Origin of FUBAR

I searched through Cecil’s columns and the boards, and the closest I could find were these threads:

GQ Thread for meaning of FUBAR (doesn’t discuss the origin of the word, though)

This Staff Report suggests that “Smokey Stover” a comic strip from the 1930’s, “may have influenced the formation” of FUBAR. I also read elsewhere that Walt Kelly’s Pogo strip may have used “Foobar” as early as 1938.

I’ve also read, in a few UseNet threads discussing Saving Private Ryan, that FUBAR may be a mispronunciation of the German word Furchtbar, which as far as I can tell means “terrible.” Presumably, if this is the case, then the acronym F.U.B.A.R. came after the word Fubar.

Finally, after reading through a few more UseNet threads, there were several World War II veterans claiming they had never heard the term FUBAR used during the war, and suggesting that it became military jargon sometime after WWII. I have no idea how reliable their recollections are, though.

So, can someone give me a definitive origin of this word/acronym?

I doubt there is one, as in most such cases. I did find this, which gives a bit more detail.link

I know that a related term, SNAFU, had integrated itself so far into Army parlance that by 1944 the U.S. created a “Team SNAFU” out of the stragglers trapped in the seige of Bastogne.

Just as internet chat has spawned I use the word advisedly such stuff as LOL, TTFN, ROFL, etc. so the military fascination for acronyms spurred the creation of more useful acronyms among the troops who had nearly all been dragged in from civilian life.

SNAFU pretty much kicked off the trend. However, just as IANAL has led to a whole host of IANA… spinoffs, and ROFL has given way to ROFLMAO, ROFLMAOAPMP and similar excesses, SNAFU led to quite a few derivations that were invented on the spot, few of which gained currency. I recall a WWII-era publication that had an entire page of these acronyms, most of which I am sure were only used once or twice in history by the 1940s era equivalent of our geeks.

It is entirely possible that the association of the FOO sound from Bill Holman’s works gave FUBAR an extra push for currency so that it lasted far longer than SNAFUATBHGACWTDAI, but the origin was, indeed, the prevalence of making acronyms, of which Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition was the appropriate intensifier for Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.

(I’ve been trying to find the book that listed them, but it may still be at my Mom’s house. Flexner’s amusing, but occasionally error-riddled I Hear America Talking provides Fucked Up Beyond Belief, Things Are Really Fucked Up, the afor-mentioned JANFU, and a couple of others.)

You know that I only just now realized while all those C programming examples used the variables **foo[b/] and bar?

I guess it now is clear why I’ve given up programming.

Because you can’t code, or because you didn’t know what the origin of ‘foo’ was?

The former, obviously. :slight_smile:

Is that like the ID-10-T error?

Uhh first instance I heard of the word FUBAR was in the movie Tango & Cash. He mentions it once and then later on in the film provides the definition “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition”. That came out in the 80s I think. Great action flick btw :slight_smile:

Er… I forgot to mention it was Kurt Russel (Cash) that mentions it.



Situation Normal, All Fucked Up And The Brass Haven’t Got A Clue What To Do About It

As I noted, most of the long variants were probably not used any more frequently than the dozens of variations of ROFLMA…

So the general consensus seems to be that the phrase is of military origin (American or British?).

Any comments on its connection to the German word Furchtbar, or should I just assume that Steven Spielberg (and Robert Rodat) got this one wrong in Saving Private Ryan?

I once was on a softball team called the FUBARS. After awhile, we got tired of explaining with the standard meaning, so we changed it to “Found Under Boulders And Rocks”.

FUBAR - The Movie - funny as hell