Anne Notations

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BAWWWK! Or, Life as a nursery tale

"Sally Henny Penny gets rather flustered when she tries to count out change, and she insists on being paid cash; but she is quite harmless."

Recently an online customer-service agent answered my email query and commented about my e-address, which has the word hennypenny in it: "I see you're a Beatrix Potter fan."

Now, I love me some Beatrix Potter, especially that bad boy Squirrel Nutkin, but I had never known a Hennypenny connection to Potter's work. So I Googled. And there, in a Potter story called "The Tale of Ginger and Pickles," was a feathered character named Sally Henny Penny who owns a shop.

The Henny Penny I was familiar with was the one in the very old English tale of an fearful fowl who, upon being bonked on the head by an acorn, leapt to the conclusion that the sky was falling. In later print versions, she tells her friend Chicken Little, and they are joined by all manner of panicked barnyard denizens in apocalyptic feather-flapping and hysterics.

My email address derives from a high school nickname bestowed by my best friend Reese. She affectionately morphed my maiden name, Hinman, into "Hinny" and thence to "Henny," from where it was but one small chicken-scratch to "Hennypenny." So Hennypenny I was for a year or so in my late teens. Decades later, when I got my first home email account, I brought the moniker back to life to rep me on the Internet.

Last night on the Web I found some illustrations and book covers for the acorn-bedeviled Henny Penny, and I had to laugh: My nickname might be apter than I'd realized.

There runs the squawking lady chicken, freaking out that the sky is preparing to fall and bring life as she knows it to an end. And here I am, assailed by periodic anxiety attacks and jumping to catastrophic conclusions at every rupture of a kitchen sink pipe, every unwelcome phone call from a high school dean. If I can laugh at that silly Henny Penny, I'd better be able to laugh at myself.

The sky is falling, indeed!


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