No, it's not chicken. Guess again

by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Turkey: 1. Traditional Thanksgiving meal you always have to eat with your spouse's Uncle Max; 2. Your spouse's Uncle Max

In a recent "Shouts & Murmurs" column in The New Yorker, Steve Martin wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about a disgruntled former lexicographer at Random House who has been dismissed after thirty-two years with the company. This unnamed gentleman defined the word "mutton" in an unorthodox way. Example: "Gibberish in E-mail" and "a reading lamp with a lousy fifteen-watt bulb, like they have in Europe." That's almost as bad as Rich Hall's definition of NITVWIT: n. Any person who can't find reverse gear in a Volkswagen.

With the Thanksgiving holidays rapidly approaching, I've compiled a list of non- traditional meanings of the word "turkey." Yes, we all know that a turkey usually means "a large mainly domesticated game bird, having dark plumage with a green or bronze sheen, prized as food, especially on festive occasions including Christmas and Thanksgiving." It also means, "a theatrical failure" (like Frankenstein, which opened and closed on January 4, (1981) or the Rodgers and Hart flop, Betsy (1926), starring Yiddish comedienne, Belle Baker. A turkey is also "a stupid or inept person."

A Turkey Is Someone Who

  • Prepares a Thanksgiving dinner without thinking of the National Debt
  • Doesn't view the movie, "Avalon." (Do you remember the scene in which the hapless city relatives arrive late for the Thanksgiving meal, after the rest of the family has decided to begin? "You cut the turkey without me?" Lou Jacobi sputters as he walks in and sees everyone at the table. "You cut the turkey without me?" he repeats.)
  • Asks, "Why is this night different from all other nights?"
  • Forgets that a small home will hold as much happiness as a large home like Bill Gates owns.
  • Doesn't appreciate the Italian expression, "Il tavola degli amici"--a table of friends
  • Purchases a turkey without a pop-up thermometer. (Who knows what a turkey should feel like when it is cooked?)
  • Believes the home economists who insist that $33.09 will feed a Thanksgiving feast for 10.
  • Agrees with Johnny Carson that the best way to thaw a frozen turkey is to blow in its ear.
  • Believes every word of Jackie Mason's stand-up routine: Jewish wives can't find the kitchen. They're building special homes now for Jewish wives--no kitchens. A Jewish wife sees a kitchen, and she gets a heart attack. They never cook. Before they cook one meal, they make twelve deals. "If I cook today, I don't cook tomorrow. If I cook tomorrow, I'm going to TGIFs the day after...
  • Doesn't follow the advice of the late Eda LeShan: "The best turkey stuffing has something sweet and something sour in it. That's life."
  • Forgets that Turkey Day Tiredness is always followed by Sick Santa Syndrome.
  • Goes to the bakery, purchases five different kinds of bread loaves, and then reminds everyone, "Don't fill up on bread."
  • Thaws a frozen turkey--the size of a VW Jetta--at room temperature.
  • Ignores the inspiring advice of the late Leo Buscaglia: "I use the Thanksgiving meal as a special expression of thankfulness and encourage everyone else at the table to do the same. There are so many things we take for granted in our daily lives. Why must we wait until losing them to realize how thankful we should have been for them?
  • Thinks that the Pilgrims balanced plates on their knees.
  • Announces to the family and guests that the cholesterol content of one cup of stewed turkey gizzards is 336 mg.
  • Re-invites a guest who (in 1998) announced: "Da mihi sis hamam pulli tosti" (Latin, "I'll have a bucket of fried chicken.")
  • Asks the hosts whether the Thanksgiving meal came from Boston Market.
  • Can't follow Larry Laiken's piquant package directions for preparing microwave foods:

Duck a l'Orange

    1. Place pouch in a microwave dish. Cook on full power, 8 min.
    2. Open oven to remove.
    3. Duck.
  • Doesn't realize that the real test of a good housewife is not what she serves on Thanksgiving Day, but how she handles leftovers.

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe, is a free-lance writer. Her book titled, "Are Yentas, Hard Kneydlekh, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction? Yiddish Trivia" will be published in 2004.

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