Saturday, January 14, 2006

H.E.I.D.I.s thrive while Ladults leer

This post started with an article in Michael Quinion's World Wide Words newsletter which got me chasing up some links. In it he reports on the rise of two new words, "Ladult" - a blend of "lad" and "adult" supposedly describing a particular type of bloke in 2005 - and "HEIDI" - an acronym standing for Highly Educated Independent, Degree-carrying Individuals, a particular type of woman.

For more on each word, read on:

Enter the Ladult

A year after the wristband generation sought to Make Poverty History, we are on the brink of a nouveau hippy movement, combining spirituality, care for the environment and other people and a life code , says Ian Pearson, futurologist at BT. 'We've had Make Poverty History and this is part of the same trend. It only needs one or two charismatic people to trigger it, which could happen at any moment,' he said.

The New Man and the Metrosexual are dead. Long live the Ladult. He is single, assured, solvent and secure in his new-found masculinity. Aged between 25 and thirtysomething, the Ladult works moderately hard at middle management. His suits and shirts come from Paul Smith, Zegna, Thomas Pink and Reiss. He spends a lot on gadgets and DVDs, and enjoys poker, online gambling and even fly fishing. He irons his own shirts and can cook simple meals. He has no problem with the notion that women are his equals, but secretly thinks they are different.

Further up the age spectrum, the baby boomers are hitting 60, which could ignite generational conflict. 'They're the best-off, best-educated parents ever,' said Tom Bentley, director of the think-tank Demos. 'They have a postwar consensus mindset that tells them not to sink quickly into middle age. They want to make the most of the consumer and spending power they have. But the thirtysomething generation - the David Cameron generation - is moving into instrumental positions and has different priorities.' These include climate change; will the baby boomers do their bit, or turn into grumpy old men and women?

HEIDIS on the march

Highly Educated Independent, Degree-carrying Individuals, or HEIDIs, are set to become one of the most influential sectors in modern British society and any self-respecting brand ignores them at their peril. According to a 2005 study by Allegra Strategies and The Future Laboratory’s findings from its 2,500-strong LifeSigns Network, there are almost 7.2m HEIDIs in the UK.

They are in their late 20s and 30s and their contribution to the economy is vast. A typical HEIDI is selfmotivated, in control and articulate about herbespoke needs and brand-related purchases. Thanks to an affluence born of credit, lifestyle is her buzzword, and achieving one that is smooth, luxurious, immersive, hassle-free and aspirational is her goal.

So there you have it; if you exist as a human being, someone out there in focus group land has a word to label you with. But what's driving this language change? Are there really new "types" of people emerging who have to be labelled? Is this like the Industrial Revolution where new words sprung up to label the multitude of new products and inventions, or existing words were co-opted into employment? Hardly...

What seems to be driving this change is not supply and demand, but a very 21 st century phenomenen: consumerism and its reinvention of existing material, marketed in a new way, to sell us what we already have, or don't actually need. In other words, the creation of "new" social groups and their subsequent promotion in lifestyle magazines and newspaper articles is part of a process that targets us as consumers. So "new words" might be seen as complicit in all of this - they make these new classifications seem exciting or sexy.

Or am I being paranoid? Do we really take these words at face value and unthinkingly adopt them as part of our vocabulary? Probably not: we're clever enough to raise a quizzical eyebrow, laugh it off and get on with our lives most of the time. But it's an interesting idea, I think, that new words are being created as part of a commercial strategy.

Useful for:
ENA1 - Language & Representation
ENA5 - Language Change

1 comment:

*Chrissyfloss*- ex SFXian said...

A very interesting post that kinda makes it sound like they're all out to get us (:s) Redefining normality/normal sectors of society: could these new words be the result of trying to define people so that they fit into a category through which a range of products can be marketed? The more i think about it the more it makes sense- if we think of ourselves as stereotypes/belonging to a type it is easier for the bad guys to fool us into thinking that people "like us" need a, b and c.

Perhaps all this requires investigation into where these labels are really coming from. Who uses these words anyway?