If anything can go wrong, it will.
This page was reviewed on the PRN Radio Network's Daily Report, Wednesday 2-Apr-1997.
It probably wasn't the first aphorism to describe those seemingly immutable laws of the universe, but since its creation in the late 1940s (probably in the military, according to various sources), it's become the most common. Mention "Murphy's Law" to anyone today, and they'll nod in reluctant agreement.
Over the years, there have been many efforts to compile and categorize these sayings. A tip of the hat to Arthur Bloch, whose series of "Murphy's Law" books and calendars starting in 1977 helped popularize the genre; and to Paul Dickson, whose collections "The Official Rules" and "The New Official Rules" (Addison-Wesley) are possibly the definitive works on the subject.
I have borrowed from these, as well as from assorted scraps of paper in my files, to compile this list of the 101 greatest Murphy's Laws, along with corollaries in some cases. (If I'm not mistaken, copyright law says that only the specific compilation may be copyrighted; therefore, it's acceptable to borrow aphorisms from these books as long as I don't present them in the same form or order. Of course, Murphy will prove me wrong!)
Arthur Bloch's Web sites ...
Arthur M. Young (philosopher extraordinaire)
Metacrostics (word puzzles)
For a discussion of why things, as opposed to people, sometimes go wrong, take a look at Prof. Frank Lambert's discussion of the second law of thermodynamics.
To get to a specific category of laws, select one of the links below. Or feel free to simply page down and browse.
General | Computers | Other Appliances | Work | Meetings and Committees | People | Politics | Science | Travel and Traffic | Sports | Laws on Laws | Miscellaneous
If anything can go wrong, it will.
Corollaries (as outlined by Arthur Bloch, 1977):
- Nothing is as easy as it looks.
- Everything takes longer than you think.
- If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.
- If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a procedure can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way will promptly develop.
- Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
- Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.
- Every solution breeds new problems.
- It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
- Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.
- Mother Nature is a bitch.
O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law
Murphy was an optimist.
Quantization Revision of Murphy's Law
Everything goes wrong all at once.
The Unapplicable Law
Washing your car to make it rain doesn't work.
Rules of the Computer
The Unnamed Mimeo Sheet Laws
- It will not work the first time.
- It probably will not work on the second attempt.
- Immediately after you walk away from the printer, the paper will jam.
- If you fail to back up your disk, it will be ruined by the drive.
- All software contains a bug, which you will discover at the least opportune moment.
- Corollary: It's not a bug, it's an undocumented feature.
- Computers are not really smart. They're fast.
The Computer Programming Laws
- Any given program, when running, is obsolete.
- Any given program costs more and takes longer.
- If a program is useful, it will have to be changed.
- If a program is useless, it will have to be documented.
- Any given program will expand to fill all available memory.
- The value of a program is proportional to the weight of its output.
- Program complexity grows until it exceeds the capability of the programmer who must maintain it.
Farmer's Almanac Computer Maxim
To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.
Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology
There's always one more bug.
Other Laws of Appliances
Sattinger's Law (or Sattingler's Law)
It works better if you plug it in.
Cahn's Axiom (or Allen's Axiom)
When all else fails, read the instructions.
Eleventh Law for Naive Engineers
Interchangeable parts won't.
Third Law of Office Murphology
When a broken appliance is demonstrated for the repairman, it will work perfectly.
- The best shots happen immediately after the last frame is exposed.
- The other best shots are generally attempted through the lens cap.
- Any surviving best shots are ruined when someone inadvertently opens the darkroom door and all of the dark leaks out.
If it weren't for Edison, we'd be watching TV by candlelight.
Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
The Peter Principle
In any hierarchy, every individual tends to rise to his level of incompetence.
Corollary: Work is done by those individuals who have not yet risen to their level of incompetence.
In any organization, there will always be one person who knows what's going on. That person must be fired.
The Law of Institutions
The opulence of the front office decor varies inversely with the fundamental solvency of the firm.
Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it is not the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.
An expert is anyone from out of town.
Rules of Order (meetings, committees, etc.)
A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.
Swipple's Rule of Order
He who shouts loudest has the floor.
Parker's Rule of Parliamentary Procedure
A motion to adjourn is always in order.
Human Interaction Laws
Everybody should believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer.
Longfellow's Elevator Rules
- Face forward.
- Fold hands in front.
- Do not make eye contact.
- Watch the numbers.
- Don't talk to anyone you don't know.
- Stop talking with anyone you do know when anyone you don't know enters the elevator.
- Avoid brushing bodies.
Captain Penny's Law
You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool Mom.
The Rule of the Great
When someone you greatly admire and respect appears to be thinking deep thoughts, they probably are thinking about lunch.
The slowest checker is always at the express check-out lane.
Canada Bill Jones' Supplement
A Smith and Wesson beats four aces.
David Broder's Law
Anyone who wants the presidency enough that he will spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not to be trusted with the office.
John Dean's Law of D.C.
Washington is a much better place if you are asking questions rather than answering them.
Dirksen's Three Laws of Politics
- Get elected.
- Get re-elected.
- Don't get mad, get even.
Evans' Law of Political Perfidy
When our friends get into power, they aren't our friends anymore.
Galbraith's Law of Political Wisdom
Anyone who says he isn't going to resign, four times, definitely will.
Laws of Science
David Gerrold's Laws of Infernal Dynamics
- An object in motion will always be headed in the wrong direction.
- An object at rest will always be in the wrong place.
- The energy required to change either one of these states will always be more than you wish to expend, but never so much as to make the task totally impossible.
The Harvard Law
Under the most rigorously controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, volume, humidity, and other variables, the organism will do as it damn well pleases.
Fourth Law of Thermodynamics
If the probability of success is not almost one, it is damn near zero.
If an experiment works, you must be using the wrong equipment.
Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Rules of the Road
Bruce-Briggs' Law of Traffic
At any level of traffic, any delay is intolerable.
Miss Manners' Travel Distinction
There are two classes of travel in America: Steerage and Steerage with Free Drinks. You pay a great deal extra for the free drinks, of course.
Bill Geist's Basic Rule for Travel with Kids
Never in the same direction.
Just's Seventh Law of Traffic Behavior
The more decrepit the vehicle, the more maniacal the driver.
George Carlin's Driving Law
Everyone driving slower than you is an idiot. Everyone driving faster than you is a maniac.
Your favorite song always comes on the car radio when you reach your destination.
Oliver's Law of Location
No matter where you go, there you are.
Rules of the Game
Damon Runyon's Law
The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet.
An exciting play only happens when you're out buying a hot dog.
Murray's Rules of the Arena
- Nothing is ever so bad it can't be made worse by firing the coach.
- The wrong quarterback is the one that's in there.
- A free agent is anything but.
- Hockey is a game played by six good players and the home team.
- Whatever can go to New York, will.
Orwell's Bridge Law (Alan Truscott)
All hands are equally likely, but some are more equally likely than others.
The 10th Commandment of the Frisbee
The single most difficult move with a flying disc is to put it down.
Laws on Laws
The number of laws expands to fill the publishing space available.
Oaks' Third Principle of Lawmaking
Social legislation cannot repeal physical laws.
No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.
Justice always prevails ... three times out of seven.
Under any conditions, anywhere, whatever you are doing, there is some ordinance under which you can be booked.
There are only two laws:
- Someday you will die.
- If you read this, you are not dead yet.
Blanchard's Obituary Law
If you want your name spelled wrong, die.
Buckminster Fuller's Law of Cosmic Irreversibility
1 Pot T = 1 Pot P. 1 Pot P <> 1 Pot T.
Jimmy Buffett's Law of Sanity
If we weren't all crazy, we would go insane.
Thinly sliced cabbage.
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