Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Sayings from Appalachia

He Didn’t Say Pea Turkey – He Just Left!

pea turkey

pea turkey noun A call for turkeys to eat; also in fig phr not say pea turkey = not say anything, the term expressing displeasure with another’s lack of manners or breach of etiquette; somewhat milder than never say dog.
1940 Haun Hawk’s Done 63 All that bunch of starved chickens and turkeys started after me. I seed I might as well go back and feed them . . . . I was shucking away and calling the chickens at the same time, “Chickie, chickie – pea, turks, pea, pea, pea, pea” when all at once I took note that I had a red ear. 1976 Dwyer Southern Sayin’s 9 never said pea turkey = never gave an invitation or offered information. 1997 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell); He got up and left without saying pea turkey (Ledford).

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Seems like I’ve heard someone say pea turkey to describe a person not saying anything about a certain subject, but I just can’t quite think of who it was. I know I haven’t heard the phrase very often.

I asked the girls if they knew what pea turkey meant. They both guessed it meant a little turkey. Who knows how they got that!




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  • Reply
    Diane Tuttle
    December 4, 2018 at 7:58 am

    My grandmother used to say “They didn’t say Dog, Turkey or Kiss my foot.” This was reserved for when she was seriously upset with someone, so I didn’t hear it very often. But I did wonder if it was something she just made up and if felt good for all of those words to be rolling off her tongue because she would NEVER curse. Thanks for the sweet memory.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2018 at 10:51 am

    I grew up the sayings ” they didn’t do diddly squat today” (was lazy) and who in the “pea turkey” told you that? or what in the “pea turkey is that?” Also the the response, Cat fur to make kitten britches, after we ask what are you doing, or making too many times. My mother always said when she was aggravated about something, “Oh the devil and Tom Bell” We never knew who Tom Bell was.

  • Reply
    nancy mullen
    November 14, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    I was a very “questioning” child..some would say “questionable”. Heard “cat fer to make kitten britches” more times than I could count!

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    November 14, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    I’ve heard ‘pea turkey’ sooo many times and had forgotten all about it!! So glad you brought it up. Its something to tell the children at Thanksgiving. LOL
    Your girls are so lovely and talented.
    ps: loved Pauls train song and the guitars.

  • Reply
    November 14, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I never heard of “pea turkey”, besides, me and my brother played outside alot. That doesn’t mean “pea turkey” wasn’t spoken, we just never heard it.
    I have been wondering about Chitter’s glasses. I know some pretty girls just wear them. My oldest girl has two daughters, and the oldest one got her a purple frame with clear lenses. That infuriated Annabelle, cause she has to wear glasses. …Ken

  • Reply
    November 14, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    We often use “didn’t do pea diddly” or “didn’t do squat” but haven’t heard “pea turkey” (thought maybe it had something to do with pea cocks and pea hens) or “never say dog” although that may have morphed into the contemporary use of “dog” as in “you old dog, you” or “quit doggin’ me”.
    No one mentioned the metaphorical relation of “squat” which I was told has to do with the bodily function of attempted elimination [#2] when no outhouse is nearby. That got me to thinkin’ that “pea turkey” might actually be “pee” though I know nothing about turkey pee, only that birds do #1 & #2 in one function which tells me that my mind has wandered into kindergarten and pre-school territory and their fascination with body parts and function. . . bet you never thought this entry might branch off in this direction. . . blame it on my chicken tracking, or should I say turkey tracking, brain.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 14, 2017 at 11:03 am

    My understanding of pea turkey has a little different meaning. Have you ever tried to explain something to someone and they never seemed to comprehend? Later you find out you had it all wrong and that they know way more about it than you? It’s embarrassing. “He stood there and let me make a fool out of myself and didn’t say pea turkey!” “Jack $#!+” is interchangeable with pea turkey here.
    Doodley poot is another related phrase.
    Brynne – My mother used to answer “cat fur to make kitten britches” after repeated “what for” or “what fur” questions. Too many “what” questions might elicit “chicken squat, pick it up and see what you’ve got.”
    PS: Do funny things just pop into your hear while you are out running errands? Yesterday after I dropped off my garbage at the convenience center and was headed toward the Post Office one hit me. I’m gonna ask everybody if they had heard about anything happening over at the landfill. They are going to say “No, why?” My reply, “Well I just drove by there and it looked like somebody broke in and trashed it!”

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    November 14, 2017 at 10:01 am

    “Pea turkey” was also used to mean nothing, as in “He came in to work, but he didn’t do pea turkey all day.”
    And we said “diddley squat” as in “As a field hand, he ain’t worth diddley squat.”

  • Reply
    November 14, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Like Brynne, my mom’s response to us kids when she’d get tired of us constantly badgering her with “What fur?” (What for?), she’d say, “Cat’s fur to make kitten britches!” We knew then it was time for us to stop asking.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    November 14, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Mama and Daddy always used it, as did my grandparents, on BOTH sides. I never thought about how it would have been spelled, or whether it was one word or two. It didn’t mean that somebody didn’t have anything to say, it meant that nothing they said related to anything important. Usually it was followed by “what” they didn’t say “Peaturkey” about. “He didn’t say pea turkey about when he would come back to fix the porch.”, meaning, he didn’t bring up the subject, and neither did I.

  • Reply
    November 14, 2017 at 8:55 am

    That’s a good one. I’ve never heard it but I think I might include it in my list of “what the heck does that mean” phrases. Never said dog doesn’t make much sense either, but my family used it all during my childhood. I haven’t heard it used lately.

  • Reply
    Brynne Crowe
    November 14, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Dear Tipper,
    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now and so enjoy it! I’ve never commented — I’m not much of a commenter anywhere online — but today I just had introduce myself. I’m originally from Chattanooga, TN with roots in Campbell Co., TN; got interested in my Appalachian heritage in college years ago and have lately been renewing that interest. Your posts on vocabulary are particularly fun because I seem to know all the words from my mother — whose family hailed from Vonore, TN. She said “pea turkey” but not by itself. She used it as “he didn’t know pea turkey from izzard!” No idea what either term means. Your post made me smile, so I thought I’d finally come out of hiding. My mom also said this: “cat fur to make kitten britches” – when we asked to many “why” questions. I wonder if you’ve ever heard that one? I’ve never heard anyone else use it.
    Thanks for a wonderful blog,

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 14, 2017 at 8:48 am

    I don’t recall ever hearing ‘pea turkey’. I grew up hearing ‘didn’t say dog to nobody’. I did not know that was how one calls turkeys. But you make me think though that back in the day it made good sense to have a different call for each animal else there would be a free-for-all every time any of them were fed.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    November 14, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Dear Tipper, I’ve heard and said “pea turkey” all my life. It is fairly common around where I live. Of course, as the older folk pass away you are not nearly as likely to hear it said as when I was a child.

  • Reply
    Cynthia Morris
    November 14, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Your girls are just beautiful!

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    November 14, 2017 at 8:19 am

    I never heard the expression “pea turkey” but do recall often hearing the expression “pea didley” (which has the same meaning) many times.

  • Reply
    Don T.
    November 14, 2017 at 8:06 am

    My Granny & Grandad used the phrase a lot with the addition of one word…..didn’t say “pea turkey squat”! I even use the same words myself sometimes and I reckon and that’s where I got it from.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 14, 2017 at 7:05 am

    We always said…”Pea-diddy”….for instance…”She didn’t say “pea-diddy”, she just up and left the room, she was “scalded (red-faced mad) about something they said!”
    The girls are right about the a pea turkey meaning a little turkey!
    I remember when Cornish hens were all the rage to cook back in the fifties. They were on sale of course, so Mom cooked a couple, using a fancy recipe and put them on the table….Dad wasn’t much for anything ‘freu freu’ to eat. He was a “meat, ‘tater and bread” man!
    He took one look and said…’Well, that looks like a “pea turkey” to me and it’ll only make one bite, what’s the rest of you ‘all goin’ to eat?”
    Thanks Tipper for the memories…

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 14, 2017 at 5:26 am

    I’ve heard it Tip. I can’t specifically tell you where or when but it’s one of those I’ve heard forever, but not much lately. It describes a small amount or intention. I would associate it with a lack of caring or interest.

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