The word “flaneur” has gone through some gyrations over time: if you ask Google or a modern dictionary, you’ll get “an idler or a loafer”, but in times past, it’s meant something less negative, more civic. To Baudelaire, the flaneur was a “gentleman stroller of city streets” or a “botanist of the sidewalks”, for example. The Brooklynflaneur further quotes Cornelia Otis Skinner:
“There is no English equivalent for the French word flâneur. Cassell’s dictionary defines flâneur as a stroller, saunterer, drifter but none of these terms seems quite accurate. There is no English equivalent for the term, just as there is no Anglo-Saxon counterpart of that essentially Gallic individual, the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothing, including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city. (Cornelia Otis Skinner, Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, 1962, Houghton Mifflin, New York)”
Not familiar with the word? Perhaps you’re old-fashioned: according to Google’s NGram Viewer (which analyzes and index the contents of millions of texts), it didn’t start rocketing it common(ish) use until the mid to late 1980’s.
Whatever you call it, I’m a sucker for an evening stroll. I like passing the little framed scenes glowing through the windows, smiling at the dog walkers and sampling the scents of the varied neighborhood ecosystem.
Need a destination for some flaneuring? Head over to 4220 1st Ave NE, where Steve Zaske has his splendid Christmas light show running every night, 5 – 9 pm through New Year’s Eve. He’s added even more lights and music this year, and really, my shoddy little video doesn’t do it a drop of justice because half the fun is how the whole thing is perfectly sync’ed to the soundtrack.,
Substituted the awesomer Zaske-created video Brady posted in the comments in place of my lame iPhone version.
Destined to become a Wallingford institution.