13 Old-Timey Turkey Terms to Bring Back This Thanksgiving

A whole new way to talk turkey.
A whole new way to talk turkey. / Digital Vision/Getty Images

Want to spice up conversation this Thanksgiving? Use these terms while you’re talking turkey.

1. Rum Cobble-Colter

According to A new dictionary of the terms ancient and modern of the canting crew, in its several tribes, of Gypsies, beggers, thieves, cheats, &c., with an addition of some proverbs, phrases, figurative speeches, &c., first published in the late 1600s, a cobble-colter is a turkey. A rum cobble-colter, on the other hand, is “a fat large cock-turkey.”

2. I Guess It’s All Turkey

This American phrase is “a quaint saying indicating that all is equally good,” according to A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon and Cant. “It is said that an old gentleman who was asked at a Thanksgiving dinner if he preferred the white meat or dark of the standard dish replied, ‘I don't care which; I guess it’s all turkey.’”

3. and 4. Bubbly-Jock and Bobble-Cock

Bubbly-jock is Scottish slang for a male turkey, from the noise the bird makes. The term can also be used to describe “a stupid, boasting person” or “an excessive talker,” all usages that might apply at your Thanksgiving dinner. Slang for a turkey in northern England, meanwhile, is bobble-cock, according to The Slang Dictionary: Or, The Vulgar Words, Street Phrases, and "Fast Expressions” of High and Low Society, published in 1864.

5. Turkey Merchants

According to 1884’s The Slang Dictionary: Etymological, Historical, and Anecdotal, this was a term for “dealers in plundered or contraband silk.” Previously, it referred to something more obvious: “a driver of turkeys and geese to market.”

6. Alderman

A “well-stuffedturkey. An alderman in chains is a turkey with sausages; according to A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, published in 1788, the sausages “are supposed to represent the gold chain worn by those magistrates.”

7. Cold Turkey Rap

According to Eric Partridge’s A Dictionary of the Underworld: British and American, this 1928 term means “an accusation, a charge, against a person caught in the act.” Perhaps you’ll get a cold turkey rap for stealing seconds—or thirds—of your favorite dish this holiday.

8. Block Island Turkey

An American slang term for salted cod, originating in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

9. Turkey Puddle

Eighteenth-century slang for coffee.

10. Snotergob

According to A Dictionary of the Scottish Language, snotergob is “the red part of a turkey’s head.”

11. Red as a Turkey Cock

This phrase dates back to 1630, according to Dictionary of Proverbs. It could refer to any kind of flushing of the face (including, perhaps, when your dad and your uncle are getting too worked up debating politics).

12. To Have a Turkey On One’s Back

According to the 1905 book A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English, this is what you say when someone has imbibed a bit too much: It means “to be drunk.”

13. Drive Turkeys to Market

This phrase is best used when the person at dinner who has had a few too many attempts to walk. According to Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, the mid-19th-century phrase means “drunken, unsteady manner,” and comes from the fact that “the turkey-driver is forced to follow the birds’ meandering course along the road.”

A version of this story ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2022.