OK Boomer

OK Boomer

OK Boomer is a catchphrase and internet meme that gained popularity among younger cohorts throughout 2019, used to dismiss or mock attitudes stereotypically attributed to the baby boomer generation. The phrase first drew widespread attention in a 2019 TikTok video in response to an older man, though the phrase was coined years before that. It is considered by some to be ageist.

The phrase is a pejorative retort used to dismiss or mock perceived narrow-minded, outdated, negatively-judgemental, or condescending attitudes of older people, particularly baby boomers. The term has been used as a retort for perceived resistance to technological change, climate change denial, marginalization of minorities or opposition to younger generations’ ideals.

It has been used in a variety of contexts including by a member of the New Zealand Parliament in response to heckling from another member. The phrase has also been used commercially to sell merchandise and there were multiple trademark applications submitted for the phrase.

‘OK Boomer’ was popularized as a reaction to a video on TikTok of an unidentified older man, in which he declared that ‘millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up; they think that the utopian ideals that they have in their youth are somehow going to translate into adulthood.’ The video inspired the phrase ‘OK Boomer’ as a retaliation and dismissal of the ideals of past generations that have shaped politics, economics and the environment so strongly.

The first recorded instance of the phrase ‘OK boomer’ appeared in a Reddit comment in 2009,10 years before popular usage. The term’s recent usage can be traced back to 2015 on 4chan, but started to become popular from January 2019. The term gained media popularity in early 2019 when articles about the phrase were published.

Some commentators have considered the phrase to be ageist. The conservative radio host Bob Lonsberry went as far as labeling the word ‘boomer’ as ‘the n-word of ageism’ in a controversial tweet that was deleted not long after being posted. Furthermore, he stated that ‘being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok, nor is a derisive epithet acceptable because it is new.’

The phrase, according to Financial Times’ India Ross, ‘has come to symbolize a generational cultural fracture’ with attacks on its use from Baby Boomers perhaps only serving to increase its power. The Independent’s Clémence Michallon applauds the phrase as ‘just the right amount of dismissive’ while also warning against overuse.

In 2019, New Zealand MP Chlöe Swarbrick, while giving a speech supporting a climate change bill in Parliament, promptly responded with ‘OK Boomer’ after Todd Muller interjected in disbelief to her claim that the average age of parliament was 49 years old. ‘My ‘OK boomer’ comment in parliament symbolized exhaustion of multiple generations’ she wrote in an article in The Guardian. Swarbrick was criticized on social media for promoting ageism, including by fellow MP Christopher Bishop.

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