"OK boomer" is a catchphrase and meme often used by teenagers and young adults to dismiss or mock attitudes typically associated with people born in the two decades following World War II, known as baby boomers. However, it has increasingly been used to refer to older people in general, regardless of when they were actually born. The phrase first drew widespread attention due to a November 2019 TikTok video in response to an older man, though the phrase was actually coined years before that. Considered by some to be ageist, the phrase has also been used commercially to sell merchandise, and there have been 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 [and] 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 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, a decade before it became popular. The term's more recent usage can be traced back to 2015 on 4chan, but it started to become popular in January 2019.
The phrase 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. Various media publications have noted the meme's usage on social media platforms beyond TikTok, and The New York Times wrote that "teenagers use it to reply to cringey YouTube videos, Donald Trump tweets, and basically any person over 30 who says something condescending about young people – and the issues that matter to them". As of December 2020[update], videos tagged with #OkBoomer on TikTok had been viewed nearly 3.6 billion times.
In early November 2019, while giving a speech supporting a climate change bill, New Zealand MP Chlöe Swarbrick claimed that the average age of parliamentarians was 49 years old, and Gen X MP Todd Muller interrupted her, to which she promptly responded with "OK boomer". She wrote in an article in The Guardian that her comment "symbolised exhaustion of multiple generations". Swarbrick was criticized on social media for promoting ageism, including by the MP Christopher Bishop, though she received much support otherwise.
"OK boomer" is 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. 19-year-old Peter Kuli then published a remix of the song on SoundCloud that circulated on TikTok, fueling the meme even further and leading to serve as a kind of 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 9 January 2020, during the 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 elicited 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 15 January 2020, as part of questioning for an age discrimination case.
On 2 March 2020, streamer Neekolul posted a video on TikTok which showed her lip-syncing and dancing to the Senzawa song "Oki Doki Boomer" while wearing a Bernie 2020 shirt. The video received over 6 million views in four days before being removed due to a copyright claim, although Senzawa stated that she was not responsible for the copyright strike. On Twitter, the video received over 30 million views. The video was met with mixed reactions, with users divided over whether the video was cute or cringeworthy.
A hoodie designed by U.S. art student, Shannon O’Connor, bearing the phrase, followed by "have a terrible day", generated more than $25,000 in sales by 1 November 2019. Multiple trademark applications have been filed for the phrase, including one from Fox Media with the intent to launch "an ongoing television series featuring reality competition, comedy, and game shows".
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 soon 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". The Late Show with Stephen Colbert mocked him: "Clearly this fella needs to play the hot new game: 'Is This The New N-Word?' No, it's not. Thank you for playing." Francine Prose of The Guardian suggested that the phrase reflects general cultural acceptance of discrimination against older generations. Also writing for The Guardian Bhaskar Sunkara criticized the meme and said that baby boomers instead "need solidarity" because 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 we're the people that actually have the money." Several French politicians have also accused the phrase of being ageist, with MP Audrey Dufeu Schubert (La République en Marche!) 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 India Ross of the Financial Times, 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. Clémence Michallon of The Independent applauded the phrase as "just the right amount of dismissive" while also warning against its overuse. Miyo McGinn of Grist applauded 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 "The Establishment" rather than targeting a specific age group.
"OK boomer" was named the "Word of the Year 2019" by a blog in New Zealand and in the Netherlands by the dictionary Van Dale. It was nominated for a similar designation by a university in Switzerland, landing in second place. The phrase was also featured on Lake Superior State University's annual Banished Words List.
- Me generation
- Generation snowflake
- Intergenerational conflict
- "Don't trust anyone over 30"
- A group where we all pretend to be boomers
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