Move over, yuppies

March 23, 2000|By Arlene Silverman

SAN FRANCISCO -- We Americans have had our flappers, our boomers, our hippies, our yippies, our yuppies.

Now, as the millennium dawns, it is altogether appropriate that our English language respond to a new group for statisticians to ponder and economists to dissect: those young multimillionaires running dot-com businesses.

What DOES one call 36-year-old Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, a wunderkind whose company has set book-buying on its ear? Or Yahoo's Jerry Yang, who was 27 when that Internet stock went public in 1996?

Dot.comers? No, too obvious. Netnicks? No, again. Too Bill Bradley. The best choice turned out to be right in front of my nose: Who are Mr. Bezos, Mr. Yang, AOL's CEO Steve Case and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar?

They are, yes, young urban multimillionaires.

"Yummies."

Yummies are young, often under 40, and often enough under 30. They are urban: Mr. Bezos' headquarters is in Seattle, Mr. Omidyar's in San Jose. Multimillionaires? Is there any question?

And yet, true yummies must appear to be unaffected by the money they've made. They are more likely to drive a Honda (Mr. Bezos) and live at their desk (many) than drive a Rolls and room at the Ritz. This separates them from their more conspicuously consuming yuppie cousins.

Yummies often start out in an inauspicious way. Mr. Case, for example, developed toppings for Pizza Hut. Mr. Omidyar got the idea for an on-line auction house from his fiancee's obsession with collecting Pez dispensers.

Yummies are almost always a part of computer culture, usually the Internet. The staff of that unfortunate Fox TV show, "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?," should have been suspicious of bridegroom Rick Rockwell's "multimillionaire" status from the beginning. He was said to be in "real estate." (He also has denied allegations that he has been a sleazeball in his treatment of women, but that's a whole other category.)

Think of what statisticians and journalists can do with it: research on the yummie American character, investigative books by the likes of Bob Woodward ("Dot.Commie"), movies about wives and girlfriends like "The Attack of the Yummie Tomatoes."

Can "Yummies for Dummies" be far behind?

Arlene Silverman is a contributing writer to the San Francisco Examiner.

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