“OK, Boomer” is the quick, cutting retort that came just in time for Thanksgiving, the one time a year when liberal college students and conservative uncles gather around the dinner table.
Most college students have probably heard the phrase “OK, Boomer” at least once in the past few months. But where did it come from, what does it mean, and where is it headed?
“OK, Boomer” has been a small joke on forums such as 4chan and reddit for a while, but what really launched the phrase into popularity was a Tik Tok video.
In the video, an older man rants about millennials and generation Z, and how they have a “Peter Pan syndrome,” which causes them to think that their idealistic views in youth will work in adulthood and that they will be able to create a utopia. He closes the rant by saying that they need to grow up, realize that nothing is free, things aren’t equal and a utopian society isn’t sustainable.
On the flip side of the video, a girl calmly listens, drawing and flipping through her notebook, and then finally reveals a drawing that just says “Ok Boomer” with hearts on each side.
And thus “OK, Boomer” was born.
Most people agree that “OK, Boomer” is the equivalent of an eyeroll to someone who’s out of touch with the younger generations, and a way of dismissing or mocking the political or social beliefs of those born during the boomer generation (1946-1964).
These beliefs include but are not limited to things like climate-denial, resistance to social change or civil rights, and the belittling of younger generations and their work ethic and ideals.
Younger generations have become increasingly frustrated with the older generation’s inaction and unwillingness or inability to try to understand the struggles of younger generations, like affordable college, a heating world that they will inherit and a livable minimum wage and wealth inequality.
They’re frustrated because they believe that the world could truly be a better place if those in the older generations were willing to listen. But after years of trying to get them to listen, they have finally started to give up, and “OK, Boomer” is a product of this frustration and a shrug of the shoulders when it comes to trying to compromise and have a conversation.
One famous example arose during a New Zealand parliament meeting, when the speaker was heckled during her speech on climate change and calmly replied “OK, Boomer.”
Another example arrived on Saturday, when climate activists took the field during halftime of the Harvard and Yale football game. They were protesting both school’s investments in fossil fuel companies and chanting “OK, Boomer,” delaying the game for nearly an hour.
The phrase has become a way of fighting back without giving someone the satisfaction of an argument, and the effectiveness of it is apparent in the nerves it’s touched.
Bob Lonsberry, a conservative radio host, said that “Boomer is the n-word of ageism. Being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok.” Unsurprisingly the tweet’s comments section was immediately filled with comments of “OK, Boomer” and comedians such as Stephen Colbert pointing out that they clearly weren’t equivalent.
Even dictionary.com chimed in, tweeting that “Boomer is an informal noun referring to a person born during a baby boom, especially one born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1965" and "The n-word is one of the most offensive words in the English language.” Lonsberry’s tweet was later deleted.
But “OK, Boomer” really is the kind of phrase that hits a nerve. People who are used to calling liberals “snowflakes” are getting offended and angry because they don’t know how to respond or argue with a statement that’s so dismissive, and Millenials know they’ve struck gold with the phrase.
The phrase is set up to be a win-win — if Boomers react, millennials win, and if they don’t react, they still lose. The power and dismissiveness of this statement come together to make it something that won’t fade any time soon, and it will undoubtedly be heard around countless tables this Thanksgiving when the discussion inevitably turns to politics.