Young people have a new weapon against seemingly condescending arguments from the baby boomer generation.
The dismissive catchphrase has become a viral comeback for members of the millennial, X and Z generations, who are using it to shut down what they see as patronizing opinions from people over the age of 50. It’s become the answer to “kids these days,” or “Millennials are ruining everything.”
The phrase entered a new arena on Tuesday, when 25-year-old politician Chloe Swarbrick used it to casually rebuke a heckler during her speech about climate change in New Zealand’s Parliament.
The millennial MP, who belongs to New Zealand’s Green Party, was explaining her concern for the future of the planet when an older lawmaker tried to interrupt her.
“In the year 2050, I will be 56 years old,” Swarbrick said. “Yet right now, the average age of this 52nd Parliament is 49 years old.”
Another lawmaker can be heard jeering at Swarbrick, and she quickly responds with the words: “OK boomer.” Then she goes back to her speech.
Swarbrick’s catchy lingo proved a little too much for New Zealand’s closed-captioning service, which failed to recognize the phrase. Instead, New Zealand Parliament TV captioned the phrase as “OK, Berma.”
Parliament’s social media team apologized for the error on Twitter.
“Clearly, we need to start doing all-office meme briefings,” they wrote.
The clip has since gone viral. Searches for the phrase “OK boomer” soared in New Zealand after Swarbrick’s speech, according to Google Trends. NZParliament TV’s video of the moment has garnered more than 100,000 views — much more than the six or seven views that most videos receive on the site.
Swarbrick’s comment also sparked backlash from the generation she glibly dismissed, prompting her to address her words on Facebook.
“Today I have learned that responding succinctly and in perfect jest to somebody heckling you about *your age* as you speak about the impact of climate change on *your generation* with the literal title of their generation makes some people very mad,” Swarbrick wrote.
But she didn’t apologize. Instead, the lawmaker poked fun at a few more baby boomer cliches.
“I guess millennials ruined humour,” she wrote. “That, or we just need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and abstain from avocados.”
She added: “That’s the joke.”
Swarbrick is just a small part of a rapidly-escalating generational clash over the phrase.
Earlier this week, conservative U.S. radio host Bob Lonsberry waded into the debate with a tweet comparing “boomer” to a racial slur.
“‘Boomer’ is the n-word of ageism,” Lonsberry tweeted on Tuesday. “Being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok, nor is a derisive epithet acceptable because it is new.”
The tweet received tens of thousands of replies and a few thousand likes — something Twitter users refer to as “being ratioed.” The vast majority of replies simply said: “OK boomer.”
Lonsberry has since deleted his tweet.
The phrase has become rampant on social media, particularly on TikTok, the Gen Z-dominated video service. One popular video shows a young person casually writing the phrase on a notepad while a baby boomer lectures about the problem with young people.
The phrase has even become a T-shirt slogan on several popular shopping sites.
The phrase has been deployed to shoot down condescending arguments throughout the internet, and in response to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Teenager Christopher Mezher, 18, recently told the New York Times that the phrase is not meant to condemn baby boomers as a whole.
“If it’s a jab at anyone, it’s outdated political figures who try to run our lives,” he said.