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Origins of the Name of “Murphy’s Law”

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Mark from Richland Center, Wisconsin, wonders about the origin of the expression Murphy’s Law, which is often rendered as Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The concept has been around for years, but researchers Fred Shapiro, Stephen Goranson, and Bill Mullins of the American Dialect Society have disproved all the common stories about the origin of the term itself. An interview with mathematician and physicist Howard Percy “Bob” Robertson suggests that the name may have originated with a joking reference to Newton’s Laws of Thermodynamics. One variant on Murphy’s Law proposed in 1992 by an Australian editor reads in part, “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.” It’s called Muphry’s Law. This is part of a complete episode.

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