SNAFU, FUBAR and BOHICA: Deciphering Lake Berryessa’s Ancient Rock Sculpture of Steele Park

Prior to the 2008 demolition of Steele Park Resort, some budding artist created a patriotically-colorful rock sculpture on the shore of a cove at the resort. Although no one quite knew what the vivid letters meant, the sight was enjoyed by many as they spent their last summer at the lake before taking on the melancholy task of demolishing their mobile homes and leaving with only their memories. 

FUBOR edited-1

The Ancient Steele Park  Rock Sculpture

One day a Bureau of Reclamation representative apparently took umbrage at the letters and threw all the rocks into the water. But then they magically reappeared on the shore the next  day - perhaps rejected by the underwater elves.

Apparently sensing (they were actually confronted by concerned residents) that it was not environmentally-sound to randomly toss newly-painted rocks into the water, Reclamation sent a couple of workers with wheelbarrows to remove them instead. After manhandling two heavy loads of the vibrant blue R up the soft-silted hill, they gave up and returned on the Reclamation barge to eradicate the rest of the sculpture. The multi-hued rockpile was last seen sailing across Lake Berryessa to some unknown burial ground.

The Steele Park sculpture derives from a long line of historic military acronyms listed below. These descriptions are reproduced from publicly available information on the internet.


SNAFU, which stands for the sarcastic expression “situation normal - all f***ed up”, is a well-known example of military acronym slang. It means that the situation is bad, but that this is a normal state of affairs. The acronym is believed to have originated in the United States Marine Corps during World War II.

SUSFU, “situation unchanged - still f***ed up”, is closely related to SNAFU.

SNAFU and SUSFU were first recorded in American Notes and Queries in their September 1941 issue.

TARFU, “totally and royally f***ed up” or “things are really f***ed up”, was also used during World War II.

BOHICA, “bend over, here it comes again”, is an item of acronym slang which grew to regular use amongst the United States armed forces during the Vietnam War. It is used colloquially to indicate that an adverse situation is about to repeat itself, and that acquiescence is the wisest course of action. 

BOHICA BOR Pencil Sharpener

An alternative etymology relates the expression to the days of sail and avoiding being struck by the boom, which would swing around the mast due to shifts in wind or the vessel's course. Although it originated in the United States military forces, and is still commonly used by United States Air Force fighter crew chiefs, its usage has spread to civilian environments, used to describe unavoidable, unpleasant situations that have inconvenienced one before and are about to yet again.                       © Peter Kilkus 2020