bou(r)ghetto (was Re: Hooah !)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Wed Aug 10 19:14:23 UTC 2005

On Thu, 4 Aug 2005 02:56:03 -0400, Wilson Gray wrote:
>On Aug 4, 2005, at 12:58 AM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>> That's taken from a collection of teen/hiphop slang compiled by
>> Oakland high school teacher Mark Frey. Here's the full list:
>I checked the list through a couple of the C's. Most were new to me,
>but some of them are two days older than water.

I was expecting Wilson to pick up on this one, since there's a St. Louis

Pronounced "boojetto." Trying to look rich and ghetto at the same time.
Possibly from the Lunatics.

"Lunatics" here refers to the St. Lunatics, a rap collective from St.
Louis formed in 1993 that includes Ali, Nelly, City Spud, Kyjuan, and
Murphy Lee. Ali released a song entitled "Boughetto" in early 2002 -- as
the lyrics explain, "She boughetto, that mean she bourgeois and ghetto."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 Jan 2002, p. G1 (Nexis/Factiva)
Ali's first single is called "Boughetto." ... The term "Boughetto" was
coined by Kyjuan and pokes fun at people who are "half bougie, half
ghetto, someone with a lake, pool and Jacuzzi but (who) still goes to
McDonald's and a movie," says Ali, referencing a lyric in the song. "An
expensive hair weave is boughetto."
Riverfront Times (St. Louis), 24 Apr 2002 (Proquest)
The first single, "Boughetto," isn't just a celebration of conspicuous
consumption -- although it certainly works that way, in a superficial
sense. One part sociological commentary, one part "Pass the Courvoisier,"
"Boughetto" betrays an ironic self-awareness largely absent from the other
Lunatics' work. The word itself, which Ali first heard used by fellow
Lunatic Kyjuan, is a portmanteau composed of "bourgeois" and "ghetto" --
ebonics for "nouveau riche" or "parvenu," if you will, but with a less
judgmental connotation. "Once we started living boughetto," Ali explains
with a self-deprecating chuckle, "that's when we really started saying it
all the time. So many things are ghetto and bougie in my life right now.
I've got, like, so many shoes! They're all Nikes and stuff -- it's totally
ghetto. The bougie part of it is how many different styles there are --
it's crazy to have that many shoes."

After the success of Ali's single, the proprietor of a now-defunct website
with the domain name tried to claim trademark infringement.
But he didn't file a trademark petition until Mar. 2002:

Serial Number: 76389299
Current Status: Abandoned: A petition to revive has been denied.
Filing Date: 2002-03-27
websites, books, music and apparel catering to African Americans who feel
in between two cultures of bourgeois and ghetto

More on the trademark dispute here (needless to say, it went nowhere):

Fellow St. Lunatic Nelly continued to popularize "bou(r)ghetto", and he
used it in his 2004 hit "Work It":
"It's like you ghetto ghetto, she bourghetto zhetto."

(Other lyrics sites transcribe this as "boojhetto jhetto" or even
"brougetto ghetto".)

Here are two definitions from 2004 -- one from the _Philadelphia Weekly_
and one from the _Berkeley High School Slang Dictionary_:

Philadelphia Weekly, Apr. 14, 2004
Best word of 2004, so far (other than "wardrobe malfunction"): bourghetto.
Pronunciation: "büzh-'e-tO"
Function: Adjective.
Etymology: A hybrid of bourgeois (a concern for material interests; a
tendency toward mediocrity dominated by commercial interests) and ghetto
(sector in which members of a minority group live because of social or
economic pressure; also middle-class slang for cool, hip).
Usage: "Beyoncé is so bourghetto."
First heard: Reeaaally late at night, I think on BET.
Berkeley High School Slang Dictionary, edited by Rick Ayers (2004)
Bourghetto (boo-JHET-oh) adj., Combination word made from bourgeois and
ghetto. Described by Barry Ronge of _South African Sunday Times_
(12/3/2003) as "rich, middle-class African American hipsters who cling to
street style and street music, affecting the pose of the ghetto, while
they are living an 'Oreo-cookie' Park Avenue lifestyle."
[Origin, Bloggers, also Rap stars Nelly and Ali].

--Ben Zimmer

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