Chuppies, Roommaids and Techno-palooza

Every week, it seems, magazines coin new terms to help readers get a handle on emerging demographic, economic or social trends.

Every week, it seems, magazines coin new terms to help readers get a handle on emerging demographic, economic or social trends (or at least get a handle on what one reporter’s five friends are up to lately).

This Week in Weekly Magazine Neologisms: “chuppies,” “roommaids,” and “techno-paloozaical.”

Let’s take a closer look at this week’s crop.

What are “chuppies”? “They’re young. They have money in their pockets. And the race to win them as consumers is on,” according to U.S. News & World Report’s Bay Fang. They are Chinese yuppies, four of whom are featured on the cover of this week’s U.S. News beneath the headline “Supershoppers” (which, we surmise, is a sort of synonym for a “chuppie”).

Goofy nomenclature aside, it is an interesting article describing how young, middle-class Chinese are “riding a wave of unprecedented commercialism in the country” (young people like “pretty 32-year old” Sharmin Du who kicks off the story, the very model of anecdotal lede material, by “breez[ing]” into the local Starbucks-equivalent “wearing Diesel jeans, her yoga bag slung over her shoulder,” and answering her mobile phone, “the latest model, with speedy Internet access”). Du and her brand-conscious, free-spending peers, Fang explains, have “western marketers positively salivating.” But marketers at diamond company De Beers are doing more than drooling. They are hard at work “Creating a Diamond Wedding Ring Cultural Imperative” in China — that is, trying to convince betrothed “chuppies” to buy bling rather than the traditional gold and jade wedding-related baubles. How do “chuppies” pay for their fancy duds and gadgets? According to Fang, they “may have almost 100 percent disposable income,” because they often still live at home.

One thing “chuppies” don’t need, then, are “roommaids” — unlike “a growing number of unmarried men” in America, according to this week’s Time. Reports Jennifer Lee-St. John, these men “want someone to look after [them] without having to take on the financial burden of hiring a housekeeper or the emotional commitment of living with a lover,” and have found a solution in “roommaids” (roommates who perform maid-like tasks such as cooking and cleaning in exchange for reduced rent, a sort of “adult au pair.”)

For aspiring “roommaids” “the big challenge is weeding out the guys who are looking for sex — or a topless housekeeper or a personal masseuse — from the ones who genuinely want a platonic setup,” writes St. John-Lee. And men seeking “roommaids” are doing their part to avoid “sending confusing signals” by, in one man’s words, “purposefully pick[ing] someone I wasn’t attracted to” or, in another case, looking specifically for a lesbian roommaid. How big is the roommaid craze? While “a growing number” — the phrase St. John-Lee uses in the beginning of her piece — is typically magazinespeak for we can’t actually quantify this ‘trend’ for you with any specificity but we have a couple of data points and a catchy name, so we’re going with it, in this case St. John-Lee comes armed with four human examples plus the following factoid from one Web-based roommate matching service: “About 25 percent of its male clients specifically ask for a female barter roommate, up from less than 10 percent just three years ago.”

A Web-based roommate matching service, you say? You’d think we were in the midst of “a new techno-paloozaical moment” or something — which is precisely how Kurt Andersen describes New York in New York this week. Signs of a “techno-paloozaical moment” include, according to Andersen, “a critical mass of money guys and journalists and entrepreneurs are getting awfully excited, and the excitement is beginning to feed on itself … Blogs attracting significant audiences and advertisers … Money flooding into Web start-ups, and blog-conglomerates acquired for tens and hundreds of millions. The NASDAQ up 20 percent in the last year…” How is “New York’s second web boom” different from its first? “If this were 1999,” Andersen writes, “the unprofitable two-year-old student directory Facebook and the unprofitable year-old Web video portal YouTube would be filing IPOs.” Plus, “the vocabulary and doctrine are different” this time around, says Andersen — for instance, “to call a Web business a ‘dot-com’ in 2006 would be the equivalent of calling a black person ‘colored.’” The questionable comparisons don’t end there. Andersen sums things up thusly: “[P]eople are still having sex with strangers, but now it’s safer sex.” And yet, “when Rupert Murdoch pays $580 million for MySpace … it is difficult for other Internet entrepreneurs not to get … horny, which is to say greedy.”

For politer prognostication, we direct you to a “new media” article in this week’s Economist which — bullish-but-not-bawdy — urges readers not to be “too afraid of the coming age of mass participation” because “to regret the glorious fecundity of new media is to choose the hushed reverence of the cathedral over the din of the bazaar.”

UPDATE: This post has been updated to correct the name of the US News reporter.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.