When we got our new puppy last year, we named her during the car ride home.
But the next day, Marti and I looked at each other and confessed, “We don’t like the puppy’s name.”
So we changed it to something we liked slightly better. Four hours later, we looked at each other and said, “Meh, still not quite right.”
The puppy went nameless for three days while we scoured books and websites for a name that met our criteria: it had to have one syllable, it couldn’t sound like “sit,” and it had to fit her personality.
Our puppy - now 17 months old - is named “Ru.” Ru is Sansrit for “light.”
Names are helpful. They’re implicit agreements. When I say “Ru,” she faces my direction. When she barks, I face hers.
When we talk about generations, we use names, too. They’re implicit agreements; when I say “Baby Boomers,” you think of a gigantic generation that will be “forever young.” When I say “Generation X,” you think of the Breakfast Club, Kurt Cobain, or flannel shirts and coffee houses.
Generational labels are not perfect, but they are helpful.
In our work, we use the names that Strauss and Howe use in their book Generations:
- Lost Generation (1883-1900)
- G.I. Generation (1901-1924)
- Silent Generation (1925-1942)
- Boom (a.k.a. Baby Boom) Generation (1943-1960)
- 13th Generation (a.k.a. Gen X) (1961-1981)
- Millennial Generation (1982-2000)
- ????? (2001-)
Can you see the problem here?
Since 2001, we’ve given birth to a new, next generation that - to this point - remains nameless.
Our puppy, Ru, was nameless for thirty-six hours. Our next generation - whose oldest member entered sixth grade this fall - has been nameless for ten years.
This is driving me bonkers, and I need your help.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we - this community of four readers, plus my staff - picked and popularized the name for America’s next generation?
There’s no pressure; the bar has been set pretty low. Here are some of the contenders that have been published so far:
- “The Homeland Generation” by Strauss and Howe in this article. Feels a little too “George W.” to me. A little too terrifying. I’m used to hearing the word “security” after “homeland,” as in “the department of homeland security…” I would hate for our next American generation to be so tightly connected to terrorism or security.
- “Generation Z” by many, many unimaginative people. This label even has its own wikipedia entry here .
- The “New Silents.” This is Strauss and Howe (again) from their book The Fourth Turning . Their rationale is that every fourth generations’ archtype repeats itself. And since “Silents” were the archtype four generations ago (see list above), “New Silents” could work for the current version.
- A couple years ago, Harvard Business Review blogger (and past client) Tammy Erickson suggested “Re-Gen.” Again, this feels too related to previous generations. Recycled. Reused.
The next generation deserves its own name that can stand independent from other generations, even while it is in relation to them.
What do you think? What should America’s next generation be called?