Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Etymology And Derivative Meanings Of "Bourgeois"

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Alan: Derived from the Latin word "burgus" meaning "fortress or fortified city," a member of the bourgeoisie is fixated on respectability, the acquisition of material goods and the use of force/violence to defend their wealth and position. 

Thus distracted by obsession with "things," the bourgeoisie is unimaginative, uncreative and suspicious (if not contemptuous) of people whose artistic instincts oblige them to pursue their muse and embody their inspirations with such consuming passion that they have little remaining resource to strategize acquisition and no inclination to pursue respectability as an end in itself.  

Alan: In the following passage Chesterton describes the bourgeoisie in its extreme manifestation of people of exceedingly wealthy -- and therefore dull -- people.

"The merely rich are not rich enough to rule the modern market. The things that change modern history, the big national and international loans, the big educational and philanthropic foundations, the purchase of numberless newspapers, the big prices paid for peerages, the big expenses often incurred in elections - these are getting too big for everybody except the misers; the men with the largest of earthly fortunes and the smallest of earthly aims. There are two other odd and rather important things to be said about them. The first is this: that with this aristocracy we do not have the chance of a lucky variety in types which belongs to larger and looser aristocracies. The moderately rich include all kinds of people even good people. Even priests are sometimes saints; and even soldiers are sometimes heroes. Some doctors have really grown wealthy by curing their patients and not by flattering them; some brewers have been known to sell beer. But among the Very Rich you will never find a really generous man, even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egoistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it."    
G. K. Chesterton  

with Anu Garg


(boor-ZHWAH, BOOR-zhwah) 
plural bourgeois (boor-ZHWAH, BOOR-zhwah)

1. A member of the middle class.
2. One who exhibits behavior in conformity to the conventions of the middle class.
3. In Marxist theory, a member of the capitalist class.

1. Belonging to the middle class.
2. Marked by a concern for respectability and material interests.
3. Mediocre or unimaginative: lacking artistic refinement.

From French bourgeois, from Latin burgus (fortress, fortified town), from West Germanic burg. Ultimately from the Indo-European root bhergh- (high) which is also the source of iceberg, belfry, borough, burg, burglar, bourgeois, fortify, and force. Earliest documented use: 1564.

“By all means get stuck into the people who stall at bourgeois and never move past the obsession with acquisition and security.”
Lisa Pryor; Relax; The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia); Dec 29, 2007.

See more usage examples of bourgeois in’s dictionary.

We take our colors, chameleon-like, from each other. Nicolas de Chamfort, writer (6 Apr 1741-1794) 

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