Monday, December 20, 2010

Stop Alla Dis Ruckus Up 'Ere!

If you just got here to Baltimore from Hong Kong, Baluchistan or Nome - the lyrics are from "Where's Charley?", the hilarious stage musical based on the infidelities of Charles Kuralt - you might pick up the local paper and see the heated debate raging in our streets and editorial sections.

Ms Whiting en regalia
No, no one is arguing about the crime rate, the underperforming schools, the crumbling infrastructure or the high price of gasoline.  The present debate concerns the copyrighting of the term "Hon" by Denise Whiting, a local woman who owns a local cafe called The Cafe Hon.

"Hon" is a term of endearment, locally favored by diner waitresses, deli clerks and hospital admissions staffers, all of whom you will meet during a stay of any length in our fair city.  Some people just in from the distant points mentioned above are often taken aback by the familiarity of it all, but don't be that way, hon.  It's how we address each other here, and not a put-down.

Dere's the Cafe Hon, hon!
Denise Whiting was one of the first to invest her time and money and effort into building a rather gritty section of the city known as "Hampden" (pronounced "HAM-den," to the surprise of many new news reporters, hon) into an arty part of the city.  Today, where once the streets were filled with empty stores and shuttered businesses like entertainer Sarah Palin's books are filled with half-truths, idealistic platitudes and misremembered memoirs, there exists a bubbling community with antique shops, what-not stores, New Age emporia, and the cornerstone of it all, the Cafe Hon itself, Ms Whiting's diner/bakery/bar.   You can purchase all manner of "hon"-branded merchandise, and celebrate the entire mystique of that segment of the population that loves all sandwiches on white bread, all pie served a-la-mode, and all things glitzy and glamorous.  Peg Bundy from "Married with Children" would be a Hon, no matter that she didn't live here.  So would most of the Golden Girls, the casts of all John Waters movies, and Bill Clinton.  But not his wife.  Media personality Palin has Hon-like qualities, but would need to come down off her high horse and ride a pink flamingo instead to qualify.

Oh yes, the debate.  Ms Whiting was advised to copyright the term "Hon" and 1/2 the town is all up in arms about it.   People are acting as if, if they call the person across the deli counter to whom they just slid a wrapped half-pound of ham "Hon," they will have to pay some sort of royalty to Whiting.

It's not that way at all.  For the same reason that you can't decide to open a hamburger drive-in and call it "McDonald's" or "MacDonald's" or " 'Mac' Donald's" or any other such variation, and you sure can't start a computer store and call it "MicroSoft" or "My Crow Soft", Ms Whiting is only seeking to protect her brand, and not own the word, hon.  Hon.

I just used the word and no lawyers are knocking on my door!

No comments: