English idiom – Go Cold Turkey (2021)

Did you ever have a bad habit? Did you ever smoke cigarettes? (Did you smoke in the past but not anymore?) How about drink too much alcohol? Do you still have a bad habit? Do you want to quit? Can you go cold turkey?

My bad habit recently has been drinking too much coffee.

My main problem was that I would go to Mister Donut to study Japanese, and I would drink 3 or 4 cups of coffee while I was there. I would go 4 days a week! (That’s a lot of coffee.) 

At Mister Donut in Tokyo, they have free refills of coffee, so it was easy to drink too much.

So I stopped going to Mr. Donut. I didn’t reduce my visits to only 1 or 2 times a week. I also didn’t have only 1 or 2 cups of coffee while I was there, I just stopped going. I suddenly and completely stopped. 

I stopped going to Mister Donut cold turkey.

English idiom - Go Cold Turkey

Can you guess the meaning of cold turkey? 

Go cold turkey – meaning

It means to give up (quit) a habit abruptly (suddenly) without stopping slowly, without reducing little by little. 

People usually quit smoking by reducing the number of cigarettes they smoke, slowly, over time until they stop. If you smoked 2 packs a day, and you reduced to 1 and a half packs a day, then 1 pack a day until eventually, you don’t smoke any cigarettes, this is quitting gradually. 

The adverb gradually means – slowly, over a long period of time
gradually definition from Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries
(The opposite of gradually is suddenly.)

If you smoked 2 packs a day, and one day you decide that you will quit smoking and then stop immediately (suddenly), you have quit cold turkey

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Go cold turkey origin (Maybe?)

I think this idiom comes from Western Christmas culture. After Christmas, there are lots of leftovers in the refrigerator, and turkey is a traditional holiday food so there will be lots of turkey, cold turkey left over in the fridge.

You can eat these cold turkey leftovers quickly (suddenly) when you are hungry.

The New Year holidays are also times when people like to make big decisions (resolutions). These resolutions are often to stop a bad habit. These 2 ideas may have gotten connected to make the idiom cold turkey.

Go cold turkey examples

Eric decided to become a vegetarian. He just stopped eating meat cold turkey.

More people are giving up their Facebook, Instagram, and other social media accounts. A survey said many people feel they are wasting too much time on these platforms. Some have even deleted all their social media accounts and quit cold turkey.

English idiom - Go Cold Turkey

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I still drink coffee, but not as much as before. I feel better now 🙂 Have you ever quit a bad habit cold turkey? I am very proud of you!

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