Growing up, I never thought my grandparents had real names. To me and my sisters, they were Mommom and Poppop, and to each other, they were simply Hon. It was a term of endearment they used strictly with each other, and it was used in nearly all of their interactions.

“Hey hon, where’d you put the keys?”

“I don’t know hon, you had ’em last.”

“Well, hon, I don’t know what to tell you. They’re not here.”

“Alright hon, I’ll come help you look.”

They were, of course, from Baltimore, and when I moved here I learned exactly where they picked up the habit. Here, the word hon is not just reserved for husbands and wives but used liberally when referring to friends, family and strangers alike. But the most special use of the word “Hon” (in this case, with a capital H) is reserved for women whose appearance and demeanor personifies old Baltimore—sassy ladies like my grandmother who once wore cat-eye glasses and fashioned their hair into beehives. Every June, we celebrate these ladies and all things Baltimore with a little street fair called Honfest.

Here are a few photos, if you’d like to see…

To be a hon, big hair and sunglasses are a must. Bonus points if you wear leopard print.

Classy hons opt for polka dot poodle skirts and drink nothing but lemonade.

The reigning Baltimore hon prefers sparkling wine in a can, and a beehive that stretches even higher than her crown. Take that, Kate Middleton!

Young hons line up to compete for the crown and get ready to participate in pageant-like competitions including a Q&A where they demonstrate their ability to speak in Bawlmerese (Baltimore’s native language). Fluency requires liberal use of the word hon.

First lesson in Bawlmerese: turlits, aka toilets.

If you get confused or need a translator, just find the closest hon. They’re very nice and can be easily spotted from behind, thanks to high hair and feather boas.

I’m already planning my costume for next year. In honor of grandma, of course.

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