Was it meant to be an objurgation, an insult, a jocose remark, or something else? And does it have the same meaning today as it had then?"

Definitions of “turkey” (when used to refer to a person)

Slang. a person or thing of little appeal; dud; loser. a naive, stupid, or inept person.http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/turkey

A stupid or inept person.http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/turkey

Several decades ago, when I was training in an academic environment in the U.S., one fellow was elected “Turkey of the year.” He looked like a very popular kind of guy and was awarded a beautiful life-size golden turkey at an informal gathering. When I asked one of his mates what it all meant, I was told it was an award for being a failure, a screw-up at some of the several tasks they had had during that term. It puzzled me because there was no hostility, the recipient was applauded, laughed a lot, and seemed to enjoy it. I just recalled it recently and thought I might ask it here.

My search for “turkey of the year” wasn’t productive and only returned newspaper texts saying who had been elected where.

closed as primarily opinion-based by FumbleFingers, Chenmunka, Robusto, user66974, Ellie Kesselman Sep 26 '14 at 9:53

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • After checking similar questions, I really can't understand what your criteria is, or if you have double standards. See: 1. IS CHUBBY OFFENSIVE english.stackexchange.com/questions/36167/is-chubby-offensive - Here the question was PROTECTED. 2. IS CANNUCK OFFENSIVE? english.stackexchange.com/questions/23162/is-canuck-offensive PROTECTED as well. 3.IS ALIEN OFFENSIVE? english.stackexchange.com/questions/6101/is-alien-offensive NOT ON HOLD. english.stackexchange.com/questions/50912/… IF THIS ISN'T OPINION BASED, I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS. – Centaurus Sep 26 '14 at 22:14
  • If you could be kind enough to say what can be changed to make my question more appropriate, I would appreciate it. – Centaurus Sep 26 '14 at 22:20
  • I think that this is a potentially interesting question—but making it work at EL&U would probably entail focusing on where the phrase originated and what it signified (and perhaps continues to signifies), rather than on whether it is generally viewed today (or in all contexts) as insulting. In connection with the term's origin, I did a little research and found an article in the December 5, 1953 issue of Billboard magazine about "deejay Martin Block's 'Turkeys of the Year'" program, which seems to have taken place annually for several years on Thanksgiving Day on WNEW radio in New York. – Sven Yargs Sep 27 '14 at 21:50
  • The wording I would use in recasting the question would be something like, "Where and when did the phrase "turkey of the year" originate? Was it intended as a denunciation, a serious insult, a jocular dig, or something else? And does it have the same meaning today?" Much of the background data you provide in your question is useful as is, and needs no editing at all. I would love to take a shot at answering the question. Good luck! – Sven Yargs Sep 27 '14 at 22:04
  • Compare this to Golden Razzies. I feel that the crux lies in context and the degree of sarcasm. If the recipient of such award can be a good sport about it, all is well. – Crosscounter Sep 27 '14 at 22:58

It can be offensive, but depending upon the context, it might not be. In the context you describe, it is apparently a tongue-in-cheek award for making some kind of mistake, and everyone (the recipient included) appreciates the humor involved.

However, turkey can also be intentionally offensive, and taken as such.

Context is everything.

  • What about "old turkey" as in greeting somebody ("Hi Joe, you old turkey!") Is it just as offensive? – Centaurus Sep 24 '14 at 0:54
  • 1
    Just what I said, @user463240. Not offensive if there were a good relationship between the two persons, and they were accustomed to trading mild insults as part of socialization. I have friends who might greet me in this way and I would not be offended at all. There are others who might use such a greeting and I would not be pleased one bit. I am saying that it is not INHERENTLY offensive, but whether it is depends upon multiple factors, such as the nature of the relationship, tone of voice, and so on. – Cyberherbalist Sep 24 '14 at 16:01
  • +1 for comment. It seems to happen just the same in my mother tongue. (certainly in several other languages too). To call somebody an SOB here, is a strong insult. But I have close friends (men, like me) whom I have called that in reply to a trick they played on me. And we just laugh. – Centaurus Sep 24 '14 at 16:14

Yes, it is offensive. It generally refers to a poorly thought-out plan.


The key here is that turkey is a playful expression for someone who made a mistake or poorly conceived an idea. Other similar words would be dork or doofus.

The term turkey is a lot friendlier and more playful than idiot or screw-up.

So in the context you've given, they're highlighting some screw up your colleague made, but it's done in a playful and friendly matter, and is not intended to cause genuine offence.

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