“I just thought everyone was agreeing with me all of a sudden,” says Mark “Boomer” Creger.
The 37-year-old from Iowa is undergoing an unintentional rebrand. He shares a name with the popular new teen phrase: “OK Boomer.”
OK Boomer is a rallying cry for Gen Z, an eye-roll response to condescending voices in older generations. Through TikTok and Twitter, the witty retort has gone mainstream; it was even used by a 25-year-old New Zealand lawmaker. Actor William Shatner — who, at 88, is not a Boomer — considers it a compliment.
What, though, of guys who’ve been Boomers their whole life? Boomer Creger’s mom gave him his nickname at birth to honor famed NFL quarterback Norman “Boomer” Esiason, who’s a four-time Pro Bowler. Creger is not. “Luckily, I was just good enough at most sports that I didn’t disappoint too much,” Creger says. Plus, “everyone always remembered my name.”
Today, he’d much rather go back to the Esiason reference. Boomers today have a more negative connotation: privileged, sheltered, coddled with wealth, blind to societal ills and actively making the world worse for those of us inheriting it. So Creger’s a little annoyed his friends get to make fun of him with the nickname. “OK Boomer wasn’t started for encouraging Baby Boomers,” Creger says.
Other Boomers aren’t as forgiving of the now-negative nickname. Boomer Brigman, a 32-year-old realtor, tells me he was recently at a bar in Long Island when a “hipster, hipster, hipstery 30-year-old” approached him and said, “You’re Boomer, right? So you’re named after the generation that ruined our planet?”
Brigman didn’t take to the joke well. “No, dude, I’m named after a football player,” he responded. Brigman is also named after Esiason. “He was just being this douche,” he says of the hipster heckler. “It offended me.”
Where does Boomer come from? Baby Boomers can credit a 1941 Life magazine report about the high birth rates of the 19th century, proclaiming “the U.S. baby boom is bad news for Hitler.” However, Boomer as a first name is less clear. Many Boomers I spoke with say they were named after Esiason or SportsCenter broadcaster Chris “Boomer” Berman. Esiason even wrote a 1995 children’s book titled A Boy Named Boomer.
It’s also a colloquial term. A boomer is an adult kangaroo. A town in Missouri. The red-headed tomboy in Burger King Kids Club. The Indiana Pacers’ mascot. Marc Maron’s cat. And Michael Phelps’ son.
Such diversity of names means “OK Boomer” is still low on the list of common associations. “No matter what context I hear it in, I always think of the ‘boomer’ zombie from the Left 4 Dead video game,” says a boom operator for the Air Force who asked to go by his Reddit name @BigBoomChris135.
BigBoomChris135 doesn’t mind the “OK Boomer” references. Mostly because he doesn’t receive them. “I work with an older crowd, and I don’t think they’re really aware of it now being a thing. Doesn’t bother me. I can appreciate the memes,” he says.
Some Boomers find the “OK Boomer” joke endearing. “I like being called Boomer cause u can’t trust nothing with this government,” Boomer Williams, a 39-year-old from Chicago, writes me.
Besides, “OK Boomer” may not last much longer. Gen Zs on Twitter are already proclaiming the death of the phrase now that it hit the mainstream. “The very fact of the take you’re reading right this minute means the trend is already passé,” writes MEL’s Miles Klee. “For god’s sake, even Boomers know about ‘Boomers’ these days.”
Still, for guys named Boomer, their name will last far past the meme’s expiration date. So why not embrace being a Boomer?
“I’ve never thought twice about it. It’s unique and memorable,” Creger says. “Besides the fact that I’ve never been able to find a souvenir keychain with my name on it.”