This week we’re all about ages and stages as we look at words and phrases that refer either to people of a particular age or to people at a particular stage in their life. Some of these words and phrases have additional meanings and connotations.
Let’s start with the various names that are applied to different generations. A baby-boomer is someone who was born during the baby boom (=large increase in the number of babies) that followed the Second World War. The dates for this generation are approximately 1946 to 1964. The generation that came after (approximately 1965 to 1980) is sometimes referred to as Generation X. The millennials – or Generation Y – are the people who were born in the years between the early 1980s and 2000. (A recent coinage parennial refers to a parent who is a member of the millennial generation.) The generation coming after the millennials is sometimes called Generation Z (informally Gen Z). These are people born between approximately 1995 and 2005. People from this generation have sometimes been called linksters, reflecting the fact that they have been linked into technology all – or most – of their lives.
Two related phrases with age implications are digital native and digital immigrant. A digital native is a person who grew up using digital technology, computers, etc. and is therefore very familiar with them. In contrast, the older digital immigrant grew up in an era without digital technology and has had to learn how to use it as an adult.
The adjective silver continues to be used in phrases that refer to older people. The phrase silver surfer was coined a few years ago to refer to an older person who uses the Internet. More recently the term silver separator was heard in the media, referring to an older person who was getting divorced.
Let’s end with a recent (and controversial) addition to the English language – the term ‘snowflake’. Snowflake is sometimes used as an insulting way of referring to a young person who is easily upset or offended, especially by opinions which are different from their own. People who use this term give safe spaces and trigger warnings as evidence of the snowflake generation, (or generation snowflake). Understandably, a great many people – young and old – have objected to the term.