The term Generation X is much older than those that are usually assumed to belong to it. Generation X is a lost or disaffected cohort of youths; the X is a reference to the algebraic term for an unknown quantity. In recent years it has been applied to those coming of age in the 1980s and 1990s, the children of the Baby Boomers, although the term is much older than this generation.
It dates to 1952 and originally applied to the youth of that period. From Holiday magazine of December of that year:
What, you may well ask, is Generation X?...These are the youngsters who have seen and felt the agonies of the past two decades..., who are trying to keep their balance in the swirling pressures of today, and who will have the biggest say in the course of history for the next 50 years.
Use in reference to the post-Baby Boom generation dates to at least 1989, when the Toronto Star of 24 February had this to say:
What if this Generation X turns around collectively and comes to the conclusion they can’t sit around waiting, and instead...start their own businesses.
That same article coined the term Generation Xer for a member of Generation X:
The other possibility...is that the Generation X-ers will cope by changing their goals or changing their behavior.
Credit for the coinage of Generation X is often mistakenly given to Douglas Coupland’s 1991 novel of that title, but while Coupland did much to popularize the term, he did not coin it.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton