Henpecked

I love the word. I don’t know why.

It’s a weird little word that brings back memories of Rickie and Lucy Ricardo, or Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Not that either of those two husbands were “henpecked.” At least, I don’t think they were henpecked.

What I find fascinating about the term is that in the real world hens don’t henpeck their rooster husbands. I know this, because we raised chickens. This is the pecking order as I know it: geese will peck on everything, so they are the kings of the yard. They will even peck dogs and children. Then next in line comes the rooster. Roosters peck all of the hens. The hens then pick one scrawny chicken to peck, and all of them peck at that one, until its head is completely bald and there are few feathers left on its back.

Chickens are completely strange animals. For birds, they are totally stupid. This is a great disappointment for a bird lover like me. My lovebird is MENSA level compared to a chicken. I once conducted a chicken intelligence test. I placed chicken food on one side of the coop, right in view of my chicken. Then I opened the door. The hapless chicken almost killed itself trying to got through the metal wire to get to the food. It never did figure out that if it had taken a few steps to the right, it could have found freedom and a large pile of feed. Instead, it continued to bang its head against the mesh.

As a child, I often wondered why the chickens didn’t form some sort of cooperative. Why didn’t one of them come forward in the aid of the one at the bottom of the pecking order? Why didn’t the chickens unionize and turn against the rooster? Why wasn’t the rooster smarter than the goose? It was smaller. It could have hidden from the rampaging goose. Why didn’t that rooster, if he was so smart, get all of the chickens together to wage war against the goose?

The answer is plain. Chickens are too stupid for that. It’s hard to imagine them as being descendants from the dinosaurs. Oh, wait. Those guys weren’t that brilliant either, which makes the chickens mere continued existence on the planet a rather provocative question.

Now, back to the word “henpecked.”It’s traditional use back in the day was to indicate the male unit of a couple deferring to the female unit. Common terminology in today’s vernacular is that the guy is pussy whipped, or just plain “whipped.” This assumes that the woman in the relationship has all of the power. I personally don’t like the term “whipped” because of its sexual connotation. The other side of being whipped is prostitution. I do like the word “henpecked” though, maybe because it implies power without having to trade sex for it.

I was thinking about this because it reminds me of my daughter and her boyfriend. He has assumed the “whipped” nickname by his friends. She does rail at him at times, and he’s usually so quiet, we don’t hear a response. We had no idea he was responding. He appears to allow her to run his life. I know better now. He sometimes yells back, just not in mixed company. He has his own ideas, and sometimes they conflict with hers. He’s respectful, but not henpecked.

Henpecked. I still like that word, though. It has a nice ring to it.

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9 Responses

  1. Even though there was a lot of talk about birds in this article, I read the whole thing.

    I did it for YOU.

  2. Thanks, InaPie. I hope you learned something about chickens. They are the Gomer Pyles of the bird world.

  3. I agree that hen-pecked is a much nicer sounding term than the new one. (Of course, it assumes that the other way round the pecking would be normal and perfectly fine, as your description of barnyard social life illustrates. So I still don’t like it very much.)

  4. It’s nice that he’s gentleman enough not to yell when others are around.

  5. I don’t think I like either term. Both are alien to me. I don’t understand how a woman could do that or how a man could put up with it. But that’s me. If I have to describe anyone like this I would prefer to say that he/she had her/him wrapped around their finger. I think that’s much nicer, no?

  6. It is nicer, Corina.

    I can’t imagine being totally taken over by a guy. Likewise, I can’t imagine being in a relationship with someone I could run over on a regular basis. So I like the word “henpecked” but it’s just as foreign to me as it is in the chicken coop. In my world, there’s no such thing.

  7. Yes. Chickens are astoundingly stupid. The whole deal with running around with their heads cut off is both completely weird and suggestive that their heads aren’t really something they use much other than as a cap to keep the blood in their necks.

    I’m not fond of the term ‘whipped’ either. I think it could be because of when I’ve heard it applied. It has been applied to me when I’ve said things (which I meant) like “I’d rather go hang around with my sweetie than go drinking with you”.

    thidculturemom is totally right again.

  8. Chickens are foul birds, no doubt about it. I have taken care of them a couple times and will never do so again.
    The word henpecked has the implication that the man should be in charge so it is not a favorite of mine. I like it better if I think of Lucy and Rickie, though.

  9. I don’t think anyone uses the word anymore, do they? It’s so 1950s. It’s one that has fallen out of favor. Thankfully.

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