I have a good friend in Minneapolis who refers to herself as a ‘bohemian.’ She is the colorful outcome of mixed marriage. Delightful and lovely in so many ways, I was puzzled by her portraying her self-prescribed ‘bohemistic’ (right, it’s not really a word) oddity: “I’m not really black; the black community tells me I don’t really fit. I’m not really white; the white community tells me I don’t really fit. It’s interesting spending a good portion of your life trying define what’s fitting…about not fitting.” The sound of the word intrigued me: bohemian. Its resonance is mysterious…organic… earthy…primal…‘bohemic’ (right, it’s not really a word). Captured, I had to know more.
My curiosity ignited I did what renowned scholars, teachers, academicians and A.D.Dists (Any Distraction Accepted) would do; I Googled the etymology of the word ‘bohemian.’ The link led me to the world’s most esteemed, resourced, studied, quoted storehouse of world knowledge: ‘Wikipedia’ (right, it’s not really a word). I dove into a tub of bohemian data. It felt as if I had removed my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants legs, and climbed into a vat of newly harvested fat and juicy syntactical grapes. Stomping these fruits of knowledge, I felt like Lucy Ricardo dressed in her ‘gypsyesque’ (right, it’s not really a word) and up to her knees in one of her grape stomping escapade; giggling, hands on hips, high-stepping. (Lucy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUxjOS3g6Uc ) With every squishy footfall, I dizzied with linguistic intoxication.
“For other uses, see Bohemian: disambiguation (right, it’s really a word)
Bohemians are the people of Bohemia, in the Czech Republic, inhabitants of the former Kingdom of Bohemia, located in the modern day Czech Republic. The an cient Kingdom of Bohemia was absorbed into the Habsburg Empire after 1527 and came under the control of Vienna…
…the word “Bohemian” or a derivate was used to designate all inhabitants of Bohemia…
… “Bohemians” is still used when there is need to distinguish between inhabitants of the western part of the Czech Republic (Bohemia), and the eastern (Moravia) or the north-eastern part (Silesia).”
Expecting revelation, instead I was confused and frustrated. I hoped to see pictures of famous historical ‘Bohemians’ and ‘Bohermians’ (right, it’s not really a word) based on my pre-conceived thoughts about societal misfits, oddballs, outcasts and other societal dregs. Who I thought were famous ‘bohemians’: Joan of Arc, Rasputin, William Wallace (aka Mel Gibson in kilts), Albert Einstein, Papa Hemmingway, Pee Wee Herman, Howard Hughes, Julius Ceasar, General Patton, Steven Colbert, Timothy Leary, Dr. Phil.
Nope. None. Nada. And then, a payoff! It reads:
…“The term “Bohemian” as related to Bohemianism – i.e. describing the untraditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, musicians, and actors in major European cities – has little or nothing to do with the above, though, often leading to confusion.”….
Huh? The last line stabbed deep into the heart of such cultural catch-all definitions, what I call “drive-by” judgment; metaphoric stones cast upon those among us who don’t quite fit the accustomed, accepted, comfortable, safe, predictable, textbook definition. How about: Expressionists. Dreamers. Mathematicians. Architects. Engineers, Philosophers. Authors. Scientists. Activists. Like: Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Frank Lloyd Wright, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, John Milton (no, not Milton Berle), Plato, Charles Darwin, Harvey Milk.
Or, even more questionable ‘bohemaniacs’ (right…) of ‘their time’ in history. Like: Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther, Sir Thomas Moore.
Or, likely the most infamous ‘boheretics’ (uh huh, right…) of all. Like: Abraham. Moses. Isaiah. David. John the Baptist. Jesus. Frank Zappa, and David Letterman.
So, where does that leave the rest of us common folk? The counter-intuitive bloggers, graffiti artists, social workers, school teachers, mentors, and other assorted misfits who keep dreaming. Trying. Dancing. Believing. Giggling while squeezing juicy meaning out and between their toes. The residue of what can be remains at the bottom of the barrel.
Gypsies, tramps, and thieves? You say Bohemian. I say Bohumian. Let’s call the whole word off.