The Jacana Library




Applied Murphology

Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.
    Corollary: It can.

The Extended Murphy’s Law: If a series of events can go wrong, it will do so in the worst possible sequence.

Silberman’s Paradox: If Murphy's Law can go wrong, it will.

Gattuso’s Extension of Murphy’s Law: Nothing is ever so bad that it can't get worse.

Knagg’s Derivative of Murphy’s Law: The more complicated and grandiose the plan, the greater the chance of a screw-up.

Mrs. Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong it will go wrong when Mr. Murphy is out of town.

Given a conflict, Murphy’s Law supersedes Newton’s.

Ouzman’s Opinion: The higher up the organization, the fewer people appreciate Murphy's Law.

Murphy’s Law only fails when you try to demonstrate it.


O’Toole’s Commentary: Murphy was an optimist.



Abrams's Advice: When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.


Accuracy, Rule Of: When working toward the solution of a problem, it always helps if you know the answer.
    Corollary: Provided, of course, that you know there is a problem.

Air Travel, The First Law Of: When the plane you are on is late, the plane you want to transfer to is on time.

Akvol's Second Law of the Corporation: Any action for which there is no logical explanation will be deemed "company policy"

Alinsky’s Rule For Radicals: Those who are most moral are furthest from the problem.

Allen's Axiom: When all else fails, follow instructions.

Allen's Dogma: The lion and the calf shall lie down together, but the calf won't get much sleep.

Allen’s Law: Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.

Allen's Law of Civilization: It is better for civilization to be going down the drain than to be coming up it.


Allen's Motto: I'd rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy.

Anal Observation, The: If you go to bed with an itchy ass, you wake up with smelly fingers.

Anthony's Law of Force: Don't force it, get a larger hammer.


Baker's Byroad: When you are over the hill, you pick up speed.

Bath Theorem: When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone rings.

Beers Law of Reciprocating Systems Dynamics: Some mistakes are just too much fun to make only once.

Benedict’s Principle: Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

Billings's Law: Live within your income, even if you have to borrow to do so.

Bocklage’s Law: He who laughs last probably didn't get the joke.

Boehm's 1st Law of Assistance: The correct advice to give is the advice desired.

Boehm's 2nd Law of Assistance: Help a man when he is in trouble and he will remember you when he is in trouble again.

Boling's Postulate: If you're feeling good, don't worry. You'll get over it.


Bombeck's Rule of Medicine: Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.

Boob’s Law: You always find something the last place you look.

Burke’s Rule: Never create a problem for which you do not have the answer:
    Corollary: Create problems for which only you have the answer.

Cahn's Axiom: When all else fails, read the instructions.


Canada Bill Jones's Supplement: A Smith and Wesson beats four aces.


Cannon's Cogent Comment: The leak in the roof is never in the same location as the drip.

Carson’s Law: It's better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick.

Clarke’s 3rd Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Clopton’s Law: For every credibility gap there is a gullibility fill.

Close Encounters, Law Of: The probability of meeting someone you know increases when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.

Coffee, Law of: As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something, which will last until the coffee is cold.

Cole’s Law: Thinly sliced cabbage.

Colson’s Law: When you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.

Conway’s Law: In any organization there will always be one person who knows what is going on. This person must be fired.

Courtois's Rule: If people listened to themselves more often, they'd talk less.


Dave's Law of Advice: Those with the best advice offer no advice.


Dave's Rule of Street Survival: Speak softly and own a big, mean Doberman.

De la Lastra's Law: After the last of 64 mounting screws has been removed from an access cover, it will be discovered that the wrong access cover has been opened.

De la Lastra's Corollary: After the wrong access cover has been re-secured by 64 mounting screws, it will be discovered that the gasket has been omitted.

Dewlap’s Laws of Physics:
    1. Fact is solidified opinion.
    2. Facts may weaken under extreme heat and pressure.
    3. Truth is elastic.

Dolly Parton's Principle: The bigger they are, the harder it is to see your shoes.

Don’s Law: The phone will ring as soon as you sit on the pot.

Douglas's Law of Practical Aeronautics: When the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the plane, the plane will fly.

Drazen’s Law of Restitution: The time it takes to rectify a situation is inversely proportional to the time it took to do the damage.
    Example 1: It takes longer to glue a vase together than to break one.
    Example 2: It takes longer to lose ‘X’ number of pounds than to gain ‘X’ number of pounds.

Drew’s Law of Professional Practice: The client who pays the least complains the most.

Durcharm’s Axiom: If one views his problem closely enough, he will recognize himself as part of the problem.

Ducharme’s Precept: Opportunity always knocks at the least opportune moment.

Ehrmann’s Commentary: Things will get worse before they will get better. Who said things would get better?

'Enough Already' Law, The: The more you run over a dead cat, the flatter it gets.

Etorre’s Observation: The other line moves faster.
    O’Brien’s Variation on Etorre’s Observation: If you change lines, the one you just left will start to move faster than the one you are now in.
    Kenton’s Corollary: Switching back screws up both lines and makes everybody angry.

Evans’ and Bjorn’s Law: No matter what goes wrong, there is always some idiot who knew it would.

Fagin’s Rule on Past Prediction: Hindsight is an exact science.

Farber's Fourth Law: Necessity is the mother of strange bedfellows.

Farnsdick's Corollary: After things have gone from bad to worse, the cycle will repeat itself.

Fergusson’s Precept: A crisis is when you can’t say “let’s forget the whole thing.”

Finagle's 1st Law: If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.

Finagle's 2nd Law: No matter what the experiment's result, there will always be someone eager to:
    (a) misinterpret it, or
    (b) fake it, or
    (c) believe it supports his own pet theory.

Finagle's 3rd Law: In any collection of data, the figure most obviously correct, beyond all need of checking, is the mistake.

Finagle's 4th Law: Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve matters only makes things worse.

Finagle's Laws of Information:
    1. The information you have is not what you want.
    2. The information you want is not what you need.
    3. The information you need is not what you can obtain.
    4. The information you can obtain costs more than you want to pay.


Ford Pinto Rule: Never buy a car that has a wick.


Franklin's Observation: He that lives upon Hope dies farting.


Freeman's Law: Nothing is so simple it cannot be misunderstood.


Frisch's Law: You cannot have a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.

Gall’s Fifteenth Law of Systemantics: A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.

Gerrold's Law: A little ignorance can go a long way.


Gerrold's Laws of Infernal Dynamics:
    1. An object in motion will be heading in the wrong direction.
    2. An object at rest will be in the wrong place.

Getty's Reminder: The meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights.

Glum’s Law of Utility: If nobody uses it, there's a reason.

Glyme’s Formula for Success: The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.

Golden Rule, The: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

Goldwyn’s Law of Contracts: A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Good’s Rule for Dealing with Bureaucracies: When Government bureaucratic remedies do not match your problem, you modify the problem, not the remedy.

Gourd’s Axiom: A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.

Grandma Soderquist's Conclusion: A chicken doesn't stop scratching just because the worms are scarce.


Great, Rule Of The: When someone you greatly admire and respect appears to be thinking deep thoughts, they are probably thinking about lunch.

Green’s Law of Debate: Anything is possible if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Gumperson's Law: The probability of anything happening is in inverse ratio to its desirability.

Hacker's Law: The belief that enhanced understanding will necessarily stir a nation or an organization to action is one of mankind's oldest illusions.


Haldane's Law: The Universe is not only queerer than we imagine, it is queerer than we CAN imagine.

Halgren’s Solution: When in trouble, obfuscate.

Hartley's Second Law: Never go to bed with anybody crazier than you are.


Harver's Law: A drunken man's words are a sober man's thoughts.

Hellrung’s Law: If you wait, it will go away.
    Shavelson’s Extension: ....having done it's damage.
    Grelb’s Addition: ....If it was bad, It'll be back.

Horngren’s Observation: Among economists, the real world is often a special case.

Howe’s Law: Every man has a scheme that will not work.

Hunt’s Law: Every great idea has a disadvantage equal to or exceeding the greatness of the idea.

Hutchinson’s Law: If a situation requires undivided attention, it will occur simultaneously with a compelling distraction.

Intelligent Tinkering, First Rule Of: Save all the parts.

Jake's Law: Anything hit with a big enough hammer will fall apart.


John's Axiom: When your opponent is down, kick him.


Johnson's First Law of Auto Repair: Any tool dropped while repairing an automobile will roll under the car to the vehicle's exact geographic centre.


Johnson-Laird's Law: Toothache tends to start on Saturday night.

Jones’ Observation: Friends come and go but enemies accumulate.

Jones's Principle: Needs are a function of what other people have.


Kafka's Law: In the fight between you and the world, back the world.

Katz’s Law: Men and women will act rationally when all other possibilities have been exhausted.

Kitman's Law: On the TV screen, pure drivel tends to drive off ordinary drivel.

Klipstein’s Lament: All warranty and guarantee clauses are rendered void on payment of the invoice.

Korman's Conclusion: The trouble with resisting temptation is that it may never come your way again.

Kushner’s Law: The chances of anybody doing anything are inversely proportional to the number of other people who are in a position to do it instead.

Laboratory Work, First Law Of: Hot glass looks exactly the same as cold glass.

Laboratory Workers, Ground Rule For: When you do not know what you are doing, do it neatly.

Langsam’s Law: Everything depends.

Laura's Law: No child throws up in the bathroom.

Lazlo's Chinese Relativity Axiom: No matter how great your triumphs or how tragic your defeats - approximately four billion Chinese couldn't give a shit.

Letter, Law Of The: The best way to inspire fresh thoughts is to seal the letter.

Levinson’s Second Law: Insanity is hereditary - you can get it from your children.

Lieberman’s Law: Everybody lies; but it doesn’t matter, since nobody listens.

Life’s Highway, Law Of: If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

Location, Law Of: No matter where you go, there you are.

Lockers, Law Of: If there are only two people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

Loftus’ Fifth Law of Management: Some people manage by the book, even though they don’t know who wrote the book or even what book.

Loftus’ Theory on Personnel Recruitment: Personnel recruitment is a triumph of hope over experience.

Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology: There's always one more bug.

Luposchainsky’s Hurry-Up-And-Wait Principle:
    1. If you’re early, it’ll be cancelled
    2. If you knock yourself out to be on time, you will have to wait.
    3. If you are late, you will be too late.

Lyall's Fundamental Observation: The most important leg of a three legged stool is the one that's missing.

Lyon's Law of Hesitation: He who hesitates is last.

MacDonalds Second Law: Consultants are mystical people who ask a company for a number and then give it back to them.

Maier’s Law: If facts do not conform to theory, they must be disposed of.

Management, The First Myth Of: It exists.

Manly's Maxim: Logic is the systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.

Marques' Observation: Love is a matter of chemistry. Sex is a matter of physics.

Mars’ Rule: An expert is anyone from out of town.

Marshall's Generalized Iceberg Theorem: Seven-eighths of everything can't be seen.

Maryann’s Law: You can always find what you are not looking for.

Matz’s Maxim: A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

Mechanical Repair, Law Of: After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch.

Merkin’s Maxim: When in doubt, predict that the trend will continue.

Merrill's First Corollary: There are no winners in life; only survivors.


Miller's Law: You can't tell how deep a puddle is until you step into it.

Modern Science, Handy Guide To:
    1. If it’s green or wriggles, it’s biology.
    2. If it stinks, it’s chemistry.
    3. If it doesn’t work, it’s physics.

Morley's Conclusion: No man is lonely while eating spaghetti.


Nations, Law Of: In an underdeveloped country, don't drink the water; in a developed country, don't breathe the air.

Non-Reciprocal Law of Expectations:
    (a) Negative expectations yield negative results.
    (b) Positive expectations yield negative results.

Ockham’s Razor: The theories most likely to prove true are those shorn of unnecessary embellishments.

Office Murphology, Fifth Corollary Of: Vital papers will demonstrate their vitality by spontaneously moving from where you left them to where you can’t find them.

Ogden’s Law: The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up.

Olum's Observation: If God had intended us to go around naked, He would have made us that way.

Osborne’s Observation: Mother Nature is a Bitch.

Paper Principle: Paper is always strongest at the perforation.

Parker's Principle: An ounce of image is worth a pound of performance.

Parkinson's Law of Delay: Delay is the deadliest form of denial.


Patton's Law: A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

Paul’s Law: You can’t fall off the floor.

Perelman's Point: There is nothing like a good painstaking survey full of decimal points and guarded generalizations to put a glaze like a Ming vase on your eyeball.

Perversity of Nature, Law Of: You cannot successfully determine in advance which side of the bread to butter.

Pfeifer’s Principle: Never make a decision you can get someone else to make.

Phases of a Project:
    1. Exultation.
    2. Disenchantment.
    3. Confusion.
    4. Search for the Guilty.
    5. Punishment of the Innocent.
    6. Distinction for the Uninvolved.


Phone Booth Rule, The: A lone dime always gets the number nearly right.

Photographer’s Laws:
    1. The best shots happen immediately after the last frame is exposed.
    2. The other best shots are generally attempted through the lens cap.
    3. Any surviving best shots are ruined when someone inadvertently opens the darkroom door and all the dark leaks out.

Pierson's Law: If you're coasting, you're going downhill.


Pipe, Axiom Of The: A pipe gives a wise man time to think and a fool something to stick in his mouth.


Plotnick's Law: The time of departure will be delayed by the square of the number of people involved.


Possibility, Law Of: If it happens, it must be possible.

Pournelle's Law of Costs and Schedules: Everything costs more and takes longer.

Predictive Action, Law Of: The second most powerful phrase in the world is "Watch this!" The most powerful phrase is "Oh yeah? Watch this!"


Price's Law of Science: Scientists who dislike the restraints of highly organized research like to remark that a truly great research worker needs only three pieces of equipment - a pencil, a piece of paper, and a brain. But they quote this maxim more often at academic banquets than at budget hearings.

Probability, Law Of: The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

Probable Dispersion, Law Of: Whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.

Professor Block’s Motto: Forgive and remember.

Prudhomme's Law of Window Cleaning: It's always on the other side.

Queue Principle, The: The longer you wait in line, the greater the likelihood that you are standing in the wrong queue.

Ralph’s Observation: It is a mistake to allow any mechanical object to realise that you are in a hurry.

Research, Murphy's Law Of: Enough research will tend to support whatever theory.

Result, Law Of The: When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will.

Revelation, Law Of: The hidden flaw never remains hidden for long.

Rotto’s Revelation: No matter how hard you try, you cannot push a string.

Rune’s Law: If you don’t care where you are, you ain’t lost.

Ryan's Law: Make three correct guesses consecutively and you will establish yourself as an expert.

Sattinger’s Law: It works better if you plug it in.

Saunders's Discovery: Laziness is the mother of nine inventions out of ten.

Sausage Principle, The: People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either one being made.

Schenk's First Principle of Industrial Market Economics: Good salesmen and good repairmen will never go hungry.

Schmidt’s Law: If you fiddle with a thing long enough, it will break.

Scott’s Law of Junk: Junk expands to fill the space available for it and then by a further 10%.

Sean's Law of the 4th Dimension: Any tool placed on the workbench will disappear and will only reappear when a replacement has been obtained.

Segal’s Law: A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.

Sevareid's Law: The chief cause of problems is solutions.

Shirley’s Law: Most people deserve each other.

Shooting Oneself In The Foot, Company Policy On:
    1. Place foot in mouth.
    2. Insert head into anus.
    3. Rest gun muzzle in navel.
    4. Pull trigger.

Simmon's Law: The desire for racial integration increases with the square of the distance from the actual event.

Skinner’s Constant: That quantity which, when multiplied by, divided by, added to, or subtracted from the answer you get, gives you the answer you should have obtained. (Also known as Flannagan's Finagling Factor)

Socio-Genetics, First Law Of: Celibacy is not hereditary.

Sod’s Law: When an error has been detected and corrected, it will be found to have been correct in the first place.

Steele's Philosophy: Everyone should believe in something - I believe I'll have another drink.

Stewart's Law of Retroaction: It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Stock's Observation: You no sooner get your head above water than someone pulls your flippers off.


Sturgeon's Law: Ninety percent of EVERYTHING is crud.

Sueker's Note: If you need n items of anything, they will have n - 1 in stock.

Superstition, Law Of: It's bad luck to be superstititious.

Telephone, Law Of The: When you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal.

Terman's Law of Innovation: If you want a track team to win the high jump you find one person who can jump seven feet, not seven people who can jump one foot.

Thal’s Law: For every vision there is an equal and opposite revision.

Thermodynamics, Murphy's Law Of: Things get worse under pressure.

Thoreau's Principle: If you see a man approaching you with the obvious intention of doing you good, you should run for your life.

Three Greatest Lies According to Playboy:
     1. The check's in the mail.
     2. Anticipation is half the fun.
     3. I promise I won't come in your mouth.
         Hare's Additional Lie:
     This will hurt me more than it hurts you.
         Lowry's Additional Lie:
     I've never done this before.

Thumb’s Second Postulate: An easily understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.

Titanic Coincidence, The: Most accidents in well-designed systems involve two or more events of low probability occurring in the worst possible combination.

Truman’s Law: If you can’t convince them, confuse them.

Twain's Rule: Only kings, editors, and people with tapeworm have the right to use the editorial "we".


Umbrella Law, The: You will need three umbrellas: one to leave at the office, one to leave at home, and one to leave on the train.


Way Out, Rule Of The: Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.

Weber’s Definition: An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing.

Weiler’s Law: Nothing is impossible for the man who does not have to do it himself.

Wethern’s Law: Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.

Whistler’s Law: You never know who’s right, but you always know who’s in charge.

Witten's Law: Whenever you cut your fingernails, you will find a stubborn booger in your nostril.

Workshop Principles, Four:
    1. The one wrench or drill bit you need will be the one missing from the tool box.
    2. Most projects require three hands.
    3. Leftover nuts never match leftover bolts.
    4. The more carefully you plan a project, the more confusion there is when something goes wrong.

Veliland’s Law of Experimentation:
    1. If reproducibility may be a problem, conduct the test only once.
    2. If a straight line fit is required, obtain only two data points.

Watergate Principle, The: Government corruption is always reported in the past tense.

Zymurgy's Law of Evolving Systems Dynamics: Once you open a can of worms, the only way to put them back is to use a bigger can.

Zymurgy's Law of Volunteer Labour: People are always available for work in the past tense.



If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.


Any attempt to print Murphy's laws will jam the printer.


Every solution breeds new problems.

If ever you see me standing in a queue at the railway booking office, join the other one; because there’ll be a chap at the front of mine who’s trying to send a rhinoceros to Tokyo.

Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.

Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.


If mathematically you end up with the incorrect answer, try multiplying by the page number.

If you say something, and stake your reputation on it, you will lose your reputation.

If you are given an open-book exam, you will forget your book.

If you are given a take-home test, you will forget where you live.

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.


Give all orders verbally. Never write anything down that might go into a "Pearl Harbor File."

The opulence of the front office decor varies inversely with the fundamental solvency of the firm.

An unwatched pot boils immediately.


The attention span of a computer is only as long as its power cord.

The local density of mosquitoes is inversely proportional to your remaining repellent.

Never decide to buy something while listening to the salesman.


If you can't understand it, it is intuitively obvious.


Fill what's empty. Empty what's full. And scratch where it itches.


All things are possible except skiing through a revolving door.

Performance is directly affected by the perversity of inanimate objects.

The "think positive" leader tends to listen to his subordinates' premonitions only during the postmortems.

The crucial memorandum will be snared in the out-basket by the paper clip of the overlying correspondence and go to file.

Nothing ever goes away.

Everything is contagious.


All's well that ends.

Under the most rigorously controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, volume, humidity, and other variables the organism will do as it damn well pleases.

The theory is supported as long as the funds are.


After all is said and done, a hell of a lot more is said than done.


To spot the expert, pick the one who predicts the job will take the longest and cost the most.

When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.

There are two types of people: those who divide people into two types, and those who don't.

There are two kinds of adhesive tape: that which won't stay on and that which won't come off.

When in doubt, mumble.
When in trouble, delegate.
When in charge, ponder.

Never leave hold of what you've got until you've got hold of something else.

All things being equal, you lose.
All things being in your favour, you still lose.
Win or lose, you lose.

The first bug to hit a clean windscreen lands directly in front of your eyes.

All probabilities are 50%. Either a thing will happen or it won't.
Likelihoods, however, are 90% against you.

The man who can smile when things go wrong has thought of someone else he can blame it on.

The rake you step on is always teeth up, so that it not only injures your foot, but smacks you in the mouth with it's handle.

How long a minute is depends on which side of the toilet door you happen to be.


Work smarder and not harder and be careful of yor speling.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.

When all else fails, read the instructions.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Love Law No. 1: Brains x Beauty x Availability = Constant.

Sex has no calories.

There is no remedy for sex but more sex.

A man in the house is worth two in the street.

Virginity can be cured.

Never sleep with anyone crazier than yourself.

Sex is dirty only if it's done right.

Sex is hereditary. If your parents never had it, chances are you won't either.

Sow your wild oats on Saturday night -- Then on Sunday pray for crop failure.

It was not the apple on the tree but the pair on the ground that caused the trouble in the garden.

Sex discriminates against the shy and the ugly.

Love your neighbor, but don't get caught.

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

Never lie down with a woman who's got more troubles than you.

What matters is not the length of the wand, but the magic in the stick.

It is better to be looked over than overlooked.

Beauty is skin deep; ugly goes right to the bone.

Love comes in spurts.

Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation; the other eight are unimportant.

Don't do it if you can't keep it up.

There is no difference between a wise man and a fool when they fall in love.

Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.