English idiom ~ go "Cold turkey"

English idioms ~ go “Cold turkey”

Did you ever have a bad habit? Did you used to smoke? (Did you smoke in the past but not anymore?) How about drink too much alcohol? Do you still have a bad habit? 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, 4 days a week! 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.

Can you guess the meaning of cold turkey? It means to give up (quit) a habit abruptly (immediately) without stopping slowly, without reducing little by little. 

People quit smoking usually 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, then 1 pack until eventually, you don’t smoke any cigarettes, this is quitting gradually. 

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

Idiom origin 
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, in the fridge.

You can eat these cold turkey leftovers quickly (immediately) when you are hungry. The New Year holidays are also times when people like to make decisions (resolutions) often to stop a bad habit. These 2 ideas got connected to make the idiom cold turkey.

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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