Posted by James Briggs on April 18, 2002
In Reply to: Hen Night posted by R. Berg on April 18, 2002
: : Does anyone know the origin of this phrase, and why we speak of hen nights and stag nights, not stag and doe nights, or hen and (perhaps understandably) cockerel nights?
: I haven't looked up these words, so here's a quick answer based on observations only: "Old hen" and "old biddy" have long meant a middle-aged or old woman, one whom the speaker dislikes or feels superior to. A typical flock of chickens on a family farm, when keeping chickens was more of a cottage industry, consisted of many hens and one rooster if the owners were interested in breeding chicks, or many hens and no rooster if the goal was egg production. So hens hung out together, pecking and gabbling ("Shirley, these little hors d'oeuvres are so cu-u-ute! You simply must give me the recipe! Corn grits with a touch of oats, is it?"), and roosters were solitary.
: Antlered mammals would be a better model for a group of men because the males do associate, at least for fighting during mating season. Macho men are sometimes called "bucks."
In many parts of Scotland a woman is often called 'hen', such as 'how are you then,hen?' Perhaps this is the origin.