10 Demographic Names and Expressions

By Mark Nichol

In researching various words used to describe the common people, I came across a scattering of other demographic denominations, including a couple (bobo and clerisy) I hadn’t known before. Like the previous list, this collection, which ranges in nature from sociological designations to synonyms for the learned to slang (and which is annotated with notes about each term’s connotation), may also help enrich your vocabulary:

1. Bobo: Someone with conflicting bourgeois and bohemian tastes; the word is a partial abbreviation of those two descriptors. The offspring (or modern equivalent) of yuppies, bobos favor liberal and progressive causes but are also conspicuous consumers thought of as having bad taste and banal interests. Pejorative.

2. Boomer: A person born during the post-World War II baby boom (roughly 1946-1964), a period in which, due in part to postwar prosperity, the US birthrate increased dramatically. The connotation is of a sociopolitically influential demographic growing up during a period of rapid and volatile social change. It also implies, at this point, a significant proportion of the US population becoming elderly and, because of boomers’ concerns and values, having a dramatic impact on issues of employment, retirement and retirement benefits, and health and welfare. Neutral.

3. Clerisy: Intellectuals as a class. From the German word Klerisei (“clergy”), derived from the Latin term clericus (“cleric”); at one time, literate people were for the most part confined to the clergy. Neutral, but obscure.

4. Demimonde: Originally, mistresses and prostitutes as a class, whose only attachment to respectable society is their benefactors and clients; the term, French for “half-world,” now has a broader sense of a social group segregated from society as a whole. Euphemism.

5. Hipster: An affectedly unaffected person, characterized by a self-conscious appearance and ostentatious about following cutting-edge social and technological trends. Derogatory.

6. Homeboy: A close friend, or a fellow gang member; originally applied to someone from one’s hometown. The term and its diminutive, variably spelled homey and homie, derived from usage by black and Latino twentieth-century urban migrants who associated with others who had come from the same city or town. Generally neutral, but also can be negative, because of racial associations.

7. Intelligentsia: Intellectuals as an elite subculture. From the Russian intelligentsiya, based on the Latin word for “intelligent.” Neutral, but dated.

8. Literati: Intellectuals, or those interested in the arts. The word, with a slight spelling change, is directly from Latin. Neutral.

9. Philistine: A materialistic, anti-intellectual person. The name (generally styled lowercased) stems from that of a tribe referred to in the Bible as being hostile to the Israelites, and therefore, by extension, inimical to culture. Derogatory, but also usually somewhat facetious.

10. Yuppie: A materialistic, social-climbing white-collar worker, socially liberal but economically conservative. This term, a diminutive of the acronym for “young, urban professional,” originated in the economic boom of the 1980s but faded with the downturn of financial fortunes later in the decade, though the stereotype, and those who inspired it, are still extant. Pejorative.

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9 Responses to “10 Demographic Names and Expressions”

  • Charlie

    Learned a few new ones and background on others. One thing is that I remember a yuppie being described as young, upwardly mobil, professional and not urban. I don’t know why the m wasn’t used, but they were fun to observe during Happy Hour, telling of their corporate tales.

  • Kathryn

    Thanks for “bobo” and “clerisy”–not that I expect ever to use either, but they’re interesting words. I’m sorry not to see “hippie” on the list, although I suppose it is pretty dated. I am informed by an internet friend from Texas, however, that it is still in use in his community as a derogatory term for those with a generally liberal social view.

  • Mark MacKay

    May I suggest “hoi polloi” and possibly “hoyden”? Hoyden may be a stretch.

  • Paul M

    I use hippie all the time and I aint from Texas! It is fun to use in a silly, somewhat derogatory sense (in a fun loving way).

    Wasn’t there a few terms derived from yuppie, guppie?
    And there’s “dinks” double income no kids!
    Maybe there’s enough for another post. But perhaps this is all too divisive…

  • Mark Nichol

    Mark:

    I discussed “hoi polloi” in a recent post.

  • Kathryn

    Paul M–I was startled, and a bit disgruntled, to learn that I would be considered a hippie by most of my friend’s circle of acquaintance, but I can actually see their point; on the other hand, you may be right about divisiveness. Name-calling can be a very delicate issue. . .

  • Frank Elliott

    Let’s not forget “Luddite” for those who are not keeping up with modern technology.

  • venqax

    I think Luddites are, more specifically, those who hate some of the new technology and want to destroy it because it is ruining their lives. Not just those who don’t buy the latest smartphone. Remember, the Luddites were machine breakers, not just nostalgic for hand-tools. I’m finding them more and more sympathetic, actually.

  • Shelly

    I think “Hipsters” is only derogatory by those who don’t like them. And every single social group in history has had folks who don’t like them. In fact, every single name for every single social group got started by someone snorting it out while looking down their nose and scoffing… with or without a sense of humor at any given time.

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