It's Murphy's Law!

The original version of Murphy's Law is:

"If there are two or more ways of doing something, and one of those ways can result in catastrophe, then someone will do it."

Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was one of the engineers on an experimental rocket programme undertaken by the U.S. Air Force in 1949 to test acceleration tolerances of humans (USAF project MX981). One experiment involved attaching a set of sixteen accelerometers to different parts of a subject's body.

There were two ways each sensor could be put in position, and one of the assistants managed to attach all sixteen of them the wrong way round. On discovering the error, Edward Murphy stated his original principle, and the test subject (Major John Stapp) related it to a press conference a few days later.

Within months 'Murphy's Law' had spread to the whole of the aerospace engineering world, and before so very long it became part of popular culture.

It's therefore common to hear English speakers anywhere saying:

"It's Murphy's law!"
"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong!"

Some of the more famous "extensions" of Murphy's Law are:

You'll always find something in the last place you look.

No matter how long or how hard you shop for something, after you've bought it,
you'll find it on sale elsewhere cheaper.

The other queue always moves faster.

Anything you try to fix will take you longer and cost you more than you thought.

When a broken appliance is demonstrated for the repairman, it'll work perfectly.

Everyone has a scheme for getting rich that will not work.

Everything good in life is either illegal, immoral or fattening.

Whoever has the gold makes the rules.

Never argue with a fool, people might not know the difference.

Explain these "extensions", giving an example of what is meant, and describe an occasion when just this sort of thing happened to you.

© Nigel J. Ross, 2002




English Lang.

Art Insights