When I was first teaching my fifth graders used to call me Hen . I liked Hen .
A decade later a fellow teacher friend of mine began to call me Hen . We got to know one another during the nine day UTLA strike of 1989 ( ” Walk the Line in ’89 ) .
I don’t know anyone else who calls me Hen . The idea occurred to me to change my blog name from Hennessy to Hen . Nothing much more to it than that .
I can still hear those kids : ” Hey , Hen “. They probably thought it was cute and maybe a bit daring . It was daring with Sister Agnes around . I’ll tell you that much . One of the boys was chewed out by her for disrespect to a teacher for calling me Hen . I tried reasoning with her but , of course , got nowhere . I told her it was absolutely no disrespect to me to be called Hen by my students . A ” Hen” with respect was much better than a ” Mr. Hennessy ” with the opposite .
I’m not turning my back in any way from the Hennessy name . It’s a good quality name that has , I’ve noticed , gained some added respect due to the French cognac .
Years ago the Hennessy Cognac Company invited all the Hennessys in the Los Angeles area to a little shindig at a fancy restaurant in Beverly Hills called the Bistro . My brother and my mother and I all went . There were over a hundred people there . Elegant hors d’oeuvers were served and we were invited to taste , free of charge , all of their cognacs .
At some point in the proceedings the master-of-ceremonies stepped forward and made a little speech about how happy they were to host this great French family Hennessy . With the word “French” the room full of guests initiated a loud moaning grumbling protest . Immediately the French consul stepped forward and took over . ” This great Irish family , ” he said , and everyone in the room cheered .” We are just so honored to have had you in our country for the last 350 years , ” he said , and everyone cheered again . The guy was a true diplomat .
The name Hennessy , actually , derives from the Gaelic ( anglicized here ) name Angus . I forget the Gaelic spelling , which is much longer . Angus was a great king in ancient times who fell in love with a beautiful woman . She had the odd habit of turning into a swan for months at a time , though , and she flew off . To put it mildly , the poor guy was upset . He recognized her , eventually , because one swan in a flock flying overhead happened to be wearing the same golden necklace that Angus had given to the woman just before she had vanished . And one thing led to another , and so on and so forth , and they both lived happily ever after . She continued to transmorph , however , but he learned to live with it .
Aunt Mary used to tell that at some point in history Uncle James flew off to France and started making cognac . He must have been among the young Irishmen called the “Wild Geese” who left Ireland for other lands in earlier centuries. I guess you can take an Irishman out of Ireland , but you can’t take the Ireland out . Or , something like that .
Anyway , I’ll be Hen whenever I feel like it . Or you can call me Angus . Call me anything you like , but don’t call me late for lunch .