"OK boomer" is a catchphrase and Internet 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 pre-millennial 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 coined years before that.
Considered by some to be ageist, the phrase has developed into a retort for perceived resistance to technological change, climate change denial, marginalization of members of minority groups, or opposition to younger generations' values. The phrase has also been used commercially to sell merchandise and has been the subject of multiple trademark applications.
The first recorded instance of "OK boomer" is in a Reddit comment on 29 January 2009, and it appeared in 2015 on 4chan. "OK boomer" reached mass popularity in 2019 as a reaction to an unidentified older man's "rant" on TikTok, in which he repeated conservative commentators' talking points condemning supposedly "infantile" generations "hobbled" by social media and participation trophies. He said, "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". Thousands of viewers responded with "OK boomer" as "a sophisticated, mass retaliation" against the impact of past generations.
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 responded "OK boomer". She wrote in an article in The Guardian that her comment "symbolised exhaustion of multiple generations." Swarbrick received widespread support on social media, as well as criticism for allegedly promoting ageism, including by the MP Christopher Bishop.
A July 2019 song titled "OK boomer" fueled the meme like an anthem, with cutting lyrics. 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 US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on 15 January 2020, as part of questioning for the Babb v. Wilkie age discrimination case.
On 2 March 2020, streamer Neekolul posted a video of lip-syncing and dancing to the Senzawa song "Oki Doki Boomer" while wearing a Bernie 2020 shirt. With more than 6 million views in four days and more than 30 million that month, viewer reception was mixed between cute and cringeworthy.
A hoodie bearing the phrase "OK boomer have a terrible day", generated more than US$25,000 in sales by 1 November 2019. Multiple trademark applications have been filed for "OK boomer", 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 and soon deleted tweet. 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. According to India Ross of the Financial Times, the phrase 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 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 is on Lake Superior State University's 45th 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
- Kids these days
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