ⓘ OK Boomer


ⓘ OK Boomer

OK Boomer is a catchphrase and meme that gained popularity among young people in late 2019 and 2020, 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. Considered by some to be ageist, it has been used in a variety of contexts including by Chloe Swarbrick, 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 have been multiple trademark applications submitted for the phrase.


1. Origin

"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 dont 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" in retaliation and as dismissal of the ideals of past generations.

The first recorded instance of the phrase "OK Boomer" appeared in a Reddit comment on 29 January 2009, 10 years before popular usage. The terms more 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 November 2019 when articles about the phrase were published.


2. Criticism and reception

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 it was posted. Furthermore, Lonsberry stated that "being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok, nor is a derisive epithet acceptable because it is new." American late night TV host Stephen Colbert addressed the comparison in the segment Meanwhile. on The Late Show, saying "clearly this fella needs to play the hot new game: Is This The New N-Word? No, its not, thank you for playing." Francine Prose writing in The Guardian suggests the phrase reflects general cultural acceptance of discrimination against the old. Also writing for The Guardian, Bhaskar Sunkara criticized the meme in November 2019, saying that members of the baby boomer generation instead "need solidarity" as many "older workers and retirees are struggling to survive," as "half of Americans approaching age 65 have less than $25.000 in savings." In an interview, AARP executive Myrna Blyth told Axios "OK, millennials. But were the people that actually have the money."

Several French politicians have also accused the phrase of being ageist, with MP Audrey Dufeu Schubert deeming it an ageist slur in a special report on "succeeding in bridging the generational gap and fighting ageism”.

Other reactions have been more mixed or even positive. The phrase, according to Financial Times India Ross, "has come to symbolise a generational cultural fracture" with attacks on its use from Baby Boomers perhaps only serving to increase its power and use. The Independents Clemence Michallon applauds the phrase as "just the right amount of dismissive" while also warning against its overuse. Miyo McGinn in Grist magazine applauds the term, writing, "This joy undeniably stems from righteous indignation as much as simple amusement - the two words feel downright poetic after years of hearing my generation blamed for killing everything from restaurant chains to department stores to relationships." Some have commented that the term should be considered a shorthand term for establishment rather than targeting a specific age group.


3. Usage

The phrase "OK Boomer" 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 members of minority groups or opposition to younger generations ideals.

As of December 2019, videos tagged with #OkBoomer on TikTok had been viewed nearly 2 billion times.

In early November 2019, New Zealand MP Chloe 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 parliamentarians was 49 years old. "My OK boomer comment in parliament symbolised 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.

"OK Boomer" is also a song written and produced by 20-year-old college student Johnathan Williams, which was shared on Twitter in July 2019. It features cutting lyrics and Williams shouting "OK Boomer" repeatedly in response. Nineteen-year-old Peter Kuli then published a remix of the song on SoundCloud that circulated on TikTok, fueling the meme even further, serving as an anthem.

During halftime of the Harvard-Yale football game on 23 November 2019, climate change protesters interrupted the game by rushing the field and remained even after they were asked to leave, instead chanting "OK Boomer."

On January 9, 2020, during Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament, OK Boomer was the answer to a 400 point question in the "OK" category, "A 2019 New York Times article says this 2-word phrase marks the end of friendly generational relations." Ken Jennings obtained laughter from the audience with the response, "I get to say it to Alex! What is OK, Boomer?"

The phrase was used by Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court of the United States on January 15, 2020, as part of questioning for an age discrimination case.


4. Notoriety

The riposte has been named the "Word of the Year 2019" in New Zealand and in the Netherlands by the Dutch dictionary publisher Van Dale. It has been nominated for a similar designation in Switzerland as well, landing in second place. "OK Boomer" was also featured on the annually released Lake Superior State Universitys Banished Words List.


5. Commercialization

A hoodie designed by a US art student bearing the phrase, followed by "Have a terrible day", had generated more than US$ 25.000 in sales by 1 November 2019.

Multiple trademark applications have been filed for the repartee, including one from Fox Media, with the intent to launch "an on-going television series featuring reality competition, comedy, and game shows".

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