SNAFU is an acronym meaning roughly, "things are in a mess — as usual". The most commonly accepted rendering is "Situation Normal: All Fucked Up". In computer jargon, it sometimes is intended to mean "Systems Neatly All Fucked Up". It is sometimes bowdlerized to "Situation Normal: All Fouled Up" or similar, in circumstances where profanity is discouraged or censored. In modern usage, "snafu" is often used as an interjection, as a shorthand for the sentiment expressed by the phrase. "Snafu" is also sometimes used as a noun or verb, referring to a situation that suddenly went awry, or the cause of the trouble. The acronym is believed to have originated in the US Army during World War II.
Date of origin
SNAFU, simply defined as "situation normal" and used in a military context, was first recorded in American Notes and Queries
in their September 1941 issue. Time magazine
used the term in their June 15, 1942 issue: "Last week U.S. citizens knew that gasoline rationing and rubber requisitioning were snafu." Most reference works, including the Random House Unabridged Dictionary
, supply an origin date of 1940
, generally attributing it to the U.S. Army. Rick Atkinson, in The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (The Liberation Trilogy)
ascribes the origin of SNAFU, FUBAR
and a bevy of others to cynical GI's ridiculing the Army's penchant for acronyms.
At least three songs from that era can be traced that either are titled "SNAFU" or feature "SNAFU" as part of discussion.
The Army produced training cartoons during WWII featuring a character called Private Snafu who always did the wrong thing.
- FIDO - Fuck It-Drive On
- FUBAR - Fucked Up Beyond All Repair/Recognition
- FUBB - Fucked Up Beyond Belief
- FUMTU - Fucked Up More Than Usual
- JANFU - Joint Army-Navy Fuck Up
- TARFU - Things Are Really Fucked Up
- SNAFUBAR - Situation Normal: All Fucked Up Beyond All Repair/Recognition
- FUBAB - Fucked Up Beyond All Belief
- SOL - Shit Out of Luck
- TAUFU - Totally And Utterly Fucked Up
- A Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, R. W. Burchfield, ed., Volume IV Se-Z, 1986.
- Hakim, Joy A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press.