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It is popularly believed that every snowflake has a unique structure.[1][2] Most usages of "snowflake" make reference to the physical qualities of snowflakes, such as their unique structure or fragility, while a minority of usages make reference to the white color of snow.[3][4]

In the 1860s, "snowflake" was used by abolitionists in Missouri to refer to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. The term referred to the color of snow, referring to valuing white people over black people. This usage was not believed to have extended beyond the state of Missouri in the 1800s.[4][3]

Chuck Palahniuk has often been credited with originating the modern pejorative use of "snowflake" in his 1996 novel Fight Club, which contains the quote: "you are not special, you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake".[4][3] The 1999 film adaptation also includes this line.[4] In January 2017, Palahniuk directly claimed credit, adding that young adults of the 2010s exhibit "a kind of new Victorianism".[6] Palahniuk's claim to have coined the term has been questioned.[4] In a short essay for Entertainment Weekly, Palahniuk later clarified that while writing the novel in 1994, he did not intend "snowflake" to be an insult, and said it had nothing to do with fragility or sensitivity. Rather he was consciously reacting against the constant praise he had encountered in the education system, which he said had rendered him an "idiot" and poorly equipped him for the world. He said "A lifetime of disingenuous, one-size-fits-all praise had kept most of my peers from pushing hard to achieve any actual triumphs, and therefore we had no internal sense of ability or potential."[7] The metaphor has been used positively with students to celebrate their individuality (and teamwork).[8]

Following Fight Club, the terms "special snowflake" and "special snowflake syndrome" were applied to individuals with a negative connotation.[9][10] Such terminology refers to people who believe their status as a unique individuals means they are destined for great success, or deserve a special career, with abundant praise and admiration.[11][12] According to Merriam-Webster, in the 2000s snowflake referred "mostly to millennials who were allegedly too convinced of their own status as special and unique people to be able (or bothered) to handle the normal trials and travails of regular adult life".[4]

The term "Generation Snowflake" or "Snowflake Generation" was popularized by Claire Fox's 2016 book I Find That Offensive!. The book discussed a 2015 student/faculty confrontation at Yale University between university students and faculty head of college, Nicholas A. Christakis that was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.[citation needed] The video captured a disagreement regarding Halloween costumes and the degree to which Yale University should intervene over costumes which may be perceived as cultural appropriation. Fox described the video as showing a: "screaming, almost hysterical mob of students" and that the backlash to the viral video led to the disparaging moniker "generation snowflake" for the students.[13][non-primary source needed]

The term "snowflake generation" was one of Collins English Dictionary's 2016 words of the year. Collins defines the term as "the young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations".[14]

The terms "generation snowflake" and "snowflake generation" are frequently used in reference to use of trigger warnings and safe spaces, or to describe young adults as anti-free speech, specifically in reference to a practice referred to as deplatforming.[15][16][17] It has also been used to refer to a reported increase in mental health issues among young adults.[18]

Following the referendum result in favour of Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the U.S., "generation snowflake" was often shortened to simply "snowflake" and became a politicized insu


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