What Does the Word "Hon" Mean in Baltimore?

 MARYLAND - "Hon" is short for "honey" or a term of endearment. It's often used in place of “sir” or “ma'am” or when the person's name is unknown.
What Does the Word "Hon" Mean in Baltimore?
Photo: Cafe Hon Website

​What Does Hon Mean to The City of Baltimore?

What Does Hon Mean in Baltimore? HONfest started many years ago in Baltimore neighborhoods when women sporting beehive hairdos and cat-eye glasses created a culture unique to Baltimore called HONfest. They treated everyone kindly, calling everyone 'Hon".

Linguist Barbara Johnstone notes in her book that "Hon" is an expression of self-conscious regional identity used to distinguish and redeem one city among competing East Coast cities (Johnstone, Andrus, and Danielson 2006).

Whiting's Cafe Hon was a working-class refuge serving to foster its city's cultural identity; it, unfortunately, closed in 2022. Plastic menus feature photos of bewigged Whiting and contestants from Hon Fest, an annual beauty pageant she hosts each June.

She decorates her shop with a giant pink flamingo that she claims represents Baltimore Hons but holds no significance beyond being used as Christmas decor. However, it quickly gained so much traction that she kept the decoration.

Denise Whiting, the owner of Cafe Hon and organizer of Honfest (which she has done for 18 years), also uses a flamingo theme on her restaurant frontage.

Gordon Ramsey was critical of Cafe Hon owner Whiting's business practices and her use of "Hon" as a trademark, prompting protests at her Hampden cafe and even an online petition dedicated to boycotting it. This led to protests outside her shop and an official Facebook boycott page dedicated to this restaurant.

Whiting issued a statement Wednesday to clear her name and apologize for what she considers the hijacking of Baltimore's language by her actions, hoping that by offering an apology, she could stop any uproar and allow people to continue using "Hon" freely.