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Gary L. Wolfstone

Attorney at Law
Reviews "Saving Private Ryan" (Language)
Gary L. Wolfstone portrait
The battlefield slang "Foobar" or "Fubar" is mangled German from "Furchtbar"
Mr. Wolfstone is a student of language and offers the following explanation of the battlefield slang, fubar, from the popular film, Saving Private Ryan.
Fubar is slang (mangled German) for the word "Furchtbar" which means terrible or horrible -- Think of it as the opposite of "Wunderbar." Furcht means fear, literally translated, and the "bar" is added to make it an adverb or noun, as the case may be. Notice that "Wunderbar" translates literally into wonderful. By contrast, you should treat Furchtbar as an idiom and translate it to mean terrible or horrible.
By the time our troops landed at Omaha Beach, D-Day (June 6, 1944), the term fubar had undergone a pejoration. The soldiers in Saving Private Ryan were probably contemplating the pejorative, anglicized acronym "fubar" which they would translate as "Fu***d Up Beyond All Recognition."
Waging war has tended historically to blend the languages of the combatants. In 1066, when the Normans (obviously French speaking people) crossed the English Channel and invaded the British Isles, they ordered that all fires must be covered by 9:00 p.m. and the conquered townspeople must retire to their homes. The French verb for cover is "couvre" and the French noun for fire is "feu." Hence, the mangled French "couvre feu" became curfew.
Yes, the Duke of Wellington did defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo (1815), but shortly after the battle, the Duke was heard to say: "It was a damn near thing!"
A more recent example of battlefield slang (although not based on mangling the enemy's language) is, for instance, the word "Snafu." Snafu is an acronym for the battlefield expression "Situation Normal All Fu***d Up." Snafu was widely used in 'Nam and perhaps in earlier wars.
It comes as no surprise that the word "sabotage" arises out of conflict (although not really battlefield slang) since it stems from the workers' strikes in the Union of South Africa and the act of throwing their wooden shoes ("sabots") into the machines in order to halt production.
Another subtle use of languge (in the scholarly sense of the word) was observed in an earlier Steven Spielberg movie ~ the Jurassic Park sequel. Recall that the scientists used the cries of the baby Tyrannosaurus Rex to lure the maternal T-Rex back to the baby's cage. Language scholars have theorized that all language (human and nonhuman) may be traced back to the baby's "isolation cry" which would obviously be favored by Nature in evolution.