Speaking of “lioness” — I teach an ESL group and at this week’s session, the expression “strut like a peacock” came up in something we were reading.
One of the students didn’t know the word “peacock,” so I did a Google Image search and threw it up on the big TV screen — much faster than explaining in words.
Then a different student pointed out that only male peacocks have beautiful plumage, and wanted to know if there was a different word for the female bird.
“We call them ‘peahens’,” said my co-teacher — also a native speaker of US English.
“Nobody SAYS ‘peahen,’ though,” I objected. “Better to say ‘female peacock’.”
“But still okay to say ‘peahen’?” asked another student, and I confirmed that it was perfectly fine, yet “female peacock” is what most native speakers would actually use.
“Peahen and peacock, just like chickens are hen and cock,” said yet another student.
“NO, trust me, it’s much better to say ‘hen and rooster’,” I broke in, while the other teacher nodded agreement. “Don’t say ‘cock’ unless it’s part of another word or phrase like ‘peacock’ or ‘cocktail’ or ‘go off half-cocked’ or ‘three times before the cock crows’. Otherwise, rooster. Rooster, rooster, rooster.”