The Difference Between Bougie, Boujee, and Bourgie/Bourgeois, Explained
Really? You’re going to devote an entire explainer to a pedantic semantic distinction only like 27 people care about?
Yes. I am going to do exactly that.
Because it’s fun! Like, you know how you might see a flyer advertising a concert Jaheim is holding in a Arby’s parking lot next weekend — the first stop on his national tour comprised of concerts in Arby’s parking lots? And you’ll think to yourself “Why the hell is Jaheim 1) touring and 2) having concerts in Arby’s parking lots?” But then you find yourself bored on that weekend, and you decide to hit up that Jaheim concert in the Arby’s parking lot, and you have a great time, and you leave thinking “Wow. I’m glad I attended that Jaheim concert in that Arby’s parking lot!”
Well, this is the equivalent of that.
I see. So, praytell, what is the difference between bougie, boujee, and bourgie/bourgeois?
Well, the best way to answer this would be chronologically. We’ll start with which word came first, and go from there.
Each of these words stem from Bourgeoisie — a French word that means middle class.
The “bourgeoisie”, in its original sense, is intimately linked to the existence of cities recognized as such by their urban charters (e.g. municipal charter, town privileges, German town law) so there was no bourgeoisie “outside the walls of the city” beyond which the people were “peasants” submitted to the stately courts and manorialism (except for the traveling “Fair bourgeoisie” living outside urban territories, who retained their city rights and domicile).
In Marxist philosophy the bourgeoisie is the social class that came to own the means of production during modern industrialization and whose societal concerns are the value of property and the preservation of capital, to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society. Joseph Schumpeter saw the creation of new bourgeoisie as the driving force behind the capitalist engine, particularly entrepreneurs who took risks to bring innovation to industries and the economy through the process of creative destruction.
None of this shit has much relevance to today’s definitions, spellings, and connotations, but I included it because I’ve never used domicile in a piece before.
Anyway, as I stated in a piece about Bougie that I completely forgot I wrote already three years ago, Bourgie/Bourgeois describes a certain upper-middle to lower-upper class lifestyle more dependent on and defined by activities, ancestry, and legacy than actual income. These are the brothas and sistas whose great-grandparents actually founded Alpha Phi Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta, whose Jack and Jill cotillion was their prom, and who “summer” places where people who use “summer” as a verb “summer.” Basically, think of Whitley Gilbert, paper bag tests, and quiche tasting parties (???) and whatever the fuck else they do at Martha’s Vineyard.
Bourgie/Bourgeois has also become a bit of a pejorative, particularly in the South. The reference is often attached with a tinge of disdain, as it ultimately exists as a synonym for uppity and pretentious. Calling someone Bourgie/Bourgeois isn’t necessarily fighting words, but it might get you disinvited from a skating party or a wine train book club.
Bougie, on the other hand, doesn’t carry as much racially-tinged historical context. I wouldn’t even quite call it an evolution of Bourgie/Bourgeois, as what it describes and what Bourgie/Bourgeois describes are two completely different types of people. Bougie Black people are mostly urban, have completed some form of secondary education, and, most importantly, possess and are mindful of a certain urban/educated aesthetic. These are the people discussed and deconstructed in my Shit Bougie Black People Love series.
What also distinguishes Bougie from Bourgie/Bourgeois is that while the only hood Bourgie/Bourgeois Black people have ever known is the hood of their Range Rovers, Bougie Black people have a relationship with the hood. They may not be hood, but they might be from the hood and still feel a level of comfort there. (Also, if the difference between being hood and being from the hood isn’t clear, then this probably isn’t the right explainer for you.)
This brings us to Boujee. Which has been popularized in a very popular Migos song that confuses me because I don’t know why it’s a thing because it sounds like a million other songs I’ve heard that all sound like they were created in a mumble trap generator. Anyway, Boujee describes the type of nouveau/hood rich that would totally, definitely cook up some dope with an Uzi. They may have even made more money last year than their Bougie and Bourgie/Bourgeois counterparts, but the IRS would never, ever, ever know.
Interesting! You’re right. Reading this was like attending that Jaheim concert in that Arby’s parking lot!
Thanks! I don’t even feel bad anymore after discovering that Tressie was able to say what it took me 800 words to say in 140 characters.
— Tressie Mc (@tressiemcphd) January 15, 2017