Where does snowflake come from?
The contemporary insult snowflake was popularized by the 1996 novel and 1999 film adaptation Fight Club, which tells the story's wannabe fighters: "You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.”
Fight Club's snowflake, though, isn't its earliest instance as an insult. During the Civil War in Missouri, pro-slavery advocates were called snowflakes for valuing whites over blacks. (That's a diss we can get behind.) Over a century later in the 1970s, black people who were seen as acting too white were mocked as snowflakes. The idea, here, is whiteness—like snow. Fight Club, nevertheless, did help to spread snowflake as a contemporary insult online in the 2000s to tease sheltered, helicopter-parented, everyone-gets-a-trophy young adults. The core metaphor is that such people are delicate like snowflakes, easily hurt by the hard realities of life, and think of themselves as special without realizing they are entitled and privileged— because every snowflake is different, as they say.
The term snowflake generation, or generation snowflake, emerged after a prominent 2015 dispute between the Yale University administration and students, who were upset by culturally appropriative Halloween costumes. Snowflake generation insulted the students as too politically correct, too easily offended, too soft in their demands for safe spaces, trigger warnings, preferred pronouns, and social justice. In 2016, snowflake became much more politicized and more malicious. After the polarizing decision of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, the alt-right especially adopted snowflake to insult the political left who were upset by the events and concerned about rising nationalism and bigotry. Liberals, though, have thrown snowflake right back at them, with comedians like Neal Brennan and political commentator Van Jones calling Donald Trump a snowflake for his thin skin.
Who uses snowflake?
Truer to its Fight Club origins, snowflake is often used by "back in my day" folks to criticize millennials and Generation Z for being coddled, whiny, and in need of kid-gloves treatment.
These snowflakes are gonna be great fun after college, when real life smacks them in their whiny faces https://t.co/jao9htkbzm
— Cameron Gray (@Cameron_Gray) October 10, 2015
Me in car: I am inimitable, I am an original!
Old Man walking by: f*cking millennials. think they're all special snowflakes.
— Blessedterns (@Blessedterns) October 9, 2015
Since 2016, snowflake has become a go-to insult among Trump supports to attack the left:
Lots of hysterical SNOWFLAKE LIBS are worried the Russians are listening in on @realDonaldTrump’s unsecured phone calls. Gimme a break! That would require Putin having access to the sophisticated technology used by Stuttering John! @stutteringjohnm https://t.co/f2Cl77MOaI
— Danny Zuker (@DannyZuker) June 30, 2018
Others have lobbed snowflake right back at them to call out their hypocrisy:
The right: "Fuck you snowflakes we don't care about your feelings you crybaby overly emotional weaklings"
The left: "Fuck you"
The right: "So much for the tolerant left why can't we just have a civil debate without insults stop destroying my freedom of speech"
— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) June 30, 2018
~ Tomi Lahren - But I got wet!
~ Sarah Sanders - I can’t eat at Red Hen!
~ Trump - Fake News!
~ Mitch McConnell - Let’s be fair to Trump’s SCOTUS pick!
~ Dana Loesch - Did I say go after The NY Times? Oh, I did.
Hillary - they stole my Presidency. But sure, I’m the snowflake.
— Albert D. (@BigAlDell) June 29, 2018
Some on the left have worked to embrace snowflake. Actor and activist George Takei of Star Trek fame observed that, en masse, snowflakes can form an "avalanche" of political change:
The thing about "snowflakes" is this: They are beautiful and unique, but in large numbers become an unstoppable avalanche that will bury you
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) January 21, 2017
Actress and activist Pauly Perrette similarly reclaimed snowflake, using the hashtag "#IAmSnowflake" to show support for social justice.
— Pauley Perrette (@PauleyP) March 15, 2017
Weak Internet Man Calls Arnold Schwarzenegger a "Snowflake," Gets Blasted By Mr. Freeze Joke
Brett Williams, Men's Health (headline), June, 2018
This liberal snowflakes are too damaged for adulthood / *curls into a ball at the thought of a transgender fighter pilot*
@LOLGOP, September, 2017
Political correctness is just herd psychology pushed by insecure people whom desperately seek social conformity. #snowflakes #MAGA
@leemgourlay, April, 2017