Printable Version
Pronunciation: sn-fu Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A state of confusion (no plural). 2. An error, mistake, or mishap.

Notes: Many speakers think that words are often created from acronyms like today's, but acronyms that become actual words are rare and most have been created recently. Words like snafu, scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), and radar (radio detection and ranging) are exceptional among the derived words in the English language. Most acronyms are temporary coinages made from proper noun phrases, like NATO, NORAD, QUANGO, and are merely shorthand for the phrases they represent.

In Play: Today's word is little more than a funny substitute for mistake: "The romance of Larry Lovett and Lorry Lovelace resulted from a snafu when a friend gave Larry Lorry's address instead of her neighbor's by mistake." Here is an example honoring the source of today's word, "When the medics uncrated an oven instead of an autoclave at the field hospital, it became apparent a major snafu had occurred."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an acronym based on the phrase "Situation Normal—All Fouled Up" from the US military around 1941. The verb fouled is a euphemism for a stronger word I don't use in this series, but which begins with the same letter and is more common in the military than in Smoketown, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Goodword,

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