Business

What was a Yuppie?

young professional

Yuppie is a term for a person that is considered a “young professional.” Originally a shortened version of the term “young urban professional,” yuppie often has a negative connotation due to how young professionals had acted during the time when the term was coined, which was in the 1980s. However, there is a seemingly positive aspect of being called a yuppie, as being one indicates that you are a young person who has a relatively high salary and a comfortable lifestyle. Although most people know the term, some of them don’t exactly know where it was first used or where it came from. If you are curious about the origins of the term, here is a little bit of history on yuppie and its influence in the business world.

Origins of the Term “Yuppie”

The term “yuppie” first appeared in print in May 1980 in a Chicago magazine article that was written by Dan Rottenberg. In the said article, Rottenberg describes the yuppies as a young urban professional that are rebelling on the suburban lifestyle brought by their parents in order to experience city life as a company employee. In addition, Rottenberg stated that yuppies aren’t working to be financially secure or comfortable, as they only work to stimulate their desires of being a professional.

For over 20 years, it is believed that Rottenberg was the first one to coin the term, but in 2015, he revealed that he did not invent the term, as he has already heard people using the word “yuppie” to describe the young professionals who have popped up in urban cities like New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Chicago. On the other hand, Rottenberg was right in stating that the rise of yuppies in the 80s would bring destabilization and gentrification in the population of urban areas because of the seemingly endless influx of young professionals in those locations.

young professional going to work

Although it was Rottenberg who first used yuppie in print, the term only became very popular in the United States when a newspaper columnist by the name of Bob Greene published an article in 1983 about Jerry Rubin, who was once the leader of a radical political group called “Youth International Party.” In the said group, the leaders would often refer to their members as “yippies,” which is derived from the group’s acronym YIP. Bob Greene then stated in the article that Jerry Rubin turned from a yippie to a yuppie, as the young professional is now the founder of a business networking group that was created in 1982.

Stereotyping and Negative Connotations

Months before Greene’s article was published, a parody handbook of The Official Preppy Handbook was released called The Yuppie Handbook. In the handbook, it states what yuppies must wear, as well as the attitude that they must present in the business world. Because the book has a mocking tone to it, many young professionals would often prefer to now be called yuppies since it seems derogatory during that time. In fact, most people who belong to the previous generation as the yuppies would often say that the yuppies are pompous people who would always boast their money and achievements to others.

yuppie adjusting a necktie

In 1984, the popular magazine Newsweek considered the said year to be “The Year of the Yuppie” because of the overwhelming number of young urban professionals in business-focused cities. Because of the rising resentment of young professionals being called yuppies, an article in The Wall Street Journal published in 1985 states that there was a “yuppie backlash” occurring around that time. Because the yuppie backlash is increasing in intensity in the business world in the 1980s, a market researcher in Chicago named Leo Shapiro urged people to stop using the term “yuppie” to describe young professionals who are earning for a living. Shapiro also stated that stereotyping often leads to the creation of derogatory words.

Fortunately for the young professionals, the term decreased in usage during the late 80s up to the early 90s, and Time magazine even wrote in their April 8, 1991 issue that the term “yuppie” is officially dead.

Revival

In the 2000s and 2010s, the term yuppie would have the same meaning as the word “millennial,” although the latter is more used today. However, some people argue that the two terms should not have the same definition, since not all millennials are young professionals who are self-absorbed and pompous, like how most people would describe yuppies. A 2006 article written the news website Details stated that “the return of the yuppie” is imminent, as the yuppies of 1986 and the yuppies of 2006 (now referred to as millennials) have a similar attitude when it comes to working professionally. Furthermore, the article also stated the yuppies are “shape-shifters” that are able to become a part of every generation in the world.

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