Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cold turkey adv.

[cold turkey n. (1)]

1. (US) directly, openly, candidly, without any warning.

[US]Day Book (Chicago) 7 Oct. 23/2: Armour, he declares, has come out cold turkey for Roger.
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 28: Now tell me on the square — can I get by with this for the wedding — don’t string me — tell me cold turkey.
Quad-City Times (Davenport, IA) 6 Apr. 2/1: Well, here we come cold-turkey / With a modernistic rave.
[US]C.B. Davis Rebellion of Leo McGuire (1953) 161: Finally, after about ten days there in the quarantine cell I came out cold turkey and I said, ‘Look, Cliff [...] that Denver caper of yours don’t make sense for you in any way I look at it’.
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 242: The police jumped me up right there inside the place. They had me, cold turkey.
[UK](con. 1944) A. Myrer Big War 337: And you were planning on sashaying up there cold turkey.
[UK]K. Lette Foetal Attraction (1994) 97: I can’t make her do it cold turkey [...] I have to wean her off me slowly.
[US]C. Stella Eddie’s World 5: I’m sweating this dry spell out cold turkey.
[US]C. Eble (ed.) UNC-CH Campus Sl. Spring 2014 Fall 2: COLD TURKEY — immediately, without hesitation, not gradually: ‘Tom quit smoking cold turkey’.

2. (US) caught in the act, obviously guilty, without any excuse.

[US]R.J. Tasker Grimhaven 68: It was a cold-turkey rap. Right on the main street, and a hundred people saw him go in with the gun.
[US]D. Clemmer Prison Community (1940) 331/1: cold turkey, n. Caught in the act: a right charge, an open and shut case.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 24/1: Cold turkey rap, unmistakable evidence for conviction; caught red handed when committing the crime.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 55: cold turkey Arrested with the loot in one’s possession.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 63: Shannon had them cold turkey . . . brig for the whole bunch.

3. (drugs) of withdrawal, without any form of medication to modify the pains.

[US]N. Algren ‘Watch Out for Daddy’ in Entrapment (2009) 145: Letting her Little Daddy kick his habit cold turtkey in Cook County Jail.
[US]H. Ellison ‘Gentleman Junkie’ in Gentleman Junkie 22: Let me go it cold turkey.
[US]Larner & Tefferteller Addict in the Street (1966) 37: There is one substitute for dope you can take to help you kick without kicking cold turkey.
[US]C. McFadden Serial 106: I ought to kick the Valium. See if I could maintain cold turkey.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) H. Huncke ‘Detroit Redhead’ in Eve. Sun Turned Crimson (1998) 111: I had of course kicked my habit – cold turkey – while in prison.
[US]J. Wambaugh Golden Orange (1991) 338: Gonna go it cold turkey, huh?
[Ire]P. Howard The Joy (2015) [ebook] I’ve been off the gear. Did it the only way you fuckin can. Did it cold turkey.
[US]Africa News Service 29 Nov. [Internet] At times he couldn’t afford the drugs and would try to quit ‘cold turkey’.
[US]A.N. LeBlanc Random Family 344: He stopped the drugs cold turkey.
[UK]T. Black Gutted 228: That scene in Trainspotting, where Renton [...] goes cold turkey.

4. without any alcohol or narcotics, although not intending withdrawal.

[US]Rigney & Smith Real Bohemia 62: I was stuck in the shooting gallery, cold turkey.
[US] in J. Spradley You Owe Yourself a Drunk (1988) 230: They are essentially alcoholics and have gone through it cold turkey so many times, they can handle it.

5. in fig. use, denying oneself.

[US]S. Greenlee Spook who Sat by the Door (1972) 42: Whitey’s hooked with messing with niggers and you want him to go cold turkey.
[US]B. Hamper Rivethead (1992) 45: We just couldn’t assemble those fad-happy recreational vehicles fast enough to sit a slobberin’ public who’d gone cold turkey throughout [...] the embargo years.

In phrases

talk cold turkey (v.) [ext. of SE colloq. phr. talk turkey]

(orig. US) to speak frankly and without reserve, to talk hard facts, to get down to business.

[US]Day Book (Chicago) 23 Nov. 9/3: Denver’s promoters have not agreed [...] but a representative will be in Chicago Thursday to talk cold turkey. The final offer will be made [etc.].
[US]Eve. World (NY) 22 Oct. 6/6: Looks like Landis is now talking cold turkey to the Sultan of Swat.
[UK]Cornishman 23 Feb. 6/6: If you two ‘ducks’ are goin’ ta play us you got to talk cold turkey.
[UK]P. Cheyney Don’t Get Me Wrong (1956) 62: I sit there rackin’ my brains to find out some angle for [...] gettin’ her to talk very cold turkey to me.
[US]V. Ellis ‘Database Pitfalls’ in L.A. Times on CampaignFinance.org [Internet] ‘If you want to talk cold turkey about who was there when you needed them, they were not there,’ Davis told the group, referring to unions and trial lawyers. ‘Unions were preoccupied...and a lot of trial lawyers thought I couldn’t make it – too dull, too boring.’.