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Try the pancakes

Just back from lunch at Cafe Hon. All the tables were full, despite the protest outside, so I sat at the counter and had two mugs of Zeke’s coffee and blueberry pancakes. The pancakes were excellent.

People in the restaurant were talking animatedly and tucking into their food with evident relish. I couldn’t help but notice that the two dozen or so protesters across the street appeared rather sullen.

As I walked to my car, I overheard a Hampdenite explain to his son, “None of those people actually live here. Why don’t they demonstrate for something?”

To round things out, I commend to you Mobtown Shank’s extensive commentary on the “hontroversy.” Sample sentence: “You can't boycott a place you never really went to in the first place.” The Shank’s analysis is thorough and reasonable, worth your attention.

For my part, the cascade of abuse to which Denise Whiting has been subjected, whatever the merits of the trademark issue, does not put our fair city in a flattering light.



Posted by John McIntyre at 1:28 PM | | Comments (35)


Wrong on several counts I would say: I counted about four dozen pretty happy protestors, at least some of whom, like me, walked there from their Hampden homes.
"Cascade of abuse" --- compared to what the Ravens get on the Sun blogs every Sunday, she's getting love taps.

The fact that you came all the way across North Baltimore from the illusion fields of Hamilton practically in your pajamas to eat blueberry pancakes at HonHell when you knew all along there'd be a partisan shindig outside the Cafe belies your claim of innocent journalistic objectivity in last week's defense of DW. Shame on you for giving life to the lie. We can now see you for what you are: a Tory orange-wearing scoundrel of the most duplicitous sort, a true Janus, an eggs Benedict Arnold brick oven bread.

Yeah, McIntyre truly has an agenda here---I saw about 45-50 people protesting and they didn't look glum to me.

"Cascade of abuse"---get real. What you are seeing is years of pent up anger and frustration.

"As I walked to my car, I overheard a Hampdenite explain to his son, 'None of those people actually live here. Why don’t they demonstrate for something?'"

Q: You 'overheard'? Did you actually approach this person and ask if he lived in Hampden?

If so--fair enough.

If not--WTF? Are we just making it up or is this actual reporting?

It paints our city in a terrible light because it shows we have unscrupulous people like Denise Whiting here.

I am not inclined to dignify Bad Bad Leroy Brown's insinuation that I am a liar with a response.

But the comments from St. Casimir, hey_now, and Done with Hon do, I think, go a long way toward reinforcing my final point in this post. I am grateful to them for substantiating it.

Lighten up, Mr. McIntyre. Your post did have a supercilious tone, that St. Casimir and BBLB did do a bit to puncture with humorously over-the-top invective (Casimir) and an impertinent question (BBLB). Taking your word for it, that Hampdenite you quote seems to have been talking out of his hat. You're just talking the pasting that the anonymity you gave him shields him from.
Again, everyday in the Sun blogs, individuals take poundings far worse than anything dished out against Denise Whiting.

This has nothing to do with Cafe Hon or the quality of the food there, and everything with Whiting staking a claim to a word and a concept that she did not create and does not own, and threatening to "sue the pants off" anybody who dares to tread on an invalid trademark.

It has to do with Whiting glomming on this caricature of a Baltimore Hon created by people like John Waters and Vince Peranio, and claiming exclusive right to commercialize it for her own personal profit.

Finally, Mr. McIntyre, do you think perpetuating this image of the obese, garish, big-haired caricature Hon puts your city in a flattering light>

Dear Mr. McIntyre,

I am a former employee of Cafe Hon: a Hon, as we were called. I was the last waitress hired when Ms. Whiting moved to her current location and began to experience mass appeal. I speak from direct experience.

Hampdenites were not happy with Cafe Hon then and they are even less happy with it, and Denise Whiting, now. We had a few native regulars but by and large, Hampdenites did not patronize The Hon. There were other establishments on The Avenue that were not trying to 'save' Hampden or make a financial killing the way Denise Whiting was.

For the record, Mr. McIntyre, a record you seem intent on not investigating, my Baltimore native maternal grandmother, was born in 1900. She called all her children and her grandchildren hon. My Baltimore native paternal grandmother, who also used the word hon, was a stunning redheaded Notre Dame graduate and wore only Chanel make-up. My mother graduated from Towson State summa cum laude. My mother, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends and self all use the word regularly. None of these are obese, ignorant, out of touch with current affairs and politics, badly dressed or dumb women, yet we are all hons.

The mockery Denise Whiting has made, and the stunning profit, off of a word used for those one cherishes, feels an easy familiarity with, is close to is the real shame on Baltimore.

The people of Hampden, the people of Baltimore are not cartoons. By and large, we are kind, open, hard working, dedicated and fair. Having worked for Ms. Whiting I can say she is none of these things.

As your by-ling states you write about language, I would hope you would take it upon yourself to do some real investigative journalism and find out what nit at USPTO allowed a woman born in the 50's to successfully lay claim to a word that has been used in my family for over 110 years. Honestly, Mr. McIntyre, you should be ashamed.

Sound like Mr. McIntyre is another Baltimore Sun staff member (I would not honor him with the title of reporter) who is overly fascinated with the "Dickensian aspect" of stories. I couldn’t help but notice that Mr. McIntyre did not actually interview anyone and therefor did not qualify his quotes with peoples names. For my part, the quality of Mr. McIntyre's work does not put the Baltimore Sun in a flattering light.

Psst, people... Don't encourage him... The man lives and breathes to be seen as a contrarian. What wouldn't he give for another Scopes Trial...

Anyway, John, I want to thank you for liking my Mobtown Shank comment enough to use the word I coined there: Hontroversy. However, as I mentioned in the comment, I did trademark the phrase (as well as "Flamingo-gate"). My lawyers have been informed.

But seriously . . . how did you know that the man speaking to his son was a Hampdenite? Did you ask him? Or did you base your conclusions -- much like Whiting has based the whole premise of her business -- on a preconceived notion of what a Hampdenite should be?

Everything about this piece is convenient and contrived, from the delicious blueberry pancakes on the inside to the "sullen" protesters on the outside. I agree that the attacks on Whiting have been unnecessarily vicious, but there's no reason to characterize those who oppose this issue as angry, miserable outsiders. Many of the protesters, contrary to Man-with-son's assertion, were, without a doubt, actual Hampdenites, and even if they weren't, is that relevant?

The primary issue -- that Whiting has tried, openly, to appropriate and profit from a term that does not belong to her -- is only part of what brought dozens of people out into the cold yesterday. Ask around, and you'll learn at least a half-dozen other reasons why these protesters -- as well as lots of other folks from all over Baltimore -- are sick to death of Hon.

For awhile I thought I was the only one doing a slow burn over this issue. "Hon" much like Baltimore, itself, is a state of mind to an extent. Who woulda ever thunk it to trademark a concept? Sad.

On my way home from church yesterday, I stopped in Hampden and afterward wrote the five-paragraph account above. It is factual.

I got there as the cameras were leaving, so the initial crowd of protesters, reported in The Sun today as about fifty, had dwindled. There were more people inside the restaurant than protesting as I ate, and the remaining protesters were mainly standing across the street staring at the restaurant. The remark I heard on the street is reported verbatim.

I understand that this brief personal account is not what people angry over Denise Whiting's perfectly legal trademark wish to hear, but it is what I saw and heard.

The tiresome tactic of questioning the honesty and integrity of anyone who says anything you do not like to hear has spilled over from political discourse and now appears to be the common coin of the Internet. Regrettable.

I live a few blocks away, but I can't be bothered to protest, thereby giving this useless woman more publicity. I have never been to her establishment, and never plan to go, despite walking by it at least weekly. She is a sad joke to which you have contributed.

You have, I believe unwittingly, stepped into the middle of a rhubarb among folks who will flick contemptuously and metaphorically at your bow tie and hound you about any defensive posture toward DW and her ham-handed honeyism. These are the kind of people who, if you go to the beach, they will come by and kick sand on you. These are the type who will say your dog is ugly and mean it.

(By the way, it's OK to admit that you only assumed the man you quoted in your report was a Hampdenite. Nobody's holding you to any sort of journalistic standard here, so go ahead and express your self-disclosed bias any way you want. You are the blogmeister, after all)

One can't win this argument; one can't even make credible rhetorical headway in it. It's not you. It's them.

Get out, man. For God's sake, get out while you still can.

Let's just go for the jugular here. There's a quick, incise way to deal with this. Everyone, EVERYONE, simply refrains from using the term. Here's your hat, what's your hurry, Babe. We've all moved on...

"[P]erfectly legal trademark..."

Oh really? Not just apparently legal, but perfectly legal? Is it? You sure about that?

Have you spoken with an intellectual property attorney, or is this based on your vast wisdom?

More cheap sarcasm substituted for argument, I see.

If you look at the TradeMark Electronic Search System, you will discover that Cafe Hon has been a registered trademark since 1992, Honfest since 2007, etc.

If you doubt the legality, perhaps you might take the matter up with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rather than this blog.

A argument against the trademarketability of "Hon" is presented at the Maryland Daily Record's site this morning by James Astrachan, intellectual property lawyer and teacher. Unfortunately, it's subscriber access only. It's well worth reading if the Sun has access.

Again, as with Ms. Whiting, your manner makes it more difficult for you to sell your position.

Apparently the trademark system is as easily abused as the patent system (look up US Patent 5443036 if you doubt me), but that isn't the interesting point here.

The interesting point is "the illusion fields of Hamilton" mentioned earlier in the comments. Is an illusion field some sort of force field set up by some infernal machine in a politician's podium, affecting the brains of those in attendance? That would explain a lot of our recent history.

Or it could have been just a typo for Elysian, but that would be boring.

I thought the much more interesting part of that post was St. Casimir's charge that John had morphed into "a Tory orange-wearing scoundrel of the most duplicitous sort, a true Janus, an eggs Benedict Arnold brick oven bread. " If you look at that last metaphor, it's amazing: the phrase works in three directions--eggs Benedict/Benedict Arnold/Arnold brick over bread. It's pure genius.


Clearly 'Hell hath no fury' like a former Cafe Hon waitress 'scorned'. HA!

But seriously, blogger RedDonnaAnn, as an inveterate Left-coaster (L.A.), I do appreciate your spirited defense of the distaff population of your fair city, Baltimore, and how the reckless co-opting of "hon" by the eatery-in-question's opportunistic proprietor, Ms. Whiting, appears to be an unfair, guilt-by-association paint-w/ one-ugly-brush- dissing of all you upstanding, accomplished, right-living, genuine lady-like Baltimore 'hons"s out there, be they hailing from the Hempden neighborhood, or otherwise.

You go girl!

For me, a total outsider, w/ no fish-to-fry, or pancakes-to-stack (HA!) in this unfortunate kerfuffle, I view this whole dust-up as nothing short of 'much ado about nothing'.

All this vituperation and invective is so unlike the usual civil tenor of Mr. McIntyre's blog.
As that infamous West-coast 'street philosopher' and former petty offender, Rodney King once implored back in the early '90s, "Can't we all just get along?", and give this tired "hon" debate a rest?

John Mc., what's a blogmeister have to endure these days......... during the "jolly' season, no less? HA!

A lot of thin-skinned, self-righteous flack, I'd have to say. Where, pray tell are all ye folk of good cheer? The humbugs are clearly out in full force. HA!


"The tiresome tactic of questioning the honesty and integrity of anyone who says anything you do not like to hear has spilled over from political discourse and now appears to be the common coin of the Internet. Regrettable."

I don't think so, John. Anyone who takes a public position at anytime should be able to defend his statements with supporting facts. You are only being asked to defend yours by explaining how you knew that the father was from Hampden. Being asked to defend your position is not attacking your honesty or integrity. But your rule above, we should not question anything that we are told by those of you in the corporate media, by politicians, or other power brokers in society.

So John: how did you know that the father was from Hampden? Also, why do you feel qualified to weigh in on the legality of the trademark when there are trademark law professionals who do not agree with you, as noted above?

Possibly, you are siding with Denise against those who criticize the trademarking of Hon because you do not like being challenged on your blog, so you cry, "abuse" and try to paint all opposed to the trademark as abusive. This is the MO of some of the pro-CH crowd; for all that we know, some of them could be the ones posting the nastier comments to make the opposition look bad.

Protesting, boycotting, and blogging are not going to invalidate a registered trademark. Only legal action before the PTO can do that, so anything else is just beating the air. And the ordinary use of a word doesn't necessarily mean it can't be a trademark. Talk to Apple (Records or Computers, you pick) or Microsoft (who have a trademark on Windows) or even B.F. Goodrich (who had a trademark on Zipper, but only for boots -- they have surely sold or abandoned it by now).

For the record, that was not cheap sarcasm. I paid top dollar for it.

I'm pretty sure you spoke with me across the street from Cafe Hon on Sunday, if you were the rude tie-wearing dandy directing Sunpaper photogs.

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.

Finally, you sure do have thin skin for somebody so quick to pass judgment on others. All that sound and fury rather than defending your points.

I only mention these things, John, because your tagline says you write about language, usage, and journalism. I assumed that meant you actually cared about the subjects. Maybe you should throw out that tagline and go with something about pancakes.

Dear Alex,

You go, girl! is trademarked. Please do not Pass Go. Please do not collect two hundred dollars. Please pay the following trademark and patent holders their due.

Rodney King was a convicted drug user, dealer and parole violating felon. Comparing a city in one of the original 13 Colonies to him, comparing us, the citizens of that city who have been turned into a national laughing stock is really not fair.

Perhaps if your town, Alex, wherever that may be, had to endure yet one more gentrification by yet one more hungry entrepreneur who seems to know no boundaries and one more slanted op-ed by a reporter who has been patronizing The Hon for over a decade, you'd be upset. Maybe not. Baltimoreans are a fierce, dedicated lot. We helped build this country from day one. We are not a joke. We are not stupid. We have a long history of journalistic integrity and civil disobedience. I for one have no intention of leaving those legacies behind.

Surf's up, dude. See you at Abbot's Habit on for a cup o' Joe, bro. (btw... dude, surf's up and cup o' Joe ... all trademarked)


Good grief!

Didn't speak to Welcome to Baltimore, Hon because, tie-wearing dandy that I may be, I was not directing Sun coverage of the protest.

Neither did I drive in from the 'burbs, having lived in the city for the past twenty-three years.

And my accuracy is questionable?

Yo RedDonnaAnn,


I guess I wasn't too far off the mark w/ my earlier claim re/ "a former Cafe Hon waitress scorned", judging by your reactionary mini-rant, directed at yours truly, above.

And here I thought I was merely trying to offer you a genuine compliment, and I get this blustery retort in return? Where's the love?

As they say, 'with friends like you, who needs enemies'. Oops..... is that hackneyed quotation officially "trademarked', as well? Ca-ching! Ca-ching! $$$$$$

Now granted, to your point, Rodney King WAS a convicted "felon'/ "drug user", but I wasn't co-opting his famous quote to in any way edify this bona fide Warholian anti-social 15-minutes-of-famer, or minimize his criminal record. I was merely attempting to maybe temper the tempers, and meanness fomenting on this blog re/ this whole "hon" issue, and that's pretty much it.

RedDonnaAnn, I am no big fan of neighborhood urban gentrification, run amok, either.

Case in point, our original Chinatown district here in downtown L.A. has made a concerted effort to spiff-up its overall public image, of late, but in doing so has attracted a slew of 'modern art' galleries, and chi-chi cutting-edge occidental-style boutiques, which as a visual artist, myself, I can, to some degree, celebrate; yet on the other hand, IMO, the basic oriental/ Asia 'exotic' cultural integrity, and feel of old Chinatown is slowly becoming visibly diluted over the past five years, or so. So I'm kind of on the fence, in this instance of local creeping gentrification.

Again RedDonnaAnn, i don't believe I'm in disagreement over your principled, personal argument against this kind of opportunistic, imposed gentrification in you city, w/ the Cafe Hon issue being the current cause celebre in this regard. I think we're mostly on the same page, no?

Surf's up, dudette. Let's catch 'the curl' and head down to Surf City, U.S.A.-----Huntington Beach.


It's hard to mess up pancakes.

Could we move on to another topic now?

"It's not a motorcycle; it's a chopper, baby."

Mr. Mcintyre---What are you going to say when Denise Whiting has to relinquish her control over the word HON?

Mr. MaIntyre---What are you going to say when Denise Whiting has to relinquish control of the word Hon?

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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