Snasu (Situation normal: all screwed up) (1941 Aug 18) (early snafu variant)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 7 18:16:23 UTC 2009

I cannot help with information for Jonathan Lighter's fascinating
telegraphy lead, but I did find an early use of a snafu variant.

OED 2nd cites snafu in American Notes and Queries in the September
1941 issue. Time magazine contained an odd variant, snasu, a month
earlier in August. This acronym appears to be derived from a

Citation: 1941 Aug. 18, National Defense: Problem of Morale, Time magazine.

Another outfit used another word as response to almost any question:
Snasu ("Situation normal: all screwed up"). For the low state of Army
morale was merely brought into the open by the draft-extension bill.,9171,802126,00.html

Several months later Time switched to the term used today, snafu.

Citation: 1942 Jun 15, Snafu, Time magazine.

The Army has a laconic term for chronic befuddlement: snafu.*
* Situation normal; all fouled up.,9171,795802,00.html

It is commonplace to use a euphemistic explanation for snafu by
substituting "fouled" for "fucked". Sometimes the word "screwed" is
substituted for "fucked". Google Book Archive has a small number of
examples and I give one below. However, the acronym snafu is not
usually changed even when "screwed" is substituted for "fucked".
Perhaps Time decided initially to change the explanation and the
acronym. I do not know if this counts as an antedating.

Citation: 2007, From Huntsville to Hell: Ltc. MB Etheredge and the Men
of K Company 30th Inf. 3rd Div. in WW II by Guy Wendell Hogue,

The operative word for the military those days was, "Snafu." It meant,
"Situation normal, all screwed-up," in words somewhat more vulgar.


The American Dialect Society -

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