Thanksgiving is a time for turkey and tradition. Why not bring back some of these lost linguistic traditions? Here are some charming old dialect terms for turkey parts and some of their trimmings.
An old word for the wishbone. It had been around since the 16th century in England and was brought to the U.S. where it was found in the regional speech of New England and Virginia until the beginning of the 20th Century. According to a 1708 citation for this usage, “the Original of the Name was doubtless from the Pleasant Fancies, that commonly arise upon the Breaking of that Bone.”
2. Pully bone
A different dialectal term for the wishbone. This one originated in the U.S. and was found in the South. It’s still used to describe a cut of chicken, now a bit hard to find because of industrial meat processing, that leaves the wishbone intact, surrounded by tender meat that’s considered choice and tasty. It was also called the pull-bone or the pullin’ bone.
3. Hug-me-close bone
Yet another wishbone term This one shows up in an 1839 Dictionary of Provincialisms and is just too cute to leave buried in obscurity.
4. Second joint
This term for a poultry thigh first shows up in the mid 19th century and gained popularity for the same reason the use of light and dark meat did, to avoid mentioning indelicate terms like thigh, leg, and breast in polite, mixed company. It was used all over the place, from Connecticut to Pennsylvania to Illinois to Mississippi and beyond.
5. Fifth quarter
The term fifth quarter was used for the giblets in 17th century and made its way to the U.S. where it was also use for tallow and skin of a steer.
Its origin goes back to the Roman tradition of portioning a slaughtered animal: first, choice parts to the nobles, second to the clergy, third to the middle classes, and fourth to the military. All that was left after that for anyone not in those categories was the offal, or fifth quarter.
6. Pope’s nose
The fleshy, round, greasy bulb at the tail end of a cooked turkey got the name pope’s nose according to old slang dictionaries, and is still used in some places — protestant places, anyway. In Catholic communities the term was parson’s nose.
In the lower back part of the turkey, near the thigh, nestled in a small hollow in the bone, lie two tender morsels of meat, one on each side, that are often overlooked. The French call them the sot l’y laisse or “only a fool would leave it.” English speakers in the know call them oysters.
Old British slang dictionaries list alderman as a term for roast turkey. It was commonly referred as part of the dish “alderman in chains,” a roast turkey garnished with link sausages, placed over the breast of the bird like aldermanic medallion chains.
A nautical term for gravy. It could also serve as a verb for basing with drippings, as in “jipper that bird well” or the mild insult “not fit to jipper a joint with.”
A 1950 collection of Wisconsin dialect words has “pass the goozlum” for “pass the gravy.” The term is also credited to logger talk from the Pacific Northwest.
To farce a turkey meant to stuff a turkey in West Virginia and Appalachia. It was borrowed into English from French farcir as far back as the 15th Century. It originally meant “to stuff” and later became was a term for a short comedic interlude that filled out time in a theater piece, from which we get our modern sense of farce.