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The case for “OK, Boomer”

“OK, Boomer.” 

After being used as a reaction to a video depicting an elderly man commenting on how “millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome” of not wanting to grow up, the “OK, Boomer” phrase has become greatly widespread on popular culture. It has become a prominent statement on numerous social media platforms and even political speeches. While this phrase is believed to have been used in previous years, it has received more attention since November 2019 after TikTok users began to tag it in videos, starting a widespread social media trend. 

Despite its origins, the two-word phrase has become more than just a lighthearted joke or meme. Now, “OK, boomer” is defined as a remark used to tease and dismiss those who are close-minded or have outdated beliefs, especially Baby Boomers (individuals who were born between 1946 and 1965). The phrase has additionally been used to call out the lack of awareness for issues such as climate change or student loan debt. Some believe it is simply a retort that is expressed to counter the attitudes of older individuals, but others argue it has hints of ageism because of its condescending tone. 

For example, radio host Bob Lonsberry recently tweeted that “OK, Boomer” is the “n-word of ageism.” However, the actual definition of “boomer” is merely “referring to a person born during a baby boom, especially one born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1965,” according to Dictionary.com. Here, the phrase is used to characterize a certain generation and is simply a name. While “OK Boomer” is clearly a phrase that is clearly not a compliment, it does not deserve to be held at the same degree as the n-word, which has become one of the most disrespectful and vulgar terms in the English language because of its connection with slavery and racism. 

However, the phrase does act as an important indication of the need for discussion regarding divisions between generations. Instead of being used as a negative or dismissive scoff toward those resistant to change, the phrase sheds light on the issue of these gaps.

For example, New Zealand lawmaker Chloe Swarbrick used the phrase on Nov. 5 during a speech given to the New Zealand Parliament regarding the Zero Carbon Bill, an act that hopes to provide a framework for the development of new climate change policies. After a member of the New Zealand Parliament heckled her speech, she casually responded with the phrase “OK, Boomer” and continued on without hesitation. Swarbrick then stated that her usage of the phrase was symbolic of how multiple generations are experiencing “collective exhaustion” regarding the lack of understanding between generations. 

Her usage of the phrase “OK, Boomer” serves as a reminder that a productive discussion about generational gaps is necessary in order to truly solve the issues of our time. This usage of the phrase must guide our conversations and act as a warning that more meaningful exchanges are needed to learn about the deeper issue behind such divisions. 

So while saying the phrase “OK, Boomer” can be perceived as an annoyance or merely a trend, it is imperative to recognize that it is opening the discussion of bridging generational misunderstanding. 

By Sarah Lew, News editor
Editorial cartoon by Justine Constantino