What Does Talk Turkey Mean?

Let’s Talk Turkey Meaning

Definition: To engage in a frank and practical discussion about a matter (usually a business matter).

Origin of Talking Turkey

This expression was in use by the first half of the 1800s. Its origin story is said to come from an apocryphal tale about a white man and an Indian hunting.

In the story, a Native American and white man are trying to divide some game from a hunt. The white man offers that he (the white man) can take the turkey while the Native American man can take the buzzard. Alternatively, the Native American can take the buzzard and he (the white man) can take the turkey.

These two offers sounded different because the white man reversed the order. However, in both instances the white man would walk away with the larger prize. The Native American realized this and said to the white man, “Now talk turkey to me.”

There is no evidence that this exchange actually happened. However, this story appears in multiple first hand sources throughout the 1800s. This seems to mean it was a popular origin story for the idiom.

Examples of Talking Turkey

talk turkey idiom meaning

Here is an example of a teacher using the expression in a math class.

Teacher: I’ve listened to all of you give your reasons why I should offer extra credit. I’ve never offered a single extra credit assignment in my whole career. However, I’m willing to give it a try.

Student: Awesome! Thank you!

Teacher: If I’m going to offer extra credit, though, you have the responsibility of coming up with a fair assignment. You need to propose extra credit that is fair, and explain how it will fit into the grading scheme for the class. We will discuss all these practical details together. Are you willing?

Student: Of course! Let’s talk turkey!

what does the idiom talk turkey meanIn this example, two friends are discussing a business proposition.

Monica: I am so excited about all the ideas we discussed for starting a nonprofit to help illiterate adults in our city.

Janice: Me too! I feel like we completely agree on the big picture.

Monica: I guess all that is left to do is figure out the details and how we will actually make this happen. Let’s talk turkey!

More Examples

This excerpt uses the expression in a play on words. Here, they literally are talking about turkeys.

  • We followed up with more Turkey hunting information as Kevin Perry, from Marolina Outdoors, joined Brad Petersen and me to talk turkey-hunting tips and equipment. –Denver Post

The second excerpt is from an article about a new bar that closed due to a dispute.

  • Comer said GRF wants to avoid litigation and hopes to meet with MBT’s attorney this week. “We’re trying to get them to the bargaining table so we can talk turkey and see where we go.” –OC Register

Summary

The phrase let’s talk turkey means let’s discuss the practical details of something (often a business deal).

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