On not feeling very yippee about the term Yuppie

By

YUPPIE. Can you remember how you felt the first time you heard the charming word? Our reaction upon being introduced to it was to recall the day we tasted a bit of dry dog food - just to see what it was like.

Yuppie.

Even Gary Hart, the candidate of the Yuppies, told his interviewers he didn't know what ''Yuppie'' means. He didn't really seem to want to know either.

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Young, upward, professional - the new acronym just lies there flat, like a blip on a demographic chart.

We have waited. The word had to go away. A word without real meaning, and with all the grace of a rhinoceros crossing a bumpy field - how could it last? But it has - perhaps even better than Gary Hart. We may be a throwaway culture, but we don't throw away things as fast as we think we do - which is good and bad. And in the case of Yuppie, terrible.

Question: Would the term have been coined at all if the term Yippie had not been coined 17 or 18 years before? Indeed, Yuppie-watchers have pointed out that a number of Yuppies were Yippies when younger.

Furthermore, would the term Yippie have been coined unless the term hippies had been coined before it?

What an Alice-in-Wonderland use of language this is! Have we all been conditioned to accept any term with a double-p in the middle? If so, are Yeppie and Yappie still to come? Can anybody imagine Yuppie becoming a popular word among the Elizabethans?

But the argument is not just about aesthetics. It is about whom we let name us. In the past, the coining of terms of social typology has generally been the job of literature. Thus, substantial groups of people have been described as Babbits or Pickwickian. Immediately a middle class of Americans or Englishmen springs colorfully to mind. You recognize through those terms certain codes of values and sets of habits, but you also see human beings of a particular time and place, complete to their characteristic dress.

What do you see when you say Yuppie? A statistical abstract. A Yuppie is under a certain age. A Yuppie has material ambitions falling within certain financial figures.

There is nothing rounded or human about a Yuppie as defined - barely defined. One could write neither a tragedy nor a comedy about a Yuppie. Here is a crude, graceless term, of use only to political pollsters and retail market analysts. One can, in fact, imagine that Yuppie, after serving as a political demographic index, may enjoy a second life among ad executives, scouting a new consumer target: the Yuppie market.

It is far less likely that we have come into the Age of the Yuppie than that we have come into the age when people will keep thinking up categories like Yuppie - undoubtedly with the help of the computer.

''What's in a name? . . . A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.'' Shakespeare hadn't heard the name Yuppie.

It may not matter how we name flowers. It is important how we name ourselves. In our names we pronounce our identity. Our names give us a kind of measure of grace to grow into. Our names claim a heritage.

Would anybody choose to be called Yuppie? That ought to be argument enough for the withdrawal of a dehumanizing term that makes the very voice go squeaky.

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