More early "Murphy-ish" citations (UNCLASSIFIED)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jan 8 19:46:07 UTC 2008

>Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
>Caveats: NONE
>I've mentally debated with myself about what makes a citation a
>precursor to Murphy's Law (and so far, I'm winning the debate  . . . ).
>In a formal paper or article, I'd be much more strict -- a precursor
>should be similar in wordage to "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong";
>it should be a statement about the general cussedness of the world and
>what a bitch Mother Nature is; and it should not describe how things
>were, or how an event went, but how things _are_ and _will be_.
>But in an informal post like this, I figure it's better to include
>something than leave it out, if there is any doubt one way or another.
>Plus, since the first one is about polar exploration, it seems related
>somehow to mountaineering, which also provided an example of the "Law".
>And the third one was interesting to me because it provided another name
>for the "Law" (we now have Murphy's Law, Fourth Law of Thermodynamics,
>and the Law of Inverse Probabilities -- am I missing any others?)

That third one is perfect, except for postdating other serious
instantiations.  It was the first two (and the last) that I thought
allowed for non-proverbial use, although as you say the exploration
connection is intriguing.  I wonder if there are other cites of the
LIP, given that Stasheff & Bretz here seem to presuppose familiarity
with it (although that could be for stylistic effect).


>  > -----Original Message-----
>>  From: American Dialect Society
>>  [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Laurence Horn
>>  Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 12:51 PM
>>  Subject: Re: More early "Murphy-ish" citations (UNCLASSIFIED)
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  -----------------------
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>  Subject:      Re: More early "Murphy-ish" citations (UNCLASSIFIED)
>>  --------------------------------------------------------------
>>  -----------------
>>  I think we need to distinguish the episodic ones (like the
>>  first two and the last) from the timeless/proverbial ones
>>  (most of the others), with only the latter being true
>>  precursors of Murphy.  It's conceivable that the episodic
>  > ones were intended to allude to a pre-existing proverb or
>>  dictum, but it's far from certain.
>>  LH
>>  At 11:33 AM -0600 1/8/08, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC wrote:
>>  >Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
>>  >Caveats: NONE
>>  >
>>  >
>>  >
>>  >_The Friendly Arctic: The Story of Five Years in Polar Regions_ By
>>  >Vilhjalmur Stefansson  NY: MacMillan 1921. page 594
>>  >
>  > >"It seemed, too, that everything that could possibly go wrong did go
>>  >wrong and that every chance was decicded against us." [Google books
>>  >full view]
>>  >
>>  >_Inside Europe_ By John Gunther NY: Harper, 1938 p. 330 "Everything
>>  >that could possibly go wrong went wrong."  [Goggle Books
>>  Snippet View
>>  >-- check against hard copy]
>>  >
>>  >_The Television Program: Its Direction and Production_ By Edward
>>  >Stasheff, Rudy Bretz New York: Hill and Wang, 1962 p. 175
>>  "By the Law
>>  >of Inverse Probabilities, which states that anything that
>>  can possibly
>>  >go wrong will, . . ." [Goggle Books Snippet View -- check
>>  against hard
>>  >copy]
>>  >
>>  >_The Butcher; the ascent of Yerupaja_ by John Sack;  New York:
>>  >Rinehart, 1952.  p. 13 "It goes like this: anything that can
>>  possibly
>>  >go wrong, does. "
>>  >[Goggle Books Snippet View -- check against hard copy.  The phrase
>>  >"possibly go wrong" appears 5 times in the book; most are
>>  not visible
>>  >with Google books]
>>  >
>>  >_The Sackbut_ v.1:6-9 (1920/21)p. 351
>>  >"If they can possibly go wrong you can be sure they will." [Goggle
>>  >Books Snippet View -- check against hard copy]
>>  >
>>  >
>>  >_Writing and Producing the Radio Play_ By Carl Alfred Buss [Thesis].
>>  >Madison, WI:  Univ of WI, 1933 p. 5.
>>  >"It always seems that on my busiest days everything that can
>  > possibly
>>  >go wrong does."  [Goggle Books Snippet View -- check against
>>  hard copy]
>>  >
>>  >_The Beloved Woman_ By Kathleen Thompson Norris.  Garden City, NY:
>>  >Doubleday, Page & Co., 1921.  p. 190
>>  >"She was alert, serious, authoritative; her manner expressed
>>  an anxious
>>  >certainty that everything that could possibly go wrong was
>>  about to do
>>  >so." [Google books full view]
>>  >Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
>>  >Caveats: NONE
>>  >
>>  >------------------------------------------------------------
>>  >The American Dialect Society -
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society -
>Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
>Caveats: NONE
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