Is It Ok To Use The M-Word?

September 6, 2013 | By NPR/TED Staff

To listen to the radio segment, please click here.

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Next Greatest Generation?

About Neil Howe's Interview

When demographer Neil Howe first coined the term Millennial back in 1991, he didn't expect it to become a loaded word for a generation some call lazy and entitled. But Howe is optimistic about this generation — and so are lots of Millennials.

About Neil Howe

Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future. He and William Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991. They also wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising, in 2000. Howe is founder and president of the consulting firm LifeCourse Associates, where he helps clients understand how generations affect work, marketing and strategic planning.



GUY RAZ, HOST: Hi, is that Neil Howe?

HOWE: Speaking.

RAZ: Hey, Neil it's Guy Raz with the TED Radio Hour from NPR. Thanks for taking my call.

HOWE: Well, thank you for calling.

RAZ: Anyway, I'm calling because we can't figure out how to do our show today without using the M-word.

HOWE: I see.

RAZ: I'm a little worried right now because, you know, people listening they will, you know, they'll hear it and then they'll just turn the radio off.

HOWE: Is that right?

RAZ: And you are the guy that coined it. You're responsible for this, right?

HOWE: I apologize for that, yes. Many, many years ago and it's - well, it's been through a few phases.

RAZ: So this is Neil Howe. He's a demographer. And back in 1991, he co-wrote a book with William Strauss, it was called "Generations," And tucked into the middle of that book, a chapter. It's title, The Millennial Generation. Lots of people hear this and they're thinking lazy, spoiled, entitled.

HOWE: Well, you need a little memory here. Gen X used to be practically a swear word. It was a non-label label. It was like some huge tragedy, you just didn't want to talk about it. We used to complain that kids were under socialized. They were practically going feral. But here's what's amazing, if you talk to young people today in college, they will talk about how they want to someday be good neighbors, good citizens. Record shares say they someday want to get married and have kids. And if you ask them their favorite way to spend their time they say with their parents or their family. You know, I hear people talk about them - they're too fragile. They're accustomed to too much cosseting and protection. You know, here's an interesting question I would have for you. Was there ever a time when older people said, hmm, I think it's just right?

RAZ: On the show today, TED speakers, most of them Millennials, people born between 1981 and 2000, close to a third of all Americans now. And in big ways and small ones, they're changing our world really fast. And there is a possibility, a big one, that after listening to this episode you might come to this conclusion - they could be the greatest generation.

HOWE: They could. We will see. But it's who they are, how they were raised and it's where they want to take this country. I think that's what makes them so exciting and different.

RAZ: Hey, Neil. Thanks.

HOWE: Thank you and good luck with your show.

RAZ: All right, sir.

HOWE: OK, bye.

RAZ: Bye.

Transcript provided by NPR. Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit


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