Tweeting out definitions of words is now somehow political, as Merriam-Webster defines “fact” in the age of “alternative facts” and harnesses the power of its look-up data to explore the larger implications when a word like “demonstrator” gets extra attention. Today’s write-up of the meaning of “snowflake”—beyond the obvious snowy one—comes on the heels of people on the right using it to describe opposition in a derisive way. And it turns out this isn’t the first time “snowflake” has been used in a political sense: Merriam-Webster writes that “In Missouri in the early 1860s, a ‘snowflake’ was a person who was opposed to the abolition of slavery—the implication of the name being that such people valued white people over black people.”
But that meaning didn’t gain traction outside of Missouri and eventually fell into disuse. On today’s use of the word, Merriam-Webster writes:
The word has been causing a ruckus. It’s developed a new and decidedly less pleasant use as a disparaging term for a person who is seen as overly sensitive and fragile. In the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. elections it was lobbed especially fiercely by those on the right side of the political spectrum at those on the left. And the snowball fight has continued since.
You can read the rest of this interesting write-up at Merriam-Webster. This is the latest of the dictionary’s “Words We’re Watching” series, which analyzes words currently enjoying a newfound popularity, for whatever reason. Previous words analyzed include “microaggression,” “ghosting,” and “welp.”