Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Send in the Hench-poodles! An Underrated Prefix for Underlings

by Cassie, Publicity

Mark Peters, a language columnist for Good and Visual Thesaurus, as well as the blogger behind The Pancake Proverbs, The Rosa Parks of Blogs, and Wordlustitude is our guest blogger this week. In this post, he looks at the various uses of “hench” as a prefix.

So I was hanging upside down like a bat in my underground lair, enjoying the pleasures of an undisclosed location, when I realized, “Man! I am getting nothing done around here.” Even with a loyal staff of minions, lackeys, toadies, lickspittles, facilitators, enablers, provosts, and drooling zombie slaves, my evil plans have come to naught in 2009, according to the quarterly reports.

True, I did swindle some orphans and bunnies. I also made a sweet deal with “the cartel.” (Note to self: check receipt to see which cartel that might be, and what I will receive for my millions.) Deliciously, I vanquished Dr. Vargas—my chief rival in the fields of global domination, local pranksterism, and polar-bear training (don’t ask). So the year hasn’t been a total loss.

But what have I done lately? Then it occurred to me what I need: more henchmen.

Fortunately, the field of henchology is no longer limited to mere men, who I know from personal experience would rather live in a ridiculous fantasy world than wrestle with the issues of the day (or those polar bears). Today, an evil employer has options.

You see, when I’m not hip-deep in rivers of evil, I’m armpit-deep in the seas of lexicography, as curator of Wordlustitude, where I’ve collected hench-words beyond the wildest dreams of my nemesis Dr. Vargas and his colleagues Dr. Doom, Dr. Evil, and Dr. Phil. I’ve found uses of henchblob, henchboob, hench-chicken, hench-Cylon, henchdemon, henchgoat, henchidiot, hench-lady-men-partners, hench-monster, henchscum, hench-wench, plus spokeshenchman, sub-sub-henchman, under-henchlings and many others. Finally, some good news: It turns out hench is a mega-productive prefix and the hench-business is ever-bustling, even in an economic downturn.

My favorite hench-book, the Oxford English Dictionary, tells us henchman originally meant, in the 1300s, “A squire, or page of honour to a prince or great man, who walked or rode beside him in processions, progresses, marches, etc.; also, one who, on occasion, fulfilled the same office to a queen or princess.” Subservience, if not evil deeds, was always part of the henchly package. Other right-hand-man-y meanings evolved over time, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that the current sense started to take hold: “A stout political supporter or partisan; esp. in U.S. ‘A mercenary adherent; a venal follower; one who holds himself at the bidding of another’ (Cent. Dict.).” Mercenary adherents, venal followers, now we’re getting somewhere… The OED also has entries for hench-boy (1611) and henchwoman (1889), so the prefixitude of hench has established precedents. Those words are the primordial predecessors of hench-bunny-men and hench-robot.

This brings us to the wild world of contemporary hench-folk, who are usually mentioned in a fictional or humorous setting. Some henchnames reinforce the lackeydom of such lackeys (henchgoon, henchminion, hench-thug) while other reinforce their monsteriness (hench-vamp, hench-thing, hench-zombie) or evil (henchscum, hench-lawyer). A few names remind us that very few henchpersons could win a battle of wits with a box of rocks; these include henchmoron, henchidiot, and henchdoofus. Speaking of doofi, some writers love to imagine the nefarious thugs of their political enemies, such as “(George W.) Bush and his hench-psychos” or John Kerry and “his henchscum.”

But the funnest of the fun are the terms that take the hench prefix on a wild ride to words and beings not usually associated with the hench-istic arts: I think henchnoncorporeal being might be my favorite, though hench-toddler is a contender. Perhaps because pet-havers are called masters, many people can imagine their pets as hench-companions, inspiring the words henchdog, hench-ferret, hench-hamster, and hench-kitty. Bizarrely, there are several terms such as hench-cleavage and hench-breasts, which might be an indication of how boob-obsessed the world is, or a sign that the cleavage-killing Chesty Morgan and her Deadly Weapons are more influential than I thought. I’m not sure how useful a hench-cacti would be, but if Dr. Vargas gets one, I will too! Damn him!

Anyhoo, besides its wide use as a prefix, hench has been up to other lexical shenanigans. While searching Twitter for more hench-words, I was psyched to read this tweet: “@Rocmoney I think Madonna scared herself when she realised that she looked like a hench skeleton” (July 30, 2009, Andremcdmusicpr). At first I thought I’d be adding hench-skeleton to my list of words and roster of employees, before my brain informed me that I was making even less sense than usual, because who the heck would Madonna be a hench-skeleton for? Oprah? Zeus? Unlikely.

That sentence is an example of a slang meaning of hench as a henchman-inspired term for beefy, bulky, muscular, and strong, as in “A lion! It would be my personal bodyguard!! Do you know how HENCH and HUGE a lion is?! Mos definitely a lion! Hands down!”
(July 31, 2009, TEAMaiwo) and “Arrived at the gym, time to get hench!!” (July 29, 2009, U.S.F.). An upcoming movie about a struggling henchman is called Hench, so I imagine the word will continue to take on a wide-ranging, man-free life of its own, as noun, adjective, prefix, and whatever else it pleases. Who’s gonna stop it?

So, employers and warlords and supreme leaders, let this be a lesson! Don’t be so hasty when filling the rank ranks of your hideous hordes. Clip and save the following list of hench-folks. Refer to it as you write an ad for Craigslist or Evil Illustrated. And if you ever question your way of life, remember the words of that brave, muscular, lovelorn overlord of the underworld in the South Park movie: “Without evil there could be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes.”

henchape, henchnoncorporeal being
“[Pearl and her henchmen, er, henchape and henchnoncorporeal being, stand in the foreground, looking very, very annoyed.]”
(May 2, 2002, “Mystery Usenet Theater 3000: Spider-Man: The Movie“)

hench-cacti
“This has been a wonky day. Jose Cuervo and his hench-cacti are out to get me.”
(July 28, 2009, Amy Mohr)

hench-commissioner
“So NBA hench-commissioner Adam Silver begins pulling the team-logo placards out of the envelopes amid the overwhelming silence and TV-studio ambient buzz. The dominant sound, in fact, is the scraping of the placards against the inside of the envelopes as he pulls each one out. Is this great TV or what!”
(King Kaufman, May 21, 2008, Salon)

hench-lobbyist
“AT&T threw a lavish, secret party near the Denver Democratic Convention for the Blue Dog Democrats and their hench-lobbyists that voted them the gift of retroactive immunity for drift-net spying. Glenn Greenwald, Matt Stoller, Jane Hamsher and others tried to get in, only to discover how aggressively private the party was.”
(Aug. 25, 2008, isen.blog)

hench-masseuse
“Oh, how I hate sleeping on the hovercraft… I woke up so stiff this morning… I need a hench-masseuse. The lair includes a sauna.”
(July 24, 2009, Diabolical One)

hench poodle
“Perhaps the evil hench poodle threw a bucket of water on her computer!”
(Aug. 30, 2007, Labradoodle Discussion Board)

hench-psycho
“It’s unfortunate that if Bush and his hench-psychos continue to have their way, it’s the United States that will end up on the ash heap. And sooner rather than later.”
(Dec. 9, 2007, Grumpy Lion)

hench-rodent
“It started out on Animaniacs as a series of short skits about two genetically engineered lab mice. Every night, Brain hatches a plot to take over the world with Pinky as his faithful (if insane) hench-rodent.”
(April 8, 2007, Answer Bag)

hench-species
“Scar says this about the hyenas in Disney’s The Lion King. Unfortunately, this is justified, as they’re the only hench-species available in the savannah.”
(Date unknown, TV Tropes)

hench-toddler
“I had more trouble thinking up a name for the young one. ‘Satan’s Hench-toddler’ seemed appropriate a couple of weeks ago. Then she got a cute new haircut, and I thought maybe ‘Pixie’ might work better.”
(April 9, 2008, Diapers and Wine)

hench-writer
“Thanks to my wonderful hench-writer and grand vizier Andrew.”
(July 28, 2009, Snail in a Turtleneck)

hench-zombie
“I also went back to a much earlier saved game point to make sure I hadn’t missed something (which I had but it wasn’t important. Basically Hilrad wasn’t in the movie cut-scene when the beholder zapped him because he was too busy getting beat up by my hench-zombie for whatever unknown reason).”
(Aug. 17, 2007, Neverwinter Nights 2 Vault)

Read More in…

Recent Comments

  1. Frank Wales

    I’m surprised more people don’t know about Quasimodo’s soot-covered side-kicks, the Henchblacks of Notre Dame. (But now that I’ve made them up, maybe they will.)

  2. Gedaly Guberek

    I would like a hench-mini-kitchen to follow me around to do my evil deeds and keep me well fed.

  3. [...] coffee cake for breakfast every day. It’s on my to-do list, right between “build a moat” and “hire reliable hench-poodles” . [...]

  4. [...] hench-derived coinages, including hench-hamster and spokeshenchman, see Mark Peters’ ‘Send in the Hench-poodles! An Underrated Prefix for Underlings’. Hat-tip to Nancy [...]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *