Really we should figure out why a chicken is called a chicken–because most of the year the chicken gets to our plates more often than the gallant bird of Thanksgiving. But there’s no whiskey called Wild Chicken–that we know of anyway. That’s because the wild turkey has a larger place in the American imagination, if not the American diet. Wild turkeys are indigenous to North America. When Europeans arrived, they at first mistook the turkeys they saw for guinea fowl, which were familiar to them. Guinea fowl had long been brought to Central Europe through the neighboring region of Turkey–the country Turkey, that is. That’s where the name comes from. This American bird was named for the country that connects Europe and the Far East.
A better story though, recounted by Tad Tuleja in his fun book Fabulous Fallacies, credits the naming of the bird to Jose de Torres, the Portuguese Jewish interpreter of Columbus’s first journey, who upon seeing the first specimen of the bird in the New World is supposed to have cried out “Tukki, tukki!” which in Hebrew means “Big Bird.” Bon appétit. Or as Torres might have said: be’te-avon.
–from last year’s How The Turkey Got Its Name at 2paragraphs