Cold Turkey

Meanings of “Cold Turkey”

The phrase “cold turkey” means sudden withdrawal from an addiction, or substance, or feeling after such withdrawal. It is mostly used in the United States in the sense of sudden or abrupt stopping of habits.

Origin of “Cold Turkey”

The phrase “cold turkey” is stated to have originated during the early 20th century when it was used in the newspaper, The Des Moines Daily News, in its publication of May 1914. In the newspaper, it goes thus; “And furthermore he talks “cold turkey.”

Later, it became a common phrase when it was published in The Daily Express in its edition of January 1928: “She talked cold turkey about sex.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Cold Turkey by Joshua Mehigan

They’re over now forever, the long dances.
Our woods are quiet. The god is gone tonight.
Our girls, good girls, have shaken off their trances.
They’re over now forever, the long dances.
Only the moonlight, sober and real, advances
over our hills to touch my head with white.
They’re over now forever, the long dances.
Our woods are quiet. The god is gone tonight.

The poem shows the abrupt end of the dances which was perhaps a ritual that was performed as a group. It could also be a gathering where people would fall into trance while calling upon their tribal deity. The short poem shows the metaphorical use of this phrase.

Example #2

Cold Turkey by Charlie May Cullip 

“You have cold turkey.” They said
I never knew what they meant by that.
“I have no such thing; I’m a vegetarian.”
They said it has nothing to do with meat though…
Yes I’m cold and shivering,
But why ‘cold turkey’?
“Your skin feels clammy: like a turkey.” They said,
But I wouldn’t know; never eaten one in my life.

The dialogue among different people about how the speaker’s skin is like turkey, perhaps wrinkled. She could have cold turkey, but she did not understand the people’s reference to meat. In fact, she had been a vegetarian, though, she has been feeling cold. Yet after their explanation, she could not understand its real meanings. The use of the phrase is not used in its actual meaning.

Example #3

Cold Turkey at Nine: The Memoir of a Problem Child by E. B. Russell

In this memoir, Earl B. Russell presents talks about the interesting side of his life that he happens to be born on the first of April. Therefore, as he was a problem child since his childhood, disappointing not only his brother but also his mother in the Tennessee rural setting. However, when it comes to schooling after nine, he abruptly ends all of his mischievous habits as if nothing has happened.

Example #4

Common Phrases: And the Amazing Stories Behind Them by Max Cryer

Whatever its origin, for some time the expression was known only among those to whom it was relevant. But in 1949 a novel was published which led to the term gaining a much wider international audience. Nelson Algren’s brilliantly written dark story of drugs and crime, “The Man with the Golden Arm” set in the Chicago underworld, was a critical success and won the National book Award in 1950. The first time “cold turkey” was mentioned in the story, the character known as Doc Dominowski lays down the law’ “I’ am talkin’ cold turkey to you now.”

The paragraph highlights the use of this phrase in a story that was written about Nelson Algren’s crime and drugs story in Chicago. The story was published in 1950. However, the phrase, as used in the story, means to end something that is perhaps the addiction of the drug of Doc Dominowski. The phrase is used in it is the actual meaning.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “He is on cold turkey from alcohol these days, which is the main reason for his touchiness and irritation.”.

Example #2: “Hon Aspergen says that he knows cold turkey. However, when it comes to real cold turkey, he refuses to join the clinic. His pretext is that he does not want this cold turkey as he feels very bad.”

Example #3: “If you want to break an addiction, you have to take it slowly. You can’t go cold turkey at once.”

Example #4: “Marlyn tried the cold turkey method to stop binge-watching his favorite show. However, he failed utterly and had to give away all his DVDs.”

Example #5: “I have been watching him for the last two hours and know that they are going for cold turkey in this clinic.”