Q&A: Hens, Hens’ or Hen’s?

Each week, we take a look at a common confusions and ambiguities in the English language (that gives us about a century’s worth of material!) – making things easier through the power of friendly conversation… This week, we head out for a night on the town…

Q: My friend Henrietta (I call her Hen) is getting married in a few weeks. So this weekend, will I be attending Hen’s Hens Night, Hen’s Hens’ Night or Hen’s Hen’s Night?
A: Well we don’t know, did you RSVP?

Q: Yes.
A: Haha, okay then. It’s true that any of these options COULD make a solid case: a night filled with hens (no apostrophe), a night that belongs to all the hens (apostrophe after S) or a night belonging to that one special sign-carrying, veil-wearing, stripper-grinding, chocolate-phallus-munching hen (apostrophe before S).

Q: That doesn’t really help me.
A: True, but those descriptions were fun. You’ve actually missed the most obvious option in the hen house. There is a way to avoid ambiguity entirely.

Q: How?
A: By opting for “Hen Night” – widely accepted as the more appropriate written form, and how they actually say it in UK anyway.

Q: And in Australia?
A: Here downunder, because we pronounce it with an S at the end, that can cause issues, but we’d still recommend writing it ‘hen’ singular. Of course, the internet being what it is, many local websites usually opt for the term “hens” without an apostrophe (the web abhors punctuation). Or you could just call it a “bachelorette party” like they do in the USA…

Q: So will Henrietta’s fiancé have the same issue?
A: Funny you should say that. In Australia, a bachelor party is called a “Buck’s Night” – no variation. Note the apostrophe – it’s all about the future groom, and not a group of collective bucks (which would be “Bucks’ Night”). Unlike the females, “Buck Night” doesn’t really fly in this case. However, in countries that call it a “Stag Night”, it’s singular. Confusing, huh?

Q: Yes. It’s a wonder people get married at all.
A: No comment.

Q: Hey, while I’m here, did I use “fiancé” correctly in that last question?
A: You sure did. The engaged male partner is the “fiancé” and the female is the “fiancée”. And in many countries, and certain states in the US, it’s even acceptable usage to have two fiancés or two fiancées, if you get what we’re saying…

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