[Ads-l] Murphy's Law 1943?

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Thu Dec 2 01:25:21 UTC 2021

I believe Stephen Goranson tracked Sabel down and it turned out that the "Murphy's law" reference was a later interpolation.  This was a red herring.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Baker, John <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM>
Sent: Wednesday, December 1, 2021 7:24 PM
Subject: Re: Murphy's Law 1943?

I’m not sure how this can be checked, unless the author’s family still has the original letters.  Sabel was born in 1915 or 1916 (he was 25 when he was drafted in April 1941, according to the publisher, Purdue University Press), so it seems likely that he is no longer with us.  Still, this was published by a university press and there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the passage to be falsified.

John Baker

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of dave at wilton.net
Sent: Wednesday, December 1, 2021 4:09 PM
Subject: Murphy's Law 1943?

External Email - Think Before You Click

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 - https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.americandialect.org%2F&data=04%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40YALE.EDU%7Cd87525ad460c4b89f70b08d9b52a284b%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C637740014935318836%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000&sdata=1PwkZPYLnwz1ZM9%2Bd9TAucOJ%2BXS4rtjMYdUAhG4oJfE%3D&reserved=0<https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.americandialect.org%2F&data=04%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40YALE.EDU%7Cd87525ad460c4b89f70b08d9b52a284b%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C637740014935328797%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000&sdata=eruGa2xkyPt0TCsB4stgtP8Z%2Bm%2BKBNuAWM4NW6eneg4%3D&reserved=0>

The American Dialect Society - https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.americandialect.org%2F&data=04%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40YALE.EDU%7Cd87525ad460c4b89f70b08d9b52a284b%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C637740014935328797%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000&sdata=eruGa2xkyPt0TCsB4stgtP8Z%2Bm%2BKBNuAWM4NW6eneg4%3D&reserved=0

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list