During my growing up years I recall my Dad referring to certain things as ‘snafu‘. I instinctively understood what he meant – often the article lying in pieces before him would provide a clue! But I only recently discovered the origins of this word.
Actually, it’s one of a pair of connected acronyms used by American soldiers during World War II.
Snafu = situation normally all fouled up.
That’s the polite version, the more vernacular variant has an alternative ‘f’ word! (I should point out that my Dad was not prone to swearing.)
Fubar = fouled up beyond all recognition.
I use these words (polite version, of course) to differentiate between problems that arise. As I see it, the difference is more than simply one of degree. Snafus are common events, and are likely to be resolved with a wee bit of effort. Indeed, they can sometimes resolve themselves without any direct intervention. Fubars, however, require lots of hard work, thinking, ingenuity and a considerable amount of resolve to rectify.
At work, I tend to avoid getting involved with snafus. By contrast, fubars require my direct attention.
(Intriguingly my version of the Oxford English Dictionary has an entry for snafu but not one for fubar. I wonder why? And while I’m in ‘wondering mode’, I suppose that all words are made up words, aren’t they?)