“Can I get you anything else, hon?”
“How ‘bout ‘dem O’s, hon.”
“Have a good day, hon.”
“Hon, your coat belt is dragging on the ground”
And my personal favorite, when my husband ordered mashed potatoes with his sour beef at the local diner, the waitress (all the waitresses here grew up in South Baltimore) responded “Mashed potatoes? With Sour Beef? We do dumplin’s here, hon.”
This is South Baltimore. Everybody calls you hon. And nobody is offended. They are offended if you want your sour beef served with mashed potatoes instead of dumplings, but not if you call them hon. I find now that if I utter the word “hon” when I’m around people who haven’t grown up here, that they are not sure how to react to the word. Is that offensive? Not intentionally. Hon is a term of acknowledgement. It is an add on to every sentence. Just as well-meaning as, say, the word “dude.” I’m not sure when “Hon” first appeared on the scene but the sentence “that will be $10.99, hon” is simply how it’s said here.
“I like your car, hon.” “Where did you get that blouse, hon, it’s adorable.” This is just a word that is inserted in practically every sentence in these parts. And I miss it. We don’t say it enough. Calling someone Hon needs to be in vogue again.
Another phrase that seems to have disappeared from the good ole South Baltimore vernacular is “going downy ocean.” This, (translated means Going Down To The Ocean), has been replaced with “going to the beach.” People in South Baltimore used to go downy ocean, hon. I overheard a conversation while out and about yesterday and someone said they were going to the beach for a week and someone else asked where she was headed. Her response was “just ocean city.”
Excuse me, hon! Just Ocean City? Man, going downy the ocean (formally known as Ocean City) was/is life. A 3-hour car ride when I was a kid in a sedan without air conditioning or seat belts was what summer was all about. On the way you read road signs to pass the time and slept in the back window over the rear seats until your step father had to slam on the breaks and you rolled onto your sister who was stretched out on the full back seat staring out the window looking for out of town license plates. Dazed and confused she tried to pummel you while you screamed and your parents, oblivious to the dangers of driving without seatbelts that hadn’t been invented yet, simply shouted “knock it off. Don’t give me a reason to come back there.” (ahhh, the good ole days)
Downy ocean was where you wanted to work when you grew up but knew you never would. Downy ocean was where you would grab brief get aways with your spouse, take your own kids for a weeklong vacation, and where you would while away your early 20’s in places called The Purple Moose and your 30’s in a bay side bar called Seacrets. It’s where you would walk the board walk (or “the boards” as the cool kids called it), eat Thrasher’s French fries, buy salt water taffy to take home, and get sunburned because you spent too much time in the Purple Moose the night before and just needed to bake out the booze. Or so I’ve been told, hon.
So, as I travel through my South Baltimore neighborhood and realize I don’t hardly know anyone at all (ok, I saw 2 people in the grocery store yesterday both of whom I’ve known for 50 years or more), I don’t hear anyone call anyone “hon” anymore, though. That makes me a little sad.
So, in full tribute to my South Baltimore roots, I’m delighted to report that this year – after a break due to the pandemic – I’ll be getting in a little vacay because everybody else might be going to the beach (fancy!) but I’m Going Downy Ocean, Hon.