MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Boujee, Bougie, Bourgie: Who's Appropriating Whose Culture? An Answer in 12 Songs

In the spirit of an interracial, equal-opportunity orgy of bougie-ness, check out these tunes and videos.

Migos/Jacques BrelMigos/Jacques BrelIn order to empower "a culture of controversy prevention," administrators at American University (AU) prohibited the school's Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity from calling its badminton fundraiser "Bad(minton) and Boujee," a pun on the popular Migos song "Bad and Boujee." AU officials told the frat that them using the word boujee might be seen as "appropriating culture."

"Which culture?" asks Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post. "Latin? French? Marxist? Urban hip-hop? Maybe their own?" Administrators weren't clear. But as Rampell notes, the term boujee comes from the Latin "burgus," which described a castle or fortified town.

This evolved into the French "bourgeois," for people who live in town rather than the countryside. Town dwellers were more likely to engage in commerce and craftsmanship, and so rose over time to achieve middle-class incomes. That's why Karl Marx later used the term to derisively refer to the class that upheld capitalism.

Over time, "bourgeois" morphed into a more generic description of middle-class (and eventually upper-middle-class) materialism and obsession with respectability. More recently, "bourgeois" was shortened to the colloquial "bourgie ," alternately spelled "bougie" or "boujee," used disdainfully to describe upper-middle-class or high-end tastes (driving your Prius to Trader Joe's after yoga class, for example).

The "boujee" variation is common when referring to middle-class or upwardly mobile blacks, as in the Migos song. That's hardly this spelling's exclusive usage, though, as is evident from its entries in the crowd-sourced slang glossary Urban Dictionary. So, in a way, "boujee" is indeed an appropriation — or rather an appropriation of an appropriation of an appropriation. That's how language works. It's fluid, evolving, constantly taking from other tongues, dialects and usages.

Did administrators really consider all this? Probably not, considering their refusal to articulate who was appropriating what from whom and emphasis on "controversy prevention." More likely, they just heard "frat event named after rap song" and decided to act out of that bureaucratic favorite, an abundance of caution. As Freddie de Boer notes on Facebook, the AU situation nicely illustrates how students, regardless of their ideology, "are powerless in the face of a relentless pink police state that renders every unruly impulse anodyne and unchallenging through an architecture of limitless conflict avoidance. Neither the black bloc nor the alt right can possibly defeat the army of chief litigation officers who have machined the controversy-avoidance mechanism to perfection."

But back to bourgie. Google defines it as "exhibiting qualities attributed to the middle class, especially pretentiousness or conventionality." Yet the term is used differently in different subcultures—the people and milieu that Ke$ha calls bougie are different than those that the guys of Migos do, to keep in the musical vein. And they're both shades off from the "Bourgie, Bourgie" folks sung about by Gladys Knight and the Pips in their 1980 disco hit, or those conjured in The Submarines 2008 indie-pop "You, Me and the Bourgeoisie," or Discobitch's 2009 "C'est Beau La Bourgeoisie," or Jacques Brel's 1962 "Les Bourgeois," or Prince's 2013 "Da Bourgeoisie."

I've heard white Midwesterners use bougie to describe anything associated with hipsters/liberals/The Coastal Elite, and liberal coastal hipsters use it to describe anything that might be quintessentially suburban or "basic." Sometimes bourgie might be a big-ass McMansion, sometimes a pumpkin spice latter, a snotty attitude, a $10 burger, Manuka honey lozenges, Sheryl Sandberg-style feminists, picnicking on a first date, or ordering first-date food that's too fancy. So, yes, the term might mean certain things in American black culture that it doesn't among lower-class white Ohioans, leftist academics, or French techno bands, and vice versa. But whether you spell it bougie or bourgie or boujee, the underlying concept is the same; it's simply that the precise contours of bougie shift based on your perspective.

With that in mind—and in the spirit of an interracial, equal-opportunity orgy of the bourgeois—I present you with a few of my favorite songs about white bourgie-ness (a culture I can be confident I'm not appropriating). Enjoy!

Father John Misty - The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment

Okkervil River - Singer Songwriter

LCD Soundsystem - New York I Love You

The Rolling Stones - Play With Fire

Billy Joel - Uptown Girl

And, for fun...

Jacques Brel - Les Bourgeois

Migos featuring Lil Uzi - Bad and Boujee

Photo Credit: Migos/Jacques Brel

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    Can we get a Billy Joel trigger warning? Geez louise.

  • Meh.||

    Ha, I was always taught to spell it with a G too, just as an extra precaution against taking the Lord's name in vain. I think it can go either way.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    You are such a upper-class snob.

  • Zeb||

    What are you talking about? You totally spell G-Zuss with a "G".

  • Curiouser George||

    Orthodox Christians (Coptics, eastern Europeans) use the G.

    Billy is all right. At least it wasn't Manilow.

  • Juice||

    Someone is trying to say that only people of certain races/cultures/nationalities can say certain words. This is really all about the n-word, isn't it?

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    *RED ALERT, DANGER CHIPPER MOURNING DANGER*

  • wareagle||

    let me know when appropriation moves to things like cars, planes, basketball, etc etc.

    As long as universities exist, peak retard will never be reached; the bar will just keep nudged upward.

  • Meh.||

    I think maybe the Ke$ha link goes to the wrong place? Unless she ghost-wrote the song...

    But this was a fun post. Hopefully the administration's decision gets reversed.

  • Meh.||

    Although I also realize the link could be another joke that flew over my head

  • Citizen X - #6||

    In order to empower "a culture of controversy prevention," administrators at American University

    I can't conceive of a better way for them to admit that they have no idea what a university is for.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    You're gonna make a boujee-themed mix with no Ben Folds? Or Pulp?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Or, come on, the Dandy Warhols.

  • PBR Streetgang||

    Brian Jonestown Massacre hit hardest.

  • Citizen X - #6||

  • Citizen X - #6||

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Father John Misty is a Ben Fold's sub... well close enough... sorta. I'm a Ben Folds sucker though.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    Common People - the Shatner version.

    Jam It in the Hole - Electric Six.

    What's the market value of a soul?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    The Shatner version is actually better than the original, yeah.

  • Zeb||

    And also involved Ben Folds.

    Shatner's covers don't always work so well, but he nailed it with that one.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Some people call it cultural appropriation, but I'm with Max Roach - the drumset is the most American of all instruments.

    The cymbals come from the middle east, the toms symbolize the drums from Africa and American Indians, the bass drum and snare drum are decidedly European.

    So any music played using a drumset must be cultural appropriation.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    The cowbell belongs to Bovine-Americans, so don't you be appropriating it, Christopher Walken.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    in the spirit of an interracial, equal-opportunity orgy of the bourgeois

    This sentence made my day. Well, that sentence and the new batch of pastry-themed pornography I just received in the mail.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Debbie Does Donuts?

  • B.P.||

    The defunct place on Interstate 25 near Fort Collins? I went there one time.

  • B.P.||

    Come on people... no Leadbelly? It's even about DC.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pjnn6GAJqpw

    Another version:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dk6Y9uIwiMI

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I was informed by some douchebag at a Twilight Singers show that "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" was a Nirvana cover.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Fact: Mark Lanegan is the scariest, most intense-looking motherfucker on the planet.

  • B.P.||

    Mark Lanegan is really, really awesome.

  • notJoe||

    Fact: Mark Lanegan is the scariest, most intense-looking motherfucker on the planet

    Henry Rollins would like to have a word with you.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Henry Rollins would no doubt have several words with me. The man talks a lot. However, i stand by my original statement.

  • notJoe||

    OK, you got me laughing on that one. He does like the sound of his own voice...

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    He's that desperate for an audience these days.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Another fact: Interracial Equal-Opportunity Orgy of Bougie-ness was my nickname in college.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Damn straight it is, ladies.

  • Jerryskids||

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Did administrators really consider all this? Probably not, considering their refusal to articulate who was appropriating what from whom and emphasis on "controversy prevention."

    The fraternity could consider this a teaching moment on cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, the university was not equipped for that purpose.

    That would be my tack. I would ask - not challenge - AU administrators to explain specifically where I faulted so that any transgressions could be avoided in the future. And, please, show your work.

  • Zeb||

    They should have a sit-in in the dean's office.

  • Number 2||

    As a member of the middle class, I consider the b-word to be a form of hate speech that others me and causes me pain. Now pardon me while I flee to the nearest Safe Space.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Starbucks?

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Nah, his local university is obviously most equipped to handle this situation. That's what it was built for. No other purpose.

  • Curiouser George||

    There was a Scottish group called Bourgie Bourgie that did some nice work in the 80's. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqLDLWPJm_M Theor lead was Paul Quinn https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Quinn_(singer)

  • Domina Elle||

    When are POC going to stop wearing BLONDE WEAVE?

    Frankly I think the cultural appropriation narrative is bunk. Everything has been appropriated in one way or another even down to the sugar EVERYONE eats. Humans copy cat. Humans mimic. In 500 years if humans are still able to live on this planet and haven't evicted themselves (or each other) by way of their destructive behaviors- if we have evolved and learned anything as a species we will see how stupid even pathetic the people of this era have been.

  • Eman||

    Lil Uzi has to be one of the least creative pseudonyms in hip hop.

  • Verity3||

    What's bourgie? I dunno, but I'm pretty sure it's something other people are guilty of XD

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online