'OK Boomer': From TikTok meme to the US Supreme Court

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Chief Justice John RobertsImage source, AFP
Image caption,
At 64, judge Roberts is himself a baby boomer

You might have seen it as a meme on Twitter or TikTok but now it has made its way to the US Supreme Court.

The catchphrase "OK Boomer" went viral last year as a tongue-in-cheek dig by young people at older generations.

In the highest US court, it was heard as part of a case about age discrimination.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked the hypothetical question whether said phrase in a hiring process would indicate discrimination.

"So calling somebody a 'boomer' and considering them for a position would be actionable?" he asked, leading to the usually sombre courtroom erupting in laughter.

The 64-year-old justice is himself a member of the baby-boomer generation, a term referring to people born between 1946 and 1964.

The Supreme Court case is about whether an older employee of a government department has been discriminated against because of her age.

Despite the amusement over the justice's question, the woman's lawyer did pick it up as a serious point.

Roman Martinez compared the case to "using ethnic slurs" or "saying unflattering things" about a person, arguing that in a hiring process, it could indeed indicate discrimination.

Image source, Shannon O'Connor
Image caption,
The phrase has already made it from memes to sweatshirts

In internet parlance, "OK boomer" is a derogatory phrase used by young people against older generations when encountering attitudes perceived as judgemental, conservative or narrow-minded.

It was first used on the platform TikTok and the hashtag #OKBoomer has since been used hundreds of million times on Twitter as well.

The expression made headlines in November last year, when 25-year-old New Zealand politician Chlöe Swarbrick used it in parliament.

During a speech on climate change, she was interrupted by an older member of parliament. Ms Swarbrick paused, gestured with her right hand and said: "OK boomer."

Media caption,

Watch how Chlöe Swarbrick shuts down heckler