Just Strolling Through

One of my favorite English words and perhaps concepts: Flaneur, meaning a stroller, loafer, or lounger. And lazing alongside the common noun flaneur are the abstract noun, flânerie (the carrot above the a is called a circumflex), and the verb flâner, which mean idleness and to loaf about, respectively. Obviously, these words are French.

But there is much nuance to loafing. Ultimately denoting a literary type from 19th-century France, flaneurs differ much from your average sluggard, slug-a-bed, or slacker. Flaneur carries with it not so much of the pejorative sense, rather it suggests a collection of lavishly maundering traits: “the man of leisure, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.” 

Perhaps, if it were one’s desire to insult a Frenchman, faineant might be the better choice, as it is a French adjective connoting a lazy, good-for-nothing person.

This concept, however, is not sui generis to the French.

Stalko comes from Anglo-Irish dialect and has a very particular meaning: “an impecunious idler posing as a gentleman.” Stalko, as listed in the OED, means those “who have nothing to do, and no fortune to support them, but who style themselves esquire.”

My favorite rendition of this idea comes from the English writer Jerome K. Jerome, after whose work this blog has devised its theme. Jerome K. Jerome spent much of his life devoted to the study of what he called idleness and even wrote a book on the topic, titled “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow.” Jerome’s definition of idleness is unique:

“Idling always has been my strong point. I take no credit to myself in the matter—it is a gift. Few possess it. There are plenty of lazy people and plenty of slow-coaches, but a genuine idler is a rarity. He is not a man who slouches about with his hands in his pockets. On the contrary, his most startling characteristic is that he is always intensely busy.”

Indeed, sir.

And this all reminds me of masturbation. Masturbation, one might imagine, would be left for different article. But it felt too good to pass up mentioning my French friend’s testament of what a “masturbator” is in France—a person who leans up against a wall outside all day with his one leg up and with nothing to do. 

My masturbating all over the Philly street:

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