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Baltimore "HON" controversy
December 21, 2010 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Baltimore scandal! Denise Whiting, the owner of Cafe Hon and originator of "Hon Fest" has stirred up controversy in Charm City by trademarking "Hon". People are really, really, up in arms, including the editorial writers of the Baltimore Sun and another business down the street. Denise Whiting responds. More of her defense here.
posted by josher71 (81 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
If anyone owns the trademark, it should be John Waters.
posted by inturnaround at 6:42 AM on December 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


Heh. Of course she cannot trademark the use of the work "hon". Her application will be rejected.

Waitresses in the Northeastern U.S. have been saying "Can I warm that up for you hon?" forever.

But think of all the free advertising she's receiving by simply filing the application. It's a new-fangled way of using outrage over IP laws to get attention to your business.

As when Google got all sweaty over an Australian beer distributor who tried to trademark the word Groogle. Google's legal challenge and resulting settlement with the applicant produced the sort of free advertising that's hard to come by. Nothing like having your company mentioned all over the press and internets along side one of the world’s most valuable brands.
posted by three blind mice at 6:44 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thats funny. The first thing that came to mind when I saw that word is the Mitford sisters.

Hons and Rebels
posted by vacapinta at 6:44 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


One more legal coup against the city and she'll have a three-peat.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:44 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't "Charm City' trademarked, too?
posted by empath at 6:45 AM on December 21, 2010


Of course she cannot trademark the use of the work "hon". Her application will be rejected.

I think it was actually approved several years ago (1, 2)
posted by electroboy at 6:47 AM on December 21, 2010


Of course she cannot trademark the use of the work "hon". Her application will be rejected.

Apparently not. She first trademarked it in the 90s. There's nothing unusual about this. Trademarks don't prevent anybody from ever using the word for anything. It's only when used as brand to sell particular items that it applies.

Did anyone complain about 'OK' being trademarked for OK cola? No? This controversy is absurd.
posted by empath at 6:48 AM on December 21, 2010


Somebody who wanted to be a stick-in-the-mud killjoy could argue that the whole "Hon" phenomenon is classist and insulting. Me, I'm not paying any attention to the kerfuffle unless/until John Waters weighs in.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:48 AM on December 21, 2010


I've trademarked randomkeystrike. All you bitches who have ever quoted me better lawyer up.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:49 AM on December 21, 2010


Vacapinta, I thought the same thing. And I was surprised there were so many fans of the Mitford sisters in Baltimore.
posted by thivaia at 6:51 AM on December 21, 2010


Luckily I have never quoted a certain person. And now I never will. Chilling effect, dude, chilling effect.
posted by Splunge at 6:52 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do have a reasonable licensing deal, if you want to PM me. :-)
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:53 AM on December 21, 2010


I say we organize a protest. Come to restaurant at 9:00 PM on Christmas Eve dressed as Divine. Then after, we can go caroling, being sure to insert "hon" into as many of the carols as possible.
posted by polluxopera at 6:53 AM on December 21, 2010


Somebody who wanted to be a stick-in-the-mud killjoy could argue that the whole "Hon" phenomenon is classist and insulting.

And, of course, they would be dead fucking wrong. I'm going to trademark "sug" (short for sugar).
posted by NoMich at 6:53 AM on December 21, 2010


If you want to talk about trademark abuse, look at Edge Games, who made a career out of shaking down game companies for licensing fees every time they used "Edge" in a game title. They weren't stopped until they went after an indie game company in the iPhone app store, and EA decided to counter-sue using evidence gathered by the indie game company's supporters to invalidate all of this trademarks.
posted by empath at 6:53 AM on December 21, 2010


Hmm, article says she did this a hell of a long time ago:

She also said the trademarking is “old news,” because she began to register “hon” in various categories, known as classes, nearly 10 years ago.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:58 AM on December 21, 2010


Why all the uproar over office furniture?
posted by TedW at 6:59 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Season 6 of The Wire, anyone?
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:00 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd boycott, but I never go there anyway. The food is overpriced and the taps at the Hon Bar are always dirty. I got into it with the bartender after telling him he needed to clean his taps, and he claimed I didn't know what a Resurrection should taste like because I was used to Bud Light.
posted by electroboy at 7:01 AM on December 21, 2010


Trademark is not the same as copyright.

Really, there's no issue here.

Pepsi trademarked "Uh-huh" at some point.

It just meant other soda companies couldn't use it as a slogan to sell soda.
posted by kyrademon at 7:02 AM on December 21, 2010


I'd boycott, but I never go there anyway. The food is overpriced and the taps at the Hon Bar are always dirty. I got into it with the bartender after telling him he needed to clean his taps, and he claimed I didn't know what a Resurrection should taste like because I was used to Bud Light.

Baltimore bartenders have not really done well in my eyes in my time here. I realize it's an over generalization but I often get the sentiment from others as well.
posted by josher71 at 7:05 AM on December 21, 2010


This use of Hon to describe a certain type of Baltimorean woman is all wrong in the first place, it's a term used by everyone, and the Hon is you, when you're spoken to. Get in your time machine and go to Lexington Market before the expansion, it won't just be the mammoth pâtissière at Bergers or Mrs. Devine at Faidley's or the woman behind the register at Ben-Lex saying it; you'll hear "hon" from the old dude grinding horseradish and coconut, from the giant butcher who around New Years likes to lean over the glass at you with a pig's head in his hands, and the grinning Greek at Mount Olympus who always sings while shaving your gyro.

It was universal. Sure, there's an old Baltimore white woman archetype, but appropriating a universal vernacular address to them is just a recent thing, done by a new generation in as much a finger-pointing way as out of genuine respect or fondness. John Waters managed to make these so-called "Hons" the only thing approaching normal in his films, and with good reason: they were everyday people.

So once you get these johnnies-come-lately ogling the working-class mothers and grandmothers of Charm City and then deciding to "celebrate" them by stealing and conferring on them a term of civic goodwill heard in everyone's mouth, it's no surprise to see further backhandedness out of a greedy delusional who imagines herself to be a one-woman Chamber of Commerce, and less of a surprise to hear that some City stuffed shirts see a buck in it and traipse right along after her.

Makes me want to trademark "my lawn," and tell Denise Whiting to get off it.

Hon.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:15 AM on December 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


I just trademarked the word "fart". Every fifth-grader in America is now my indentured servant.
posted by steambadger at 7:16 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I got into it with the bartender after telling him he needed to clean his taps, and he claimed I didn't know what a Resurrection should taste like because I was used to Bud Light.
Oooooh. Thems FIGHTIN' words!
posted by Floydd at 7:18 AM on December 21, 2010


Just did a search. John Waters has sworn off "Hon" and Honfest as of 2 years ago. He feels it's now condescending.
posted by inturnaround at 7:23 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I have gathered anything from John Waters, it's that you don't go to Baltimore bars to get good alcohol, you got to see rough trade get into fights with each other.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:26 AM on December 21, 2010


Don't-understand-trademark-registration-Filter
posted by Mister_A at 7:26 AM on December 21, 2010


Yep, all this attention has been good for them... prior to this I had never heard of Baltimore.
posted by HuronBob at 7:34 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sincerely hope this will be the beginning of the overdue death of the stupid Baltimore "hon" crap, which is to Baltimore what cheesy "Downeast" kitsch is to Maine, or loud, fake Brooklyn accents are to Brooklyn. It's just a shadow of a past that never really existed.

The thing about hon "culture" is that, at its core, it's a sneering, smug put-down of the blue collar city that's fast slipping away from us in the tidal retreat of industry from the city. People think they're tapping into something clever and wry, or making allusions to Saint John Waters, but really, it comes down to "ha ha, working class people talk funny."

Also, in a sort of Baudrillardian spiral of semiotic self-reference, there's nothing to the hon thing that actually even taps what it was originally about, which is the urban-Southern cackling hospitality of working class women in the city. The costumes are absurd, just copies of copies of copies of impersonations of characters from the largely-forgotten local comedy show "Crabs," which were themselves a sort of half-assed reinterpretation of Waters films for suburbanites too gutless to experience the originals. Of course, John's Baltimore is a creation, a fusion of art and reality, but "hon" is a whole-cloth, mixed-up mess.

My grandmother was a "hon," who wore catseye glasses and restrained beehives, and reupholstered every piece of furniture in her finished basement lounge with polyester leopard print fake fur that she then covered with sticky clear plastic covers. She even made a matching outfit for her teddy bear, complete with a little pillbox hat that made him look exactly like Idi Amin. She had a third grade education (had to quit school to help support the family by working in a factory that made ice cream boxes), worked as a bookkeeper in her husband's Esso station, and believed that she had second sight because she was born with a caul.

She was also passionate about learning, and read incessantly, devoted to filling in the gaps left by her interrupted education, and was curious, adventurous, and a real rebel when it came to standing against things that just weren't right.

Standing her side-by-side with the modern Baltimore "hon" in a two foot blue wig, exaggerated glasses, and a housecoat, spouting gibberish is just an insult. There's a counterfeit, corporate sleaziness to this, and it's just tacky kitsch—not so-kitsch-it's-actually-cool, not so-bad-it's-good, and not fun, not by a long shot. It's just mean, classist, ugly cultural appropriation by someone who's in the business of trading in cheap clichés to cover up the lack of substance in her business.

The irony with the origin of much of this was that John Waters, by his own admission, tells fairy tales, where the righteous always get what they want or deserve, and he filmed critiques of truly mean people, not celebrations of their nastiness. This isn't an homage to either Baltimore or those fairytales—it's just something to keep the cash registers jingling.

[REDACTED CRANKY BIT]

So let 'em have "hon." We'll keep Baltimore, the real one.

Meanwhile, if you want to know what Baltimore's really about, look for The Baltimore Westsiders, Trixie Little & The Evil Hate Monkey, Fluid Movement, Gwynn's Falls Trail, The American Visionary Art Museum, Polock Johnny's, the Creative Alliance, the Jewish Museum of Maryland,Floristree, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the 14K Cabaret, Great Blacks in Wax, The Tinklers, Video Americain, Lexington Market, Normals, Attman's Deli, Red Emma's, Fort Howard, Atomic Books, Jimmy's, the Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History, the Copycat Building, the Block, the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Enoch Pratt, the Kinetic Sculpture Race, and a million other things I can't pull off the top of my head (apologies to everyone I've left out). There's a lot to this city beyond "hon" and the same old stale image that seemed so funny decades ago.

We're dreaming new stuff up as fast as we can, hon.



[I'm required here to specify that the views expressed in this post are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.]
posted by sonascope at 7:54 AM on December 21, 2010 [27 favorites]


I was just in Hampden this weekend, but I went where I always go for breakfast, The Golden West. My friend mentioned this controversy, though.
posted by OmieWise at 7:54 AM on December 21, 2010


Meh. The fake "hon" crap that Denise Whitting peddles is a hipster appropriation, for profit, of a small segment of Baltimore. Hampden was the white, blue collar neighbourhood that built barricades during the riots, got their guns and prayed the Blacks would come to get them so they'd have an excuse to shoot.

I've never heard a Black Baltimorean say "hon." Have been told some find it racist (there are stories that the white use of "hon" to refer to strangers started because whites refused to say "sir" or "ma'am" to African Americans).

The last thing Whitting needs is more PR. Let's just ignore the bitch.
posted by QIbHom at 8:19 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


It sounds like she coined this term as a trademark for her business, has registered it and promoted her use of it. What is so special about this term in Baltimore other than her use of it and it being perhaps a common slang term in town?
posted by caddis at 8:20 AM on December 21, 2010


shhhhheeeeeeeeeeeetttttttt
posted by arveale at 8:23 AM on December 21, 2010


If anyone owns the trademark, it should be John Waters.

Although he would probably just shrug his shoulders and say "What the fuck ever."
posted by blucevalo at 8:30 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Trixie Little & The Evil Hate Monkey,

Oh man I had SUCH a fun with them at the Slipper Room a year ago with Trixie as a Go-Go girl and Hate Monkey as La Trec.

That is all.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on December 21, 2010


er Can-Can Girl.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on December 21, 2010


The fake "hon" crap that Denise Whitting peddles is a hipster appropriation, for profit, of a small segment of Baltimore.

It's not hipsters. Cafe Hon is almost exclusively patronized by middle aged people from the suburbs.
posted by electroboy at 8:48 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now she'll never be Miss Baltimore Crabs ....
posted by grabbingsand at 8:50 AM on December 21, 2010


The weirdest thing about the whole Hon aesthetic, as promoted by Denise Whiting, is that it's a bizarre mix of white working-class style and draq queeny fabulousness. Feather boas and cigarette holders? These were women who were cafeteria workers and had husbands who worked in factories. It just doesn't make sense.
posted by electroboy at 9:06 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


This sounds similar to when the NFL tried to claim Who Dat.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:25 AM on December 21, 2010


John McIntyre is an editor with the Baltimore Sun, and his blog post does not agree with the above-linked editorial. He also links in that post to good article on some of the misconceptions about the controversy.
posted by galadriel at 9:32 AM on December 21, 2010


Um, Nacho Mama's isn't in Hampden, it's in Canton. You might have better luck with bartenders if you know the difference between the two neighborhoods.

And add me to the list of people wishing Cafe Hon would just go away. My Hampden is Golden West, Holy Frijoles and that weird diner that I can never recall the name of, among other awesome places. The Roland Park yuppies can go suck it.

(I might be a Hampden hipster. I know....)
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:36 AM on December 21, 2010


Yeah, nobody should be able to trademark "hon", it's such a common word! You can't stop me from saying the word, I grew up saying it! Its an outrage, and... what's that you say? Apple? A trademark, eh? Huh.

More seriously, as a trademark attorney, there is such a fundamental lack of understanding about trademarks in every story about this, it makes me want to bang my head on the desk. Let me try to explain: you can use any word - ANY WORD - as a trademark. Heck, you can use a color or a sound as a trademark.

Now, if the word you choose describes a feature of the product - like, say, SWEET for candy - it's pretty weak and you'd have a really hard time preventing others from using it. After all, they need to be able to describe their own products as "sweet". Which is why made up terms like KODAK, or incongruous terms like APPLE for computers, are best.

In this case, HON is a perfectly good trademark for, say, restaurant services and clothing. It doesn't mean people can't say the word "hon." It doesn't even mean someone couldn't use HON as a trademark for, say, furniture, or a mugwort moxacautery device (a what?). It does mean that nobody else can use HON as a trademark for similar products and services.

Now, maybe this woman is overzealous in her enforcement efforts. But let's at least try to understand the fundamentals before we go protesting in front of her restaurant.
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:37 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh man a bunch of Brooklyn types kept telling me about "hun" fest, and I thought it was some sort of celebration of germanic culture. I read half this thread before putting the peices together. Seems like some sort of Baltimore version of the mermaid parade? Is it Ironic beehive hairdoos or some sort of rockabilly thing?
posted by Ad hominem at 9:47 AM on December 21, 2010


But let's at least try to understand the fundamentals before we go protesting in front of her restaurant.

Nah, fuck that. We didn't get the name Mobtown for our well-reasoned and carefully considered responses to social issues.

/fills burlap sack with doorknobs
posted by electroboy at 9:48 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


This reminded me a lot of Keep Austin Weird.
posted by mrbill at 9:49 AM on December 21, 2010


Mobtown



and now I have a new name for a minecraft settlement
posted by The Whelk at 9:57 AM on December 21, 2010


Can I just say, it's not a bad place to get breakfast?
posted by newdaddy at 9:58 AM on December 21, 2010


No you may not. Besides, Miss Shirley's is much better.
posted by electroboy at 10:06 AM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dear Ms Whiting...

The Government of Canada and the 300 Hon Members who make up our House of Commons (not to mention our Rt Hon Prime Minister) and who -- with only numerical changes -- have done so since 1867, are getting ready to sue your ass.

Oh, and the Government of Canada has incredibly deep pockets. Thought you should know.
posted by Mike D at 10:20 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just finished my lunch, which I got across the street at a little hole in the wall called The Upper Deck. It's just a little storefront grill sandwiched between The Goddess, a strip club with a curiously classy woodframed facade that makes it look a little like a steakhouse, and an abandoned building, and they make a nice little cheesesteak (Baltimore style, FWIW) and do great breakfast sandwiches that are cheaper before 9.

I shouldn't really be eating there, as I need to trim a few pounds so I don't bust out of all my clothes like the hulk, but I like the food, it's literally steps across the street, and the woman who works the counter most of the time calls me "sweetheart," and "babydoll," and "sugar."

It's the Southern boy in me that loves that, and I'll come clean and admit that I used to leave my night job and drive around Baltimore looking for prostitutes because they were always so nice and friendly, especially on Calvert Street, where they're all he-shes. Didn't hire any, but loved to be courted. Pinched Northern urbanites point out, possibly rightfully, that the genial, overly-intimate familial talk is just a put-on, a fake, but I don't care. I grew up where we were reared to be civil and respectful. All the adults in the neighborhood had names like Miss Barbara and Mister Phil. I live for this stuff.

I pick up the phone to make my order, and she knows me by voice.

"Hey Joe. What'll you have today, baby?"

It's the usual, and she knows my usual, and knows to dust my fries with Old Bay, because that's what I always have on my fries.

"Gimme about fifteen today, sweetheart. I got a group in the dining room and the frier's full up."

She says "fraher," just like my grandmother would have, and her accent's not quite Baltimore—it's more of a hybrid between a residual Anne Arundel county brogue merging into Dundalk twang. Whatever it is, it sounds like family, like the hoody-doo sort of jaunty way my uncle sounded whenever he'd get interviewed in front of his Citgo station during the gas crisis in the seventies (a bully pulpit he earned by being the nearest gas station to Television Hill). Maybe it's pure nostalgia, but it's my nostalgia. It's not some strangely packaged, mean-spirited jab at the working class.

Our local steam supplier has, for some strange reason, been taken over by a French bus company, and their first official act was apparently to "improve" steam distribution by raising the pressure threefold, and naturally, every expansion valve on the street blew apart. The block sprouted orange and white vent tubes that looked like something from Dr. Seuss, spouting steam, and they dug up the sidewalk in front of The Upper Deck and put in a vent pipe and chain link fence, blocking the entrance.

I don't know the lady by name, but we've been commiserating over the mess, and I'm convinced that the fence gets closer to her door every day.

"Holy shit," I say, stepping sideways into the place, "Is that fence getting closer every day?"

The lady laughs, a deep, genuine, goddamn-those-guys laugh that just makes me laugh, too.

"You're tellin' me, Joe. I swear that fence is gonna be in here before they're done."

"Yeah, I better quit eatin' here, because I'm gonna get too fat to get past that thing."

"Old bay on your fries, hon?"

"Oh yeah."

The thing is, she is a real hon. She's not a hon like my grandmother was, or like my cousins are, but she's got that Baltimore thing—the intersection of Southern sweetness and jagged Northern expediency. She's in pants and a stained sweatshirt, no catseyes, no beehive, and dark blue tattoos on her hands that exist outside the realm of prettified multicolored cool tattoos.

I don't know her. I don't know anything about her. If I had to venture a guess, I would suspect she's probably not a huge aficionado of progressive politics or a devotee of the arts, and that she probably isn't someone who's inclined to be spontaneous. It's not likely we'd ever hang out, outside of this repeating moment of contact, though I love her smile and her cigarette-tempered laugh and all the niceties.

When I think about it, I guess I could dress up as her for Halloween, or even do a pretty good impersonation, swapping "Ah've" for "I've" and "fahr" for "fire" and even matching the elusive Baltimore "o," which is easy to do badly, but near impossible to get right.

The hon™ is a different species entirely, a sort of day-glo drag matron cribbed from the pages of The Far Side and packaged for an audience of slumming DC-area suburbanites looking for the gritty old "real" Baltimore and a titillating dose of that old E.M. Forster working class romance (from a safe distance).

I would suspect that none of them would be caught dead in The Upper Deck, which does indeed look a little run-down and grimy, but barring that, they'll miss out on a real hon who's a real hon, as friendly and straight-up real as she is unpolished. In places like Fells Point, Canton, and Federal Hill, though, the real has been run out by the hyperreal, the simulation overtaking like truth like a 1:1 map of the town settling over the streets like a suffocating blanket. Hampden's been one of the last holdouts of an actual mixed-class settlement, kept in balance by the fact that it's a region heavy on tradesmen, who make enough money in blue collar work to hold on when the wealthy influx brings the taxes up, but the hon™ brigade is doing their best to change that.

Real becomes hyperreal, streets turn to theme parks, and giant pink flamingos break loose from their fire escape prisons and strut downtown, spreading the holy word of the orthodox hon™ to the teeming tourist masses with their credit cards all warmed up from the Inner Harbor experience.

"You have a good one, Joe, and stay warm!"

"Will do, hon," I say, and slip sideways between the door and the fence.
posted by sonascope at 10:23 AM on December 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Um, Nacho Mama's isn't in Hampden, it's in Canton. You might have better luck with bartenders if you know the difference between the two neighborhoods.

It was an honest mistake. I was thinking of Holy Frijoles.

And, that was a snotty thing to say.
posted by josher71 at 10:24 AM on December 21, 2010


Why the sudden rash of honeys?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 AM on December 21, 2010


It was an honest mistake. I was thinking of Holy Frijoles.

I always call it Taco Fiesta for some reason.
posted by electroboy at 10:55 AM on December 21, 2010


residual Anne Arundel county brogue

Do tell.
posted by keli at 11:25 AM on December 21, 2010


W. T. F.

I don't think so. She should expect to hear from my lawyers shortly.
posted by adrianhon at 12:03 PM on December 21, 2010



sonascope: "I just finished my lunch, which I got across the street at a little hole in the wall called The Upper Deck.

Ahh, The Upper Deck. Fond memories of when I used to live on that side of town. Nothing like an egg and sausage sandwich at 7am with w/ crowd of strippers who just got off work and smell like peaches and shame.
posted by HumanComplex at 12:30 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


John McIntyre is an editor with the Baltimore Sun, and his blog post does not agree with the above-linked editorial.

Can anyone explain the comment in that post:

"What you are seeing is years of pent up anger and frustration."

Have people really been protesting the commercialization of "hon" for years, or is this a new thing?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:32 PM on December 21, 2010


Hey Joe, I dig the Upper Deck too! I used to work on Saratoga and would wander down there for a grease fix on occasion. I think The Goddess is the bar that Babe Ruth's father used to own?

At the time I was living in Upper Fells Point. It's one of those places on the fringes that has held its mixed-class identity. There were 10 houses on my side of my block- 1) empty nesters, 2) old Polish lady (a real hon, as it were), 3) Salvadoran immigrant family (working class), 4) black family (working class), 5) 8 young Mexican dudes, 6) young professional couple, 7) us (young professional couple), 8) vacant, 9) nursing students, 10) young professional couple. I'd say in general the neighborhood is 40% working class eastern europeans, 40% latino immigrants, and 20% young professional types. I think this is probably similar (with more black families and fewer latinos) in Patterson Park, Butchers Hill, Locust Point, Highlandtown, and lots of other places around the harbor outside Canton, Fells Point, and Federal Hill.

I don't know if Old Baltimore is getting pushed out of all those places, but it's definitely being marginalized by gentrification and (more sinister, I think) redefined by Denise Whiting and her ilk.

Reminds me a bit of the Arabbers issue. When it comes down to it, people don't want the real thing, they want the homogenized, safe, cute thing.
posted by GodricVT at 12:34 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, nevermind, I see that they are mad at the stereotype/caricature. Carry on.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:34 PM on December 21, 2010


People have been protesting the gentrification of Baltimore for years.
posted by QIbHom at 12:38 PM on December 21, 2010


Have people really been protesting the commercialization of "hon" for years, or is this a new thing?

Nah, this has been an issue for awhile (see John Waters disavowing Honfest above). At first it seemed like a celebration and maybe even a bit genuine, but it's felt shitty for quite some time. I hope the people behind this commercialization never get their claws into the Pennsylvania Avenue Cadillac Parade, or the MLK Day parade, or SoWeBo Arts Fest, or the Pigtown Festival. I fear it may already be too late for the Night of 1000 Elvises.
posted by GodricVT at 12:38 PM on December 21, 2010


Another interesting comment from that blog:

The trademark is not valid because she has never given the term Hon a secondary meaning that represents her business. See Jim Astrachan's commentary in Sunday's Daily Record.

A common word or phrase must be given a distinctive meaning to be trademarked. Apple, for example. You know what that represents. "Cafe Hon" means her restaurant. We all know what "Honfest" means. What does "Hon" represent -- Cafe Hon? HonTown? Honfest? None of the above.

She's using Hon in its original meaning, which is a generic word that can't be trademarked.

Whiting has glommed on the word that has been in the lexicon for generations, and specifically an image and caricature that was developed by the likes of John Waters and artistic director Vince Peranio. Just like the pink flamingo in front of her restaurant. Pink Flamingo? Where have I heard that before?

Specifically, the oval HON sticker. That is a rip-off of the OBX stickers that were designed by in 1994 Jim Douglas, owner of Chilli Peppers in Kill Devil Hills, NC. He based his idea on the three-letter oval stickers used in Europe, and actually coined OBX to describe the Outer Banks. Douglas gave them away for a couple of years in an attempt to get the Outer Banks known as OBX. It worked. Then he trademarked the OBX sticker.

A few years ago a shop opened up called OB Xtreme. Douglas sued for trademark violation. The court ruled that OBX had become a generic term used to describe a geographic location and had no distinctive meaning to identify a specific business. The trademark was ruled invalid, and upheld on appeal in 2009.

You could look it up. That's what a journalist would do.

Whiting couldn't trademark the graphical design of the Hon sticker because it is a European standard design already in the public domain. Just as you can't trademark a stop sign. All she could do was trademark the letters H-O-N.

She took the pink flamingo. She took the Hon caricature. She took the word "hon." She took the three-letters-in-an-oval sticker.

Your criticism and sterotyping of those outside Cafe Hon as you deign to come in from the 'burbs for those lovely blueberry pancakes shows about as much originality as Whiting.

Your suggestion that I take it up with the Patent and Trademark office is either sarcasm or ignorance of how copyrights and trademarks work, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and call you sarcastic.

I believe that Denise Whiting has no legitimate claim to exclusive rights to the word "hon" or the characterization.

Hon, as she is using it, is a word in the public domain that can be used and interpreted by anybody, commercial or otherwise, that doesn't confuse people with Cafe Hon, HonTown or Honfest.

posted by mrgrimm at 12:41 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ahh, The Upper Deck. ... Nothing like an egg and sausage sandwich at 7am with w/ crowd of strippers who just got off work and smell like peaches and shame.

Not far to walk, I suppose.
posted by exogenous at 12:55 PM on December 21, 2010


exogenous: "Ahh, The Upper Deck. ... Nothing like an egg and sausage sandwich at 7am with w/ crowd of strippers who just got off work and smell like peaches and shame.

Not far to walk, I suppose.
"

Yeah, I think there's a back stairway that leads right up there from the Goddess.
posted by HumanComplex at 1:06 PM on December 21, 2010


If you rotate that street view to the other side of Eutaw Street, you can see my happy little building. The banner over the door blew off last year, and the super-sexy yellow R65 parked just next to the building belongs to my predecessor in my job, who was awarded Baltimore's Best Drag King three years in a row.
posted by sonascope at 2:07 PM on December 21, 2010


Justin Incredible was one of the first people I ever met in B'more right before she moved. Was a big fan.
posted by josher71 at 2:29 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the part where I argue with a commenter on an entirely different website, as quoted above...

She's using Hon in its original meaning, which is a generic word that can't be trademarked...

Completely wrong. A term isn't generic in a vacuum. It's generic in context. "Apple" is generic for, well, apples, but not for computers. "Hon" may be generic for particular kind of woman from Baltimore (or whatever), but it sure isn't generic for retail stores or clothing.

Specifically, the oval HON sticker....Whiting couldn't trademark the graphical design of the Hon sticker because it is a European standard design already in the public domain. Just as you can't trademark a stop sign. All she could do was trademark the letters H-O-N.

Guess what, genius, that's exactly what she did. See [1], [2] and [3]. She may put the mark in the white oval sticker, but the mark is the word HON.

Hon, as she is using it, is a word in the public domain that can be used and interpreted by anybody, commercial or otherwise, that doesn't confuse people with Cafe Hon, HonTown or Honfest.

This is almost correct! The word isn't in the "public domain" (that's copyright land, my friend), but yes, anyone can use HON - even as a trademark - as long as it doesn't confuse anyone into thinking that use is associated with Ms. Whiting's HON-brand ventures.
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:51 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apologies for the self-link but my friend and editor of the Baltimore Patch site interviewed a bunch of business owners on the Avenue about their feelings on the HonTM and here's what they said.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:37 PM on December 21, 2010


josher71 - Apologies for coming across as snotty. I just found it grating that you dismissed a whole city full of bartenders but you couldn't be bothered to distinguish between two very different neighborhoods.

And FWIW, my complaint (and I know the complaint of many others) has less to do with the trademarking itself and more to do with her being the Rudy Guiliani of Hampden. I lived in NYC when it was being gentrified and I have no desire to get priced out of my neighborhood because of fake beehives and a pink flamingo.
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:49 PM on December 21, 2010


Yeah, it was just a careless mistake. When I took a quick look at the menu I thought it made sense if it were HF since it is right down the street, but of course, it is Nacho Mama's and not in Hampden at all. I can see how that came off as not understanding the different neighborhoods but I definitely do.

Regarding the other point, as a Baltimore bartender myself I feel qualified to judge many bartenders I see here. Certainly not all are bad or even most really. However, there is a distinct lack of urgency in service with many Baltimore bartenders I see.
posted by josher71 at 7:19 PM on December 21, 2010


I've lived in Hampden for 2+ years. This Hon thing is stupid and silly. The real insult perpetrated by Whiting as far as I'm concerned is her support for the big Wal-Mart project in the North Station neighborhood.
posted by kalessin at 8:00 PM on December 21, 2010


[REDACTED CRANKY BIT]
I am in agreement with everything you've said, sonascope, and I would love to hear what that bit was - have a feeling it would be a good laugh.
I hope the people behind this commercialization never get their claws into... SoWeBo Arts Fest...
I kind of started getting that vibe several years back when to my utter surprise I got hassled by the cops for walking around with my own beer instead of the stuff out of the truck! This was easy enough to get around by just carrying my beer in a big plastic toolbox instead of a cooler and pouring into one of their plastic cups before drinking, but the principle of the thing was damn annoying. What about all the residents selling beer off their stoops or out of trash can ice chests in their front rooms we used to get drinks from? Anyway I have not been to the event in years for various reasons, so I don't know what goes on nowadays.
I fear it may already be too late for the Night of 1000 Elvises.
I always though this looked like a good time but it's so damn expensive, so yeah.
One that seems to be holding on to total autonomy is the Powwow. I was leery of what would happen after the WalMart came in right there, but it seems to just have led to hilarious interactions between the nitrous-addled maniacs and befuddled shoppers.
As for the topic of the post, I appreciate the legal clarifications - haven't had time to follow this but felt like some kind of realistic context must have been missing from what I had seen. I don't know much about the lady but have avoided honfest due to a more vaguely-felt sense of what several commenters have eloquently said here. I have eaten at the cafe twice in fifteen years in the city - eh. I regularly and happily make the much further drive across town to Jimmy's.
posted by zoinks at 11:07 PM on December 21, 2010


Powwow cracks me up. The last time I was there, meeting up with my riding buddy and the best motorcycle mechanic in Baltimore, I was stunned by the way the police presence just sort of…stopped at the border like they'd somehow managed to declare a temporary autonomous zone, where nothing is true and everything is permitted.

Dan van Allen is a proper force of nature, to be sure.
posted by sonascope at 4:25 AM on December 22, 2010


Thank you schoolgirl report for providing a reality check (ie. the law) to all of the Chicken Littles in this thread proclaiming the sky is falling (OMG we can never use the word "Hon" again because of her trademark!!!). These trademark registrations are no big deal.
posted by caddis at 4:52 AM on December 22, 2010


Since reality is complicated far beyond the scope of trademark law, true reality checks contain more than just an appeal to the law; if you can't see that there are wider social issues at play here, then you either need to read what you missed or consider that out of ignorance or intent (or a combination of the two) you may not be the best judge of what is or isn't a big deal.

If that wasn't what you were doing, then at least cut it out with the bullshit mischaracterizations and namecalling of other commenters.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:13 AM on December 22, 2010


hipster appropriation
That was the term I was looking for.

Thank you!
posted by gjc at 6:27 AM on December 22, 2010


Yeah I don't think anyone is actually thinking they can't say "hon" anymore (I hope they don't actually think that, anyway). It is the wider social issues that are really interesting, as ICS notes. This particular brouhaha may not have much resonance with folks outside Baltimore, but it is one example of a much wider phenomenon of appropriation/co-option/what-have-you, "punk" music and culture maybe being the most often talked about among a lot of people.
[sonascope - that is exactly what I mean about Powwow. Is your riding friend Tom?]
posted by zoinks at 4:00 PM on December 22, 2010


Zoinks, sorry my wording was a little vague—riding buddy and mechanic are two distinct people, though Tom is, indeed, the mechanic. His shop is truly a gearhead's nirvana, and I'd send people there for a look into a real Baltimore wonderland, but I prefer to keep the secret (though if you ride, you know he's there).

Now if he'd just hurry up with my Triumph, dang it.
posted by sonascope at 6:48 AM on December 23, 2010


dig it
posted by zoinks at 9:55 PM on January 1, 2011


....aaaaand someone's trying to provoke a lawsuit.
posted by electroboy at 10:18 AM on January 4, 2011


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