Surprise [sarcasm font], it is gray, cold, and snow covered in New England today. Winter, who knew, right? We avoided the winter storm that pummelled other areas recently, but when I checked weather.com this morning I saw a map with a bright pink area over New England. The forecast is for this weekend; bright pink stands for the heaviest areas of snow. Yay.
A bloggy newsletter from the Washington Post recently discussed another meaning to snowflake; one with which I was both familiar and unfamiliar.
It was around 2001 when I first heard snowflake used as a mild pejorative. I heard it to mean overly sensitive, and it often pertained to millennial memes such as were born from, say, every kid in a race getting the gold medal, regardless of how (or if) they finished. That is how I’ve used it since, at least when not referring to frozen precipitation.
The WaPo’s newsletter informed me that the mild version definition is no longer the case with snowflake. Since about 2016, the word has been co-opted by the ugly, extreme right. It is a full slur; it is now a favorite right-wing insult to hurl. This new use has the vestiges of the word as I understood it, but it takes it to a much deeper level—from mild eye rolling to hate speech.
I’ve been trying to avoid contact with the ugly hate speech of the right wing, of the not-so-grand OP. In my avoidance, I was not aware of how they have morphed snowflake. I cringe now, realizing I have used it meaning one thing, whereas now it means something ugly. I very well could have caused some true insult with my ignorance. When a reporter was body-slammed in 2017 by then-Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, conservatives on Twitter and Fox News called the reporter a snowflake for complaining that the force was enough to break his glasses. I would never use snowflake in that regard. For one thing, being the victim of an assault doesn’t make one weak or liberal, nor does speaking out about it. You’re not a snowflake if you are appalled by children separated from families at the border. You’re not a snowflake if you think truth and decency matter.
I’m removing this term from my vocabulary, as it is devolved in this way. To my millenial friend, should you be reading this, please accept my apology. I hope you never took the word to mean what the haters have turned it into.
George Takei tweeted in 2017 that “the thing about ‘snowflakes’ is this: They are beautiful and unique, but in large numbers become an unstoppable avalanche that will bury you.”