Thanksgiving is a week away! So why not etymologize delicious birds that we like to eat?
This made more sense in my head.
Turkey showed up in the mid sixteenth century—at least, in regards to the bid that we now call turkey that is North American in origin. Before that, the name turkey was applied to a completely different species, the guinea fowl, which is from Africa. Those birds happened to be exported through the country of Turkey, so people started calling them that, but then when American turkey got introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century, people were like, well, clearly we have to call this bird from a different continent than Turkey turkey. It just makes sense.
Chicken comes from the Old English cicen, which meant a bird, but originally specifically meant a young bird. You know, like we use chick for today. It comes from the Proto Germanic kiukinam, from keuk-, which was a word for the sound a bird makes (and is possibly the origin of cock). That means it’s like “cluck”, so a chicken is… a clucken.
The bird duck comes from the Old English duce (pronounced duke), which is obviously just duck and is thought to be from the Old English word ducan, the origin word for the verb duck. But that isn’t sure, and it does seem kind of weird that ducks would duck. The previous word for duck was ened, and that word comes from the Proto Indo European aneti-, which is where a lot of other Indo European language derive their word for duck from. But not us anymore.
Goose comes from the Old English gos, which is a much more simplified spelling if you ask me. It comes from the Proto Germanic gans and Proto Indo European ghans-, which is actually thought to be another word taken from the sound the bird makes. And the reason the plural is geese is because of something called i-mutation, which means that people get lazy in their speaking and start pronouncing oo sounds like ee. And for some reason that became a popular way to pluralize things.
Pheasant showed up in the late thirteenth century (although it appeared a century earlier as a last name). It comes from the classical Latin phasianus, pheasant, from the Greek phasianos, also pheasant. Apparently it was named after a river called Phasis (now called Rion in Georgia) where there were a lot of the birds. And the T at the end just showed up because people said the word wrong because that’s ninety percent of etymology.
SourcesPlato and His Dialogues