Being a sissy: what does this expression say about the character of the hen?


This is an expression that has crossed the centuries without getting old. Still used today, the formula makes fun of a person fearful, who lacks courage. Should we deduce from this that the hen is a petocharde? And first, why is she … wet ?

What does it mean to “be a sissy”?

The expression “to be a wimp” describes a person cowardly, who lacks resolution, does not dare to take risks. The dated appearance of the phrase is not known with precision but it is attested in 1680, in the ” French dictionary containing words and things ”. In his work, the French grammarian and lexicographer Cesar-Pierre Richelet defines the expression “sissy” as “lacking in heart and boldness.” To have no courage. »Later, in 1842, the French grammarian and literator Pierre-Marie Quitard provides a close version in his “Etymological, historical and anecdotal dictionary of proverbs”. The author describes “a shy, weak, fearful person, unable to show the slightest energy. »Among the synonyms of the expression, appear capon, coward, coward, coward, cowardly, péteux, pétochard, whineer or even, soft rag. Among the occurrences, we can cite that of Voltaire in “Letter to Madame du Deffant”, in 1768: “I hate sissies and souls weak. ”

Why do we say “to be a sissy”?

The formula is rooted in the observation of the behavior of a sissy by the rain andinterpretation that was made of it. Thus, when the gallinaceous is surprised by a shower, it is said to stay away from other animals and remains motionless. As though inconvenienced by his soaked plumage, he seems embraced by a sort of shame andabatement. We find a similar expression in the middle of the XVIIe century with the linguist Antoine Oudin: “It is frieze like a sissy. His hair is all loose. ” The image of a hairstyle flattened by the rain gives the impression of a certain softness, reflecting the cowardice of an individual, his cowardice, his cowardice. As for Moliere, he uses the formula “milky hen” in the Miser, in 1668, to designate a weak man. Why the choice from one hen and not from another species ? From Antiquity to the Renaissance, the bird spread throughout all the backyards of Europe. Part of the daily life of the people for millennia, the bird made the expression understandable by all.

Is the hen really funky?

You should know that before domestication, the hen in the wild was hunted by man for the quality of its flesh and eggs. The bird is not an animal of company and his relationship with man has always been based on predation. Instinctively considering itself as prey, the hen uses her only method of defense against an attack: the leak. Thus, it moves away when approached and unless you sleep soundly, it does not get caught easily. The gallinaceous indeed has a tendency to panic and struggle as soon as it feels in danger. By nature fearful, the hen does not support the stress likely to generate benign or serious pathologies in her (drop in egg laying, pecking, disease, etc.). This calm-tempered animal needs a lifetime of routine : getting up, eating, walking, going to bed … And to feel safe security, it prefers to sleep on a perch in order to escape the possible attack of a predator. One thing leading to another, the behavior fleeing of the hen has been associated with the idea of cowardice and lack of courage.

What does a (really) wet hen look like?

Surprised by the rain, each hen reacts differently depending on its character and its race. If the type of feathers and the layer of fat give each one a protection different in the face of meteorological hazards, in general, the gallinaceous is not adapted to water. Other birds are, like the duck, which is cut to swim. Anatidae indeed have powerful webbed legs to propel them, feathers waterproof and they are able to stand up if they accidentally roll over in the water. All of these characteristics are lacking in the hen. Although providing him with a insulating natural against cold and heat, its plumage is not waterproof. If the gallinaceous bird falls into a swimming pool, for example, its plumage becomes full of water and becomes heavier to the point of doing so. to flow like a stone. Not knowing how to swim, the animal risks drowning. But prudence being mother of safety, the hen – too fearful – is not the type to get wet!