20 Most Famous Phrases of the Baby Boomer Generation

While some of the expressions of the Baby Boomer generation have faded out of common usage, others have endured or even seen a resurgence, illustrating their lasting impact on American culture and language. Here are 20 of the most famous phrases of the Baby Boomer generation.

“Close, but no cigar.”

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“Close, but no cigar” is a lighthearted way of acknowledging effort and near success, even if the desired outcome wasn’t fully achieved, says Reader’s Digest. The phrase originated from carnival games, where cigars were often given as prizes. Missing by any margin, even small, and no cigar for you.

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

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Used by Baby Boomers to remind us not to get ahead of ourselves, this is an old farming adage urging patience and caution. Boomers are quick to remind us that just because something could happen doesn’t mean it will. It’s very similar to saying someone is “putting the cart before the horse.”

“Actions speak louder than words.”

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This is timeless advice that reminds us that what we do matters more than what we say. It’s easy to say we care about something or someone, but do we show up like we care? Baby Boomers, who grew up in a time of social change and activism, often use this phrase to underscore the importance of authenticity and accountability.

“Burning the midnight oil”

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This poetic way of saying you’re working late dates back to the days when people used oil lamps. The Henry Ford Museum says, “Before the invention of gas-powered lamps (or later, electricity), candles or oil lamps were used to illuminate the darkness.” If you have to burn the midnight oil for a project, make sure you aren’t burning the candle at both ends.

“A penny for your thoughts”

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“A penny for your thoughts” is a quaint way of expressing interest in someone’s thoughts. If someone seems lost in thought, this can be a sweet way to bring them back into the discussion. It’s a polite and friendly expression reflecting the Baby Boomers’ values of communication and connection.

“Bite the bullet”

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To “bite the bullet” originates from the old practice of having patients bite on a bullet during surgery to help them cope with the pain. History Extra says, “Lead bullets were both readily available in a battle and malleable, so the patient’s teeth wouldn’t break.” This phrase is often used to mean facing up to something difficult or unpleasant. When a Boomer tells you to “bite the bullet,” they’re encouraging you to muster your courage and tackle the challenge head-on.

“Love is blind”

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“Love is blind” was something Boomers were saying long before the Netflix reality TV show. “Love is blind” is the Boomer way of saying that new love doesn’t see faults. It speaks to both physical looks and small things about a person that would bug someone who didn’t love the person.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

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When people get impatient about not seeing results, Boomers remind us that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” This brings us back to the reality that big dreams and tasks take a long time and some patience to achieve. The Roman Empire took perseverance and endurance to build, much like the other monumental tasks in our lives.

“Two heads are better than one.”

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Boomers want to recognize collaboration and teamwork as a top-tier work ethic. The phrase “two heads are better than one” captures that sentiment perfectly. It’s a way to say you can do better work and have more ideas with more than one person involved, and it recognizes the importance of diverse perspectives and the power of collective thinking.

“It is what it is.”

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Boomers love to say the Americanized “c’est la vie,” or “that’s life,” when something isn’t going well but they can’t change it. “Oh, you didn’t get the promotion, bummer.” Boomer, “it is what it is.”

“The ball is in your court.”

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Sportisms are as American as apple pie, and Boomers have quite a few of them. When Boomers want to let someone know it is their turn to act or make a decision, they use this metaphor from tennis.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

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For those of us with Boomer parents, we heard this every time we asked for money to get pizza or for them to buy us something. Boomers love to preach financial responsibility to their children, though most of them grew up more in the consumer culture than we did.

“Blue-sky thinking”

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“Blue-sky thinking” is used to describe a form of creative brainstorming. It encourages people to think creatively without being inhibited by existing beliefs or ideas. This phrase is used mostly in corporate settings and may confuse some of the younger generation.

“The early bird gets the worm.”

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Boomers love this phrase, which encourages getting an early start to reap the benefits. It harks back to an agricultural society where being up with the dawn often meant the difference between success and failure. It’s a saying that reflects the Boomer generation’s work ethic and drive. Today we realize there is no difference between being up at 5 a.m. and in bed by 9 p.m. or going to bed at 1 a.m. and up at 9 a.m.

“Getting your ducks in a row”

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Getting your ducks in a row is all about making sure that you’re properly prepared and organized for a task or project. It’s also a popular jargon phrase used at work. Most of us picture our ducks running around crazy and a few squirrels being involved because our ducks are not in a row.

“Herding cats”

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“Cat herders” in the corporate world are those who can organize different people to come together and complete a difficult task, despite maybe having conflicting views. This is obvious to anyone who has ever owned cats and tried to get them to do anything, let alone do something organized with multiple cats.

“Low-hanging fruit”

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“Low-hanging fruit” refers to tasks that are the easiest to accomplish. The fruit that hangs lowest on the tree is easiest to pick, after all. People also use this to refer to easy sales in the sales world. Low-hanging fruit isn’t generally considered the highest quality; that would be the fruit at the top of the tree. However, Penn State says the factors that affect fruit quality include the amount of light reaching the fruit, how much water the tree receives, and how much fruit is growing on the tree.

“Singing from the same hymn sheet”

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To “sing from the same hymn sheet” refers to people having the same understanding of something or saying the same thing. “Preaching to the choir” is a similar phrase, meaning to explain or talk about something to people who already agree with you.

“Move the needle”

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In business speak, “moving the needle” is all about completing tasks that have a noticeable impact or enough of an effect that people notice. We aren’t sure if this needle is like a gas tank or one of those big fundraising thermometers, though.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

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This phrase is a classic piece of advice often shared by Boomers. It means not to risk everything on the success of one venture. It’s a metaphorical reminder to diversify your investments, interests, or efforts, emphasizing the value of prudence and forethought, traits highly respected by Boomers.

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