“So, um, a good friend of mine was, her sister was in town, her younger sister, and I met the younger sister, and, um, the younger sister was saying some things that my friend was making fun of her for because my friend said that her sister used slang and lingo and stuff like that wrong. And, I said, like, well, how so? How do you misuse slang? And my friend said, the word “bougey” is one of the words that her sister misuses. And I said, oh, well I’ve never heard that word before. What does “bougey” mean? And she said, “bougey” stands for bourgeoisie, so it really means upper middle class or whatever, but her sister uses the word “bougey” as ghetto or trashy or dumb… as a negative lower class connotation. So, the complete opposite of what it really means. And I said, oh, well, I don’t understand, give me an example, and her sister turned to me and said, [uses ghetto voice] “I hate basketball, that’s bougey.” So, somehow, it just became this thing, without even knowing it, I just started saying “bougey” all the time, and so did my friend, and so did all of my friends… but, like, in the context that my friend’s sister uses it.”
I learned the word “bougey” from the informant, and I asked him to tell me where he learned the word from originally. When the informant taught me this word a few months ago, he taught me to use it in the incorrect way (the way his friend’s sister uses it.) I find this slang to be interesting because I have used it in many different contexts and received many different responses.
The people who tend to know the term either live in or go to college in major cities, such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. In fact, the informant told me that his friend and his friend’s sister is from Chicago. When I used the word on a trip back home to New York, only my friend who went to school in New York City and my friend who went to school in Chicago knew the word.
Most of my friends who live in other cities use the word correctly. However, when I told my friends back in New York about the improper usage of the term, they thought it was funny, but, after a few days, they started to use it both properly and improperly as well. Whether used properly or improperly, the word has a negative connotation. Being bourgeoisie is considered a negative thing and being “ghetto” is considered a negative thing.
I think the word is very timely and relevant because its use seemed to spring up just as all of the “99 percent” protests were going on, and those protests mostly took place in large cities. However, the word “bougey” and an alternative spelling, “bougie,” appear on the website www.urbandictionary.com, and several posts which provide similar definitions for the slang predate the 99 percent rallies, so the word has been around for a while.