ca. 1925.
catch a turkey (v.)

(US) to get drunk.

[US]N.O. Picayune 20 Apr. 2/3: A chap [...] caught the largest kind of a ‘turkey’ while visiting the different bar-rooms [DA].
have a turkey on one’s back (v.)

to be in a state of drunkenness.

[US]Burlington Sentinel in Hall (1856) 461: We give a list of a few of the various words and phrases which have been in use, at one time or another, to signify some stage of inebriation: [...] got a turkey on his back.
[US] ‘Little Old Caboose Behind the Train’ in N. Cohen Long Steel Rail (1981) 383: They get out upon the track with their turkeys on their backs.
[US] ‘The Little Red Caboose behind the Train (II)’ in N. Cohen Long Steel Rail (1981) 382: They will get up on that track with a (turkey) on their back.
not say turkey (v.) (also not say pea-turkey)

(US) to say nothing, to stay silent.

[US] in Blair Amer. Humour 319: ‘Bet two to one old splinter-legs thar,’ nodding at one of the ministers — ‘won’t git a chance to say turkey to a good-lookin gal today!’ [DA].
[US]DN III 356: She never said pea-turkey to me about it [DA].
turkey on a string (n.)

(US black) one who is infatuated and thus easily led and controlled.

[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 126: Expressions like [...] to have a ring through your nose, or to be a turkey on a string mean to be deeply infatuated or in love with another.
turkey out (v.)

(US) to run off, to act in a cowardly manner.

[US]E. Hunter ‘The Last Spin’ in Jungle Kids (1967) 153: Tigo would not turkey out of this particular rumble.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

turkey-buzzard (n.)

1. (US black) a white man, usu. derog.

[US]J.L. Gwaltney Drylongso 60: There was this sorry little cracker that we used to call Turk [...] He didn’t know that when we were talking about him, ‘turk’ was short for turkey buzzard. We used to laugh about that a lot.

2. see buzzard n. (6)

Turkey Day (n.) [the trad. dish]

(US black) Thanksgiving.

[US] E. Riedel ‘New Orleans Word-List’ in DN IV:iv 270: Turkey Day. Thanksgiving Day.
[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 90: If I was booted, truly booted, I’d lay a solid beg on my righteous scribe, and knock a scoff on the zoom on Turkey Day.
turkey gobble (n.)

(Aus. prison) fellatio; thus turkey gobbler, a fellator/fellatrix.

[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Turkey gobble. Fellatio. Thus a turkey gobbler is one who fellates.
turkey merchant (n.) [puns on SE Turkey merchant ]

1. one who buys and sells turkeys, a poulterer [allegedly credited to Horne Tooke (1736–1812), when questioned by fellow Etonians as to his father’s occupation].

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Turky-Merchants drivers of Turkies.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[Ire]Spirit of Irish Wit 32: Conner is a turkey merchant, and drinks his mahagony tea every morning.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 112: Poulterers are sometimes termed turkey merchants in remembrance of Horne Tooke’s answer to the boys at Eton, who wished in an aristocratic way to know what his father was ― a turkey merchant, replied Tooke; ― his father was a poulterer.
[US]Letters by an Odd Boy 165: Some of the slang expressions, also, are simply funny; as, for example, when you call [...] a poulterer ‘a turkey merchant’.
[UK]‘Old Calabar’ Won in a Canter I 18: One fellow of ours said his father was a Turkey merchant. He had no end of tin, and we really thought he was the ‘correct card;’ but he was always finding fault with the poultry and game at mess [...] Well, at last it oozed out he was the son of a poulterer in Leadenhall Market.

2. (UK Und.) a dealer in smuggled silk [the play was on merchant, i.e. a legitimate dealer].

[UK]H. Brandon Dict. of the Flash or Cant Lang. 166/1: Turkey Merchants – purchasers of plundered silk.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 93: turkey-merchants Purchasers of stolen silk.
[UK]Story of a Lancashire Thief 9: There was Downy, a Turkey merchant in a small way, who had such a feeling for tusheroons that he was always changing his tanners and stags, and aldermen, into them.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

3. a street-seller of rhubarb.

[UK]Birmingham Jrnl 1 June 8/2: An antient ‘Turkey merchant,’ one of those turbaned fellows you see going about with little lumps of rhubarb, and who offer to revolutionise your whole intestinal economy therewith for sixpence.
turkey shoot (n.) [the large SE turkey presents an easy target; SAmE turkey shoot, a shooting match at which turkeys are the targets and the prizes]

1. (US) a combat in which one’s own side wins without any difficulty, killing and destroying on a large scale; also in fig. use.

[US]F. Paley Rumble on the Docks (1955) 200: Fuller suspected that Gotham was setting her up for a turkey shoot and held his head in his hands, waiting for the slow explosion.
[US]T. O’Brien If I Die in a Combat Zone (1980) 91: The artillery officer got busy [...] preparing the big guns for a turkey shoot.
[US]M. Baker Nam (1982) 105: It turned into a turkey shoot. They were defenceless.
[UK]N. Barlay Hooky Gear 33: She commit a turkey shoot. Which is to say she hit them with textbooks they never even heard of an turns their big ideas of the law into pork scratchins.
[US](con. 1954) ‘Jack Tunney’ Tomato Can Comeback [ebook] If their first fight was Pearl Harbor, then this was Midway. The outcome was in doubt for much of the battle, but the matter was ultimately settled in a matter of minutes. Now it was a turkey shoot.

2. anything exceptionally easy.

[US]R. Price Clockers 398: It’s [i.e. a police surveillance] like a turkey shoot, a sniper’s dream.
turkey tail (n.) (also turkey turd)

(US) a term of abuse.

[US]N. Proffitt Gardens of Stone (1985) 35: Listen, turkey turd.
[US] in Delacoste & Alexander Sex Work (1988) 80: Keep your hands off her, turkey tail!

In phrases

before one can say ‘turkey’

(US) very quickly.

[US]Day Book (Chicago) 23 Nov. 17/1: The little cuss whirled before you could say ‘Turkey!’ and lammed loose at me with my own gun.
head over turkey (adv.) (also head over tuck) [SE turkey, the plucked bird here seen as resembling the shape of the buttocks]

(Aus./N.Z.) head-over-heels.

[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 234: One as dumped down two flights, ’ead over tuck.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘The Singing Soldiers’ in Moods of Ginger Mick 64: Tho’ their ’ope o’ life grew murky, wiv the ship ’ead over turkey, / Dread o’ death an’ fear o’ drownin’ wus jist trifles they ignored.
P. Jerrim axel-and-alice [Internet] He jumped aside and fell through a native cherry tree, head-over-turkey into a sag of sword grass.
[NZ] McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.
turkey off (v.)

(Aus./N.Z.) to leave in a hurry, to run off.

[UK](con. WWI) A.E. Strong in Partridge Sl. Today and Yesterday 287: I was so stiff I nearly turkeyed off from the line.
[Aus]D. Stivens Courtship of Uncle Henry 74: Thompson threw the knife down with a bang and turkeyed off after her.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 241/1: turkey off – move on, go away.
[NZ] (ref. to WWI) McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 115/2: turkey off absent without leave; WWI.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 218: turkey off A sudden departure, ANZ 1930s.