How Generation X Got Its Name

These days, the differences between the generations are often used for comic fodder or even mild hostility. For example, the phrase "OK boomer" is now comedic shorthand for a young person being exasperated with an older one, as Vox explains, and the phrase is particularly relevant if the person on the receiving end is actually from the baby boomer generation. Similarly, the millennials seem to take quite a bit of blame for things they weren't actually responsible for, as Buzzfeed points out.

Meanwhile, the men and women who comprise Generation X — those born between 1965 and 1980, according to Pew Research – are now becoming grandparents and will soon be approaching retirement. This is the generation that, though they fought in no major wars and did not live through devastating economic hardships, did have its own impact on history. They were the first generation to make use of personal computers, and as Investopedia notes, the first generation to be financially worse off than their parents. They also got stuck with a name that was intended to reference their reluctance to be defined, according to Mental Floss, and that stemmed from their collective feeling of detachment and being misunderstood.

Billy Idol and a 1991 book

The first use of the term "Generation X" emerged in a photo essay after World War II, according to NPR News, a solid two decades before the first Generation X babies would be born. Two decades later, in 1964, a London publisher produced a book that included the term. A few years after that, according to Mental Floss, a woman named Joan Broad found a copy of the book at a rummage sale and bought it. Her son, Billy, thought it made for a good band name, and for a while he performed with Generation X, before changing his name to Billy Idol and making it as a solo artist.

It wouldn't be until 1991 that the term "Generation X" would be applied to the post-baby boomer generation. Douglas Coupland's 1991 book, "Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture," assigned the term to the generation of which he claimed to be a part. He further claimed that the "X" referred to his generation's reluctance to be defined. Matt Carmichael, journalist and author of "Buyographics: How Demographic and Economic Changes Will Reinvent the Way Marketers Reach Consumers," agreed with Coupland's take, writing, "We were this unknown, disaffected generation."