Posted by: episystechpubs | December 17, 2019

Editor’s Corner: OK Boomer

Very recently, the phrase “OK Boomer” has become popular among younger people to “dismiss or mock attitudes stereotypically attributed to the Baby Boomer generation. It is considered by some to be ageist,” according to an article on Wikipedia. The phrase is traced back to 2009, but it didn’t become popular until January of this year, when people started reacting to a video of an older man who said "millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t 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 response to the video (“OK Boomer”) became even more popular this past November because of several news stories on the phrase.

Rather than insult each other, let’s look into where some of these generational names came from. The following excerpt is from an article called How Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials Got Their Names, from Mental Floss:

…Who decides what…generations are named, if they get a name at all? Surprisingly, there isn’t one single clearinghouse where these names are chosen. Instead, generations frequently receive multiple names that then battle it out until only one remains—a process that is currently being fought between the likes of iGen, Generation Z, and Post-Millennials….

BABY BOOMERS (1946-1964)

(KC – The children who would come to be known as Baby Boomers were born a few years after the soldiers returned home from World War II and the economy “boomed.”)

Although the children born from 1946 to 1964 get the name Baby Boomers, that phrase wouldn’t appear until near the end of the generation. In January 1963 the Newport News Daily Press warned of a tidal wave of college enrollment coming as the “Baby Boomers” were growing up….

Oddly, an alternate name for people born during this time was Generation X; as London’s The Observer noted in 1964, “Like most generations, ‘Generation X’—as the editors tag today’s under 25s—show a notable lack of faith in the Old Ones.”

GENERATION X (1965-1980)

That comment in The Observer was in reference to a then-recently published book called Generation X by Jane Deverson and Charles Hamblett. A few years later, Joan Broad bought a copy at a garage sale, her son found it, and he fell in love with the name.

That son was Billy Idol, and according to his memoir, Dancing with Myself,“We immediately thought it could be a great name for this new band, since we both felt part of a youth movement bereft of a future, that we were completely misunderstood by and detached from the present social and cultural spectrum.” The band Generation X would begin Billy Idol’s career. [KC – And the song “Your Generation” is one of my all-time favorites!]

But the name Generation X wouldn’t become associated with a wide group of people until 1991. That’s the year Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture was released….

MILLENNIALS (1981-1996)

What comes after Generation X? Generation Y, obviously. That was the logic behind several newspaper columns that proclaimed the coming of Generation Y in the early ’90s. But as psychologist Jean Twenge explained…the failure of “baby busters” as a term to describe Generation X, “Labels that derive from the previous generation don’t tend to stick.”

Instead, in 1991 authors Neil Howe and William Strauss wrote Generations, which included a discussion about the Millennials. According to Forbes, they felt that as the oldest members of this generation were graduating high school in 2000—and everyone was focusing on the coming date—Millennials seemed a natural fit.

It seems there has always been a generation gap. Like Millennials today, Boomers probably felt that previous generations were out of touch.

No matter which generation you are part of, try to appreciate the differences of those younger or older than you—instead of using their generation’s name as an insult.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services


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