Murphy's Law and Edward A. Murphy

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Fri Dec 15 17:57:25 UTC 2000

--On Friday, December 15, 2000 10:06 am -0600 Gerald Cohen <gcohen at UMR.EDU>

>     Re: the origin Murphy's Law, Douglas Wilson today draws attention
> to Edward A. Murphy.  Barry Popik has already looked into the Edward
> A. Murphy matter in some detail and come up empty-handed in this
> regard [His research is very valuable though]. The existence of this
> Edward A. Murphy is evidently as  difficult to verify as the Dr.
> Condom who supposedly gave his name to "condom" and the pettifogging
> attorney Scheuster whose name is sometimes (e.g. Webster III) said to
> have provided the term "shyster."

I suspect that there was no original "Murphy".  The name (the most common
Irish surname) is used in many non-person-specific senses for things that
are stereotypically Irish (slang for 'potato', for 'stupid person').  Since
dumb stuff and luck are associated with the Irish, it seems natural that
the law (which probably originated before the name--it's known as 'sod's
law' in UK) would be associated with Irishness and thus named after a
generic Irishman.

At least that's how it seems to this Murphy.


M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

phone +44-(0)1273-678844
fax   +44-(0)1273-671320

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