I know the wiki origin puts SNAFU as appearing during WWII as the first in a long line of military slang, BUT, years ago I recollect reading in an electronics magazine, likely ‘Wireless World’ from 60’s-70’s (hence inclusion here), that this term was one of several similar acronyms which originated in US telegraphy around the time of the Iron Horse, Indian raids etc.
A telegraph operator, on arriving at the scene of a break, might find that the local American Indians had pulled down telegraph poles. ‘Situation Normal’ meant that the raiders had gone and ‘All Fouled Up’ referred to the state of the wire. The engineer on scene would hook up his telegraph set and report, via Morse, certain terse messages to indicate state of play. There were other related messages; though I don’t recall which they were.
This all makes some sense, as when the US joined in WWII there was a chronic shortage of trained telegraph operators and history records that retired operators (otherwise too old to meet draft requirements) were initially brought in to perform telegraphy duties and training on Navy ships. Working backwards these gentleman would have been present during the peak of US telegraphy operations and would have been steeped in the traditions of the service going back to its introduction in the mid 1800’s. Can anyone identify the provenance of this article? I think it is too old to have found its way into public domain via PDF. It paints a great story so please don’t tell me it was dated April 1st! More importantly it highlights a problem with google/wiki ‘knowledge’ as relates to topics where there exists little knowledge. Once the received wisdom finds its way onto the net, it becomes ‘truth’ even though it may be incorrect.
Any ideas anyone?