As New Mexicans join the rest of the country in sitting down to a lavish feast this Thanksgiving, take a moment to ponder the main course — turkeys. If nothing else, this discourse on the naming of turkeys will offer less controversial conversation for the dinner table than the latest antics of Team Trump. It is time, in other words, to talk turkey.

Turkeys serve as the main dish of feasts in some 88 percent of U.S. households, according to the National Turkey Federation, which estimates that 46 million turkeys will be eaten on Thanksgiving Day. As with so many traditions in the United States, there are a few unique New Mexican twists to the Thanksgiving — red chile on mashed potatoes, for example, not to mention the many different ways of describing turkeys.

The late Rubén Cobos, longtime professor at The University of New Mexico, lists many words for turkey in his classic Dictionary of New Mexico and Colorado Spanish. Turkeys are an American bird, domesticated in many Native cultures. The Spanish settlers gave different names to them, often restricted to geographical areas.

In New Mexico and southern Colorado, there is the word, guajalote, derived from the Náhuatl — the language of the Aztecs — word uexolotl. Or, try güíjalo, a tom turkey in Southern New Mexico. Ganso is derived from the Spanish word for goose (and according to columnist Larry Torres, is a popular name for the bird around Taos).

Or, more widely, gallina de la tierra literally translates as “chicken from the earth” and can also mean pheasant or roadrunner. Several mountains in New Mexico are named Gallinas Peak.

Our neighbors from Chihuahua say that city dwellers use the term pavo, while rural people say cócano. In Spanish, a pavo real is a peacock. A search of several Spanish dictionaries turned up no listings of cócano, so perhaps it is a Native American term.

Torque is a Spanglish word, obviously derived from turkey, but said with flair. In Pojoaque, old-timers sometimes called Thanksgiving Day el Día de Tanquestorque. Roll it off the tongue several times. The phrase grows more comfortable with repetition.

How the turkey got its name in the first place is its own fascinating story. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the name “turkey-cock” was used in 16th-century England for a guinea-fowl, a bird that originated in North Africa and later was imported to Europe by way of Turkey. Eventually, the term was misapplied to the American bird.

A misapplication, sort of how Native people came to be known as Indians — geography gone awry. This Thanksgiving, as you take a bite out of the fowl, give thanks and remember this: A bird by any other name would taste just as yummy. A blessed el Día de Tanquestorque to one and all.

Another View

Stop the starvation

The Washington Post

It has been two weeks since Saudi Arabia imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Yemen, a country already devastated by more than two of Saudi bombing. Before the embargo, Yemen was suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with 7 million people on the brink of famine and another 900,000 stricken by cholera. Those conditions have now grown far worse — and yet the Saudis persist with their siege. It is time for the Trump administration, which has indulged the Saudi leadership for too long, to intervene.

Yemen’s 28 million people depend on imports for up to 90 percent of their basic needs, including food, fuel and medicine. The vast majority of those imports come through the port of Hodeida, in northern Yemen, which along with the capital, Sanaa, is under the control of Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia imposed the blockade after a missile allegedly fired by the Houthis came close to its capital, Riyadh. The Saudis blamed Iran for supplying the weapon, though U.N. monitors in Yemen say they have not seen convincing evidence of that.

U.N. humanitarian officials warned that the shutdown would quickly lead to an emergency. Now their predictions are coming true. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sanaa, Hodeida and three other crowded cities — with 2.5 million people in all — have lost access to clean drinking water because of a lack of fuel. One million children are at risk from an incipient diphtheria epidemic because vaccines are out of reach on U.N. ships offshore. According to Rasha Muhrez, Save the Children’s director of operations in Yemen, several governates are down to a five-day supply of the fuel needed to operate flour mills, without which the millions dependent on food handouts will starve. “This blockage has cut off the lifeline of Yemen,” Muhrez told us.

Last week the Saudis began allowing limited humanitarian imports through the southern port of Aden, which is controlled by their Yemeni allies. But that is not adequate access. That’s why three U.N. agencies — the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and UNICEF — issued a joint statement last Thursday saying that the continued shutdown of other ports and airports “is making an already catastrophic situation far worse.” A confidential report by U.N. monitors, seen by Reuters, went further, saying the Saudis were violating a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution on Yemen by obstructing humanitarian assistance.

… The Trump administration, through the State Department, has objected to the ongoing blockade and called for “unimpeded access” for humanitarian supplies. But many in Yemen suspect, with some reason, that the White House is tolerating, if not encouraging, the crime. Shortly before the siege was announced, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and reportedly met late into the evening with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince. Even if it was unaware of the subsequent crackdown, the White House has the leverage to put a stop to it. It should act immediately, or it will be complicit in a crime against humanity.

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