‘Hon’ culture functions as a tribute of sorts to white, working-class women
By Mary Rizzo (historian and writer of essays about HonFest and the cultural image of the Hon), The Baltimore Sun, 12/21/2010
Hampden has become center stage — again — for debate about the image of Baltimore. In 2009 we had “flamingo-gate,” and now, in the waning days of 2010, everyone is talking about the Hon trademark controversy. Denise Whiting, owner of Café Hon and the HonBar and creator of Hampden’s annual HonFest, has decided to trademark the word “Hon,” to limit and control its public, commercial use. Many people are angry, feeling that Ms. Whiting is laying claim to something that she has no right to own. (Others argue that while “hon” is a popular term in Baltimore, it’s hardly unique to Charm City.)
Here’s the irony of the Hon trademark debacle: Denise Whiting is right — to a degree. She’s the one who put the word next to the image of the beehived, rhinestoned and blue-eyeshadowed caricature that has become so prevalent in Baltimore. While “hon” had been used in the vernacular as a term of endearment, there’s no real evidence that anyone ever referred to themselves or anyone else as a capital-H Hon before she made it the name of her restaurant. However, the reason why Hon has become so important to a certain subset of Baltimoreans is not for the tackiness and not for the kitsch but because it gives them an opportunity to collectively and publicly remember.
Continue reading “You Can’t Trademark a Feeling” at The Baltimore Sun.