[Ads-l] Murphy's Law 1943?

dave@wilton.net dave at WILTON.NET
Wed Dec 1 21:08:41 UTC 2021

Has anyone investigated this alleged appearance of the name "Murphy's Law"? If it is genuine, it would be the earliest application of the name to the principle that I'm aware of, and it it would disprove the idea that Captain Murphy of Muroc Field lent his name to the principle in 1949. (I'm aware of the earlier statements of the principle that others on the list have found.)
Sabel, William O. Letter, 26 March 1943. Seeds of Hope: An Engineer’s World War II Letters. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 1999, 99–100.

"I keep thinking about what equipment I will need in the morning and what this squad and that squad will have to do. I feel if I am not personally watching every move the men make, something will go wrong and it usually does—Murphy's Law. They can't look ahead and see the consequences of their present actions."
The quotation is accurate as published, but this is a collection of WWII letters by the author and published by the author. I'm wary of such authorial/familial collections of letters and papers as one doesn't know how much later editorical intervention has occurred. Does the phrase "Murphy's Law" actually appear in the 1943 letter, or was it added for the 1999 publication of the book?
--Dave Wilton

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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