The Difference Between Bougie, Boujee, and Bourgie/Bourgeois, Explained » VSB

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The Difference Between Bougie, Boujee, and Bourgie/Bourgeois, Explained

Damon Young

 

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.

Why?

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.

Here’s what Wiki, the Goddess of Accessible and Uncitable Information, has to say about it:

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.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Vanity in Peril

    When I was a kid I stole an adult’s copy of Nelson George’s Buppies, B-Boys, BAPS and Bohos and if memory serves me correctly he touched on this. But it didn’t make me heartily laugh like this did.

    So, we getting brunch after the Jaheim concert?

    —a Boho. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f96c2b761a18b7c8bdc2afd3fe64a5e9fbf4083524244755213433d20bd77639.gif

    • Les Vegas

      Howling! I loved how Whitley would never say her name right. Don’t quote me but I swear one time she was like Hi Kanekelon!

  • Ille Jay

    My Fam in Louisiana never said “bougie”…it was “Proper” when I hit town, with my wyt (Denver) talkin/sounding a**.

    Never bothered me, but that was my childhood and pre-adolescent social placement. Proper.

    • As much as i heard proper as a kid,(southern grandparents) unfortunately, all I hear is MC Hammers voice.
      #sucks

      • Ille Jay

        What Song we channeling? Haha

        • That was hammers go-to word

          • Ille Jay

            I don’t recall Mc Hammer’s “isms” at all…you too raw Dawg! Haha

            I recall some songs, mostly hooks.

            • I remember qtip even mentioned in one of HIS cuts, lol

              • Cleojonz

                Yup!

                “What you say Hammer? Proper. Rap is not pop if you call it that then stop.”

    • miss t-lee

      I’ve heard “proper” a lot too.

    • Being raised in Portland and having family reunions in Buffalo, I heard “proper” all the time.

  • Brown Rose

    Huh. Ive known carribean bougies and those who are firmly middle/upper to upper class. Never been called bougie by anyone. Too bad there isnt a nickname for black working class. Thats where I am now.

    • Tasha Lawrence?

      Workingouis? Pronounced as working ju a, no?

      • Brown Rose

        Could work. I dont really relate to bougie. Wasnt brought up that way.

    • In Miami, we call it boughetto. Right on the cusp…

      • Brown Rose

        That sounds promising.

      • Ille Jay

        Did yawl take cues from the St. Lunatics?
        https://youtu.be/2CbS5fxO5MI

        • miss t-lee

          Hahah. I thought it was Murphy Lee…lol

          • Ille Jay

            Me too…was just as surprised it was Ali. Ha

            • miss t-lee

              Basically any one of those ninjas that wasn’t Nelly.

              • Ille Jay

                Haha…pretty much. Murphy had a little charisma…the others, bunch of 2002 “Offsets”

                • miss t-lee

                  Zacklyyy.

    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

      Salt of the earth is what that’s called.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      The masses (c) Malcolm X

    • Tam

      Classism is more of a thing in the Caribbean than racism ( in most islands).

      • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

        Raises hand, what about colorism?

        • Tam

          Colorism is tied to classism. But classism is a bigger issue .

          • Cranberry05

            I would argue that they both hold similar weight.

            • Tam

              I am speaking about the Caribbean context.

              • Cranberry05

                …and so am I…

                • Tam

                  I had stated in most islands this is the case especially in those who non black population is very miniscule

                  • Cranberry05

                    Oh okay. I must of missed this. It didn’t come up in the response to Brown Rose.

                    • Tam

                      when I made my initial response I stated in most islands.

      • Ms.Moon

        Too true. My family this generation lots of teachers, doctors, government workers, our parent’s generation were not as fortunate as us kids with the educational opportunity. It makes a difference my mom’s side was not as well educated as my dad’s but they’re really ambitious and business smart. It makes a difference colour is not as important as education in my Trini family. I could not bring home a boy with light skin and no job to match mine it would be talked about to the ends of the earth. I have a relative who did that her husband is not very welcome at family gatherings because he is lazy and the side eyes alone he’s probably afraid of a curse finally landing proper on his head.

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    This is some Yankee stuff.
    *me being stush*

    • Sigma_Since 93

      Yankee is a white term, I wish black folk would stop using it. Cause when the term was extremely popular, if you had melanin, you were called a ninja.

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        Since when?

        Yankee is for all of you not from Jam Down.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          noun
          1. a native or inhabitant of the United States.
          2. a native or inhabitant of New England.
          3. a native or inhabitant of a northern U.S. state, especially of one of the northeastern states that sided with the Union in the American Civil War.
          4. a federal or northern soldier in the American Civil War.

          In all examples for the exception of #1, Black folk would not be considered to be a Yankee. Noy, ninja, c o o n, etc. yes. Yankee no.

          • Brooklyn_Bruin

            We talking slang but you bringing Merriam and Webster to the party.

            • Sigma_Since 93

              LOL. If you wanna make a Southern Dwight tight, bring up this fact.

          • Cranberry05

            It’s Jamaican slang, Sig.

            • Sigma_Since 93

              I know. It still doesn’t diminish the argument. British folks call Americans Yanks too but at the time the word was created, we were not considered to be on par with Dwights.

              • Cranberry05

                But it does if that’s not what he was referring to.

                And yes, I was familiar with your reference.

        • Deeds

          The only people I heard use that term were white. Fam down south always referred to us as family up north. First time I heard it, I was confused because I really only heard it in a history book, and not in the current time.

          • miss t-lee

            We call folks from up North yankees at times. It’s always done jokingly.

          • Brooklyn_Bruin

            Like I said, Yankees don’t recognize Yardie jokes.

        • L8Comer

          Yeah it can’t be a white term if all of black Jamaica (more or less) uses it as a term to describe us from the states. Idk the origins, so Sig is prolly right

          • Brooklyn_Bruin

            He went to the dictionary on Yankee but not stush. Very telling

            • L8Comer

              I’m assuming he didn’t know what it meant at all and just looked past it lol. Whereas most of us Yankees are familiar with that time. As you know, Jamaicans are not easily offended… so there’s that.

              • Cranberry05

                Jamaicans aren’t EASILY offended? ?

            • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

              Everybody know what stush means.

            • Cranberry05

              He’s not from BK, he still wouldn’t get it right.

        • Cranberry05

          I didn’t know you were from JA, BB.

          Interesting…

    • Cranberry05

      Stush is very Brooklyn. Lol.

  • IAmMikeBrown

    Any Arby’s-related occurrence never, ever, ever ends in a good time. Mild gastrointestinal distress at the least, dysentery at the most. Also, I had no idea that quiche was varied enough to warrant its own taste session. Does this mean that I’m not as bougie as I claim?

    • Thats not real roast beef yo.

    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

      Are you serious about the quiche? What are your thoughts on crepes. Do you prefer sweet or savory oatmeal? What are the slices of ginger for when eating sushi?

      • IAmMikeBrown

        *hands Kas Bougie card to be hole-punched*

        • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

          No problem, I got you. Just remember to hold the glass by the stem when drinking your Pinot Grigio or Sauvigon Blanc (please don’t ask for Chardonnay). Go on in have a good time.

      • Mary

        Mr.Bougie Man, you can get all that at Whole Paycheck in the frozen food section too! ;)

    • Ille Jay

      Ate (Arby’s) there for the first time in years last week. They have a Gyro that is pretty good, doesn’t have the traditional beef-lamb in it, but it was good and fresh. I gotta disagree.

    • Mochasister

      ¿Te da asco Arby’s, verdad?

      • IAmMikeBrown

        ¡Muchísimo!

  • Epsilonicus

    “They may have even made more money last year than their Bougie and Bourgie/Bourgeois counterparts, but the IRS would never, ever, ever know.”

    Whoever has these kinds of skills, hit me up lol

    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

      The great thing is they don’t have to worry about a retirement plan. It will all be taken care of by the government.

      • DomiMami

        Facts

  • Another word we stole, flipped and now the only ones allowed to use it. Well played.

  • Tasha Lawrence?

    The only hood they have ever known is the hood of their Range Rover

    I HOLLERED!!!!! That’s funny AF.
    Issa needs to hire you as one of her writers.

  • NomadaNare

    So Michelle Obama is Bad and Bougie

    Got it

  • Kat

    So..honestly I didn’t read it all cause I’m bougie and assumed he wasn’t talking to me.

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