Fuckin’ It Up Old Skool

Wordle had quite the snafu with one of its recent words. Some might even call it a kerfuffle. Except kerfuffle is more than five letters.

I wish I were a daily Wordle kinda guy, because it’s a quick diversion that gets my brain going. Unfortunately, I have a tough time remembering to check it every day. So I love these “controversial “words, because when people whine on the socials about how hard it is or how it’s not a real word, I interpret it as “Oh right, let’s to Wordle.”

A few of those recent “come on back now, y’all” words have legitimately been tough. Circa was a little annoying, but once I tried parch, I knew it probably ended with an -rca, and there ain’t a lot of words that do that. Kayak also could go take a flying leap. The only thing worse than two letters being repeated is a y that is neither the first or last letter of a word. But again, once you realize it isn’t the first or last letter, there aren’t many options left. I might go over par, but no way am I holing this one out.

The par reference comes sports writer, Joe Posnanski, and it was one of those analogies that, as soon as I heard it, fit exactly with the experience. Wordle is always a par four. If you get it in three, it feels like a birdie. If it takes you five, you’re frustrated, and by the time you’re on your double bogey shot, you’re bearing down like nobody’s business,ready to throw shit against the wall if you miss one more goddamn time.

The golf analogy goes further, because if your first word is all gray, it’s like you’re off the fairway or in a sand trap, and it this point the best you’re likely to do is par and that will feel like an accomplishment. Similarly, you might get on the green (three or four letters correct) on the first shot, only to miss three putts in a row. Progressing from snack to shack to slack feels exactly ike missing a slew of five-foot putts. Or maybe you’ll try “lunch,” knowing it isn’t the answer but hoping it’ll tell you if that second letter is n, h, or l, and you can’t tell me that’s not the same as intentionally short-putting.

The recent word I found easily enough, but that sent some people apoplectic, was snafu. Not sure why people were complaining. Most people gotta be trying the first three letters pretty early in whatever progression they’re going through, right? Pretty sure I birdied it, because it’s a quick progression from story (my usual first words) to snafu. I assume I went story to sneak (one of the reasons I go with story is because there are a lot of -ea- words to zero in on vowels after I have an idea of a consonant or two), and once I know it starts with an sn- and has an “a” either third or (unikely) last, I’m in a very finite world. And thanks to the reminder that people were passive aggressively whining about the word, I knew it was likely to be an obscure word. 

But come on, people, snafu is no “parer.” 

What do you mean it’s not a word? 

WTF is an acronym?

Yeah, I’ll admit it. This history teacher had no clue of this particular word started as a World War II acronym. I should’ve recognized it by that rather suspicious “FU” at the end. But somehow, it’s morphed into a standard word, as opposed to its “FU” brother, fubar.

This sent me down the rabbit hole of other words that showed up around snafu and fubar, trying to figure out which ones originated specifically from the war experiences and which just happened to show up at the time. Some of them are obvious: decompression, draft board, and dry run, for example. 

Others, it’s guesswork. “Biological clock” first showed up in 1941. Is that because men and women were pushing forward certain activities before shipping off to war? Like gee, if one of us isn’t likely to make it to 25 to “get married,” let’s put the biological clock before the horse. 

Centerfold also appeared for the first time in 1941, as well, because the men’s biological clock kept ticking after they left the homeland, too. Fellate, as well, for those not willing to let the biological clock tick all the way to fruition. 

Drag queen also first appeared in 1941. Although, according to Fox News, those didn’t exist before your local library started hosting them.

Holy shit, golden shower first appeared in 1942? And yeah, it has the same meaning. That means my grandpa knew about… My grandma was aware of… 

Quickly moving on!

One less scandalus examples that probably fit closer to the fubarness of it all: Conference Call first appeared in 1941. Hopefully they were a little more worthwhile back then, because defeating the Nazis is probably a better use of “No sorry, you go ahead,” than meeting quarter three quotas. But now I can’t get past imagining Winston Churchill saying, “Hello? Is this me?”

Fubar means Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. Eighty years later, even if you don’t know the acronym, there’s still a general understanding of when something is fubarred. To be honest, I didn’t know the “Beyond All Recognition” part for at least a decade after I first encountered the word in Saving Private Ryan. Of course, in the movie, they don’t explain the acronym, but once you figure out the context of a situation that falls apart, then the FU becomes pretty obvious. It helps that it’s at the beginning of the word, not the end, making it such an odd sounding word that as soon as you hear it, you know it can’t be naturally occurring. 

Although maybe the reason fubar sounds funnier than snafu is that we encounter it less often. One doesn’t enounter many fubarred activities, and one we do, we’re hardly in the mood to bust out a funny-sounding acronym from when great-grandpa was fighting Nazis. 

Snafus happen more often, so the word has become normalized. Unless you’re a semantic asshole whining about Wordle.

The reason snafus happen more often is the very definition of the word. The first two letters, I’ve learned in my Golden Shower Rabbit Hole (great name for a band!) since the Wordle snafu, stand for “Situation Normal.” The rest of it, you can probably guess, stands for “All Fucked Up.”

Except I don’t think that’s how we’re using snafu these days. When I encounter a snafu, it’s a minor hiccup or inconvenience, a bump on the road. It might be “all fucked up,” but it’s preventing “situation normal.” Given my understanding of the average G.I.’s interaction with upper brass, and my own existence as an inconsequential cog in a huge government bureaucracy with at least as many forms and regulations as it has employees, I read the the acronym as a shoulder shrug when having to deal with the convoluted bullshit of requisitions and retainders and student success scores and why the hell aren’t we going to attack the Germans at the weak part of their line?

The education world is filled with “Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.” For instance, at my school, we teach on a block schedule, so I teach a different batch of students, sometimes a different subject altogether, between first semester and second semester. This year, I taught two senior classes all year, starting over with a second batch of students in January. In the fall, both of these classes started with over forty students. First period had forty-two, fourth period, forty-one. This term, those classes have eleven and ninenteen students. Many are taking it for the second time after failing (sometimes with me) first term and, wouldn’t you know it, those students have a tendency to not show up for school. So in practice, my first period class regularly has four students, while fourth period has about ten. 

Needless to say, it’s not easy to teach the same content to one class of forty and another class of four. While most teachers incessantly whine about large class sizes, I’ll actually take forty over four any day. Except for the grading day. With forty, I can get conversations going. At the very least, I’ll get an eye contact or two. My class of four, naturally, sit on opposite sides of the room, all the way in the back, so I don’t even know where to face while I’m talking. And that simulation where they’re buying and selling pearls or handshakes from each other? How about y’all just do some vocab today instead.

There appears to be some method behind this scheduling madness, in that our counselors and administration decided to frontload seniors before senioritis kicks in. My economics class is one of only two classes they need to graduate, so give it to them first term. Then, if worse comes to worst, a student can fail in the fall and have one more chance. Provided they show up. 

Entirely logical reasoning. If only it had been communicated to us. Instead, our instrustions were to spread our twelve classes out equitably across the schedule. So we put six classes in fall and six in spring. Had we known all six of those fall classes would be at or above forty and all those in the spring below twenty, we probably would’ve split them eight and four. 

Now, as we’re making plans for next year, we’re taking it upon ourselves to put more senior classes in the fall than the spring. Want to guess how full those spring classes are going to be now? I’ll give you a hint. It’ll be situation normal. 

Another example: My district promoted my principal to the district office six weeks before our accreditation review, leaving an interim principal to answer questions about what the school has been doing for the past five years and what it’s planning to do for the next five. 

They also promoted our registrar to the district office. Or maybe she retired. Not sure, all I know is we had a registrar back at the beginning of the year, and now we don’t. Because they didn’t replace her. Instead, they just put a registrar at another high school in charge of tracking grades at two high schools. She’s never set foot on our campus, she just emails us nastygrams about when grades are due.

Those grade, by the way, are due at the same time this year as they were last year, even though the state of California forced us to move the time of our school day one hour later. So now our grades are literally due a half hour before school ends. But don’t forget we’re expected to teach and assess all the way to the end bell. 

But again, these aren’t speedbumps, temporary setbacks, nor sticks in the spokes of progress. They’re how things are run, expected day in and day out. A feature, not a bug. 

In short, they are nat snafus.

They’re Situation Normal.

All Fucked Up.