SNAFU is an acronym that stands for situation normal: all fucked up. It is sometimes bowdlerized to situation normal all fouled up or similar. In simple terms, it means that the normal situation is in a bad state, as it always is, therefore nothing unexpected. It's usually used in jest, or as a sign of frustration. The acronym is believed to have originated in the US Army during World War II.
In modern usage, snafu is sometimes used as an interjection. Snafu also sometimes refers to a bad situation, mistake, or cause of trouble. For example, in 2005, The New York Times published an article titled "Hospital Staff Cutback Blamed for Test Result Snafu".
As used in a military context, "SNAFU" 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 1940-1944, generally attributing it to the U.S. Army. Rick Atkinson ascribes the origin of SNAFU, FUBAR, and a bevy of other terms to cynical GIs ridiculing the Army's penchant for acronyms. Proprietary variants of the phrase are also attributed to two of the primary military services of the time. The Navy version went: "Situation normal; Army fucked up", while the Army retort was "Some Navy asshole fucked up".
The attribution of "SNAFU" to the American military is not universally accepted. It has also been attributed to the British.
In popular culture
At least three songs from that era can be traced that either are titled "SNAFU" or feature "SNAFU" as part of discussion including:
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