Your Thanksgiving Lesson: How ‘Turkey’ Became a Derogatory Term
As in, “It’s a turkey,” or, more familiarly, “You turkey!”
In the first three decades of the 20th century, there were a lot more Broadway theaters than there are today, probably by a factor of five or so.
Then as now, tourists, and locals, too, swelled the audiences during the Christmas season. Then as not now, shows also cost a lot less to put on.
Accordingly, a very large number of shows opened every year in November, and even if they only stuck around until shortly after New Year, they were usually able to turn a profit, provided the house had been reasonably full.
What that meant was that an awful lot of awful shows opened every year around Thanksgiving. The critics at Variety, who were obliged to attend and review every one of them, took to calling those shows “turkeys.” And the term stuck.
Happy Thanksgiving from your friendly Prospect malcontents, and don’t consume too much tryptophan and drive!