In my father’s day, SNAFU, situation normal all fucked up, was the expression of choice when describing truly idiotic bureaucratic messes.
I grew up listening to SNAFU, and its’ close cousin, FUBAR, fouled up beyond any repair, used liberally along with English, Spanish, and the occasional Hungarian curse words. The pungent terms got liberally sprinkled throughout the working language of my father and his compatriots.
I became familiar with their language from age nine because I worked with my father anytime I wasn’t in school.
When I volunteered for the Navy, I had an opportunity for further education in exciting acronyms, off-color terms, and descriptive language of a type only found among longshoremen and sailors. The one that has stayed with me is BOHEGA; bend over here, it comes again. This term addresses the longsuffering attitude among sailors that not being satisfied with sticking it to us once those in power make it a repetitive activity.
Now performers may have stage fright, others the jitters, but sailors know that the “Brass” has it in for them. Some Chief Petty officers seem to have a sixth sense for when things will go kaput, and our superiors will surprise us with a new SOP, standard operating procedure, that makes our lives FUBAR and all SNAFU’ed. It ain’t pretty.
Years afterward, While working as a practicing anthropologist, my early lessons saved me much agony. For about sixteen years, I labored in the government. I worked as a consultant to the government, on contracts funded by the government, and several times as a government employee. You could say that by then, I was jaded. So little they could do surprised me. Horrified me, yes, surprised me, no.
One final bit, and that’ll be a wrap. Someone once said that we should “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”
Think about this:
- Next time there is an obscure change in the tax law that makes life hard for you,
- The library keeps sending out overdue notices for a book you returned last year – and located for them on the library’s shelves.
- Or when the bank refuses to remove the overdraft fee on the transaction you did not make.