if anything can go wrong, it will

Commonly known as Murphy’s Law, this saying has numerous variations, and the concept was certainly known much earlier in engineering or scientific circles: e.g., 1878 Minutes Proceedings of Institute of Civil Engineers li. 8 (13 Nov. 1877 session) It is found that anything that can go wrong at sea generally does go wrong sooner or later. The formulation as a ‘law’ is said to have been made in 1949 by George Nichols, then a project manager working in California for the American firm of Northrop, developing a remark made by a colleague, Captain E. Murphy, of the Wright Field Aircraft Laboratory. The contexts of some early quotations appear to support this origin: e.g., 1955 Aviation Mechanics Bulletin May-June 11 Murphy’s Law: If an aircraft part can be installed incorrectly, someone will install it that way.

1953 A. ROE Making of Scientist 46 There is..the physicist who introduced me to one of my favorite ‘laws’, which he described as ‘Murphy’s law or the fourth law of thermodynamics’ (actually there were only three the last I heard) which states: ‘If anything can go wrong it will.’

1956 Scientific American Apr. 166 Dr. Schaefer’s observation confirms this department’s sad experience that editors as well as laboratory workers are subject to Murphy’s Laws, to wit: 1. If something can go wrong it will, [etc.]

1980 A. E. FISHER Midnight Men vii. Of course, the up train was delayed. There was some vast universal principle. If anything can go wrong it will.

2000 Washington Post 28 Dec. E1 Tune out the pundits... I subscribe to a corollary of Murphy’s Law (‘Anything that can go wrong, will’), which is Pundit’s Law: Anything experts predict will happen, will not.


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  • wrong — noun see he who is absent is always in the wrong the king can do no wrong two wrongs don’t make a right adverb see if anything can go wrong, it will adjective see there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • will — noun see where there’s a will, there’s a way he that complies against his will is of his own opinion still verb see he that will not when he may, when he will he shall have nay if anything can go wrong, it will th …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • anything — see if anything can go wrong, it will …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • wrong — [[t]rɒ̱ŋ, AM rɔ͟ːŋ[/t]] ♦♦ wrongs, wronging, wronged 1) ADJ GRADED: v link ADJ, oft ADJ with n If you say there is something wrong, you mean there is something unsatisfactory about the situation, person, or thing you are talking about. Pain is… …   English dictionary

  • anything — an|y|thing [ eni,θıŋ ] pronoun *** 1. ) usually in negatives or questions used instead of something when saying or asking whether there is one thing or even a small amount of something: Do you know anything about baseball? He never does anything… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? —   …   Wikipedia

  • wrong — wrong1 [ rɔŋ ] adjective *** 1. ) not accurate or correct: INCORRECT: We must have gone the wrong way. the wrong answer a ) not sensible: Think about this carefully you don t want to make the wrong decision. b ) used for saying that someone s… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • anything — [[t]e̱nɪθɪŋ[/t]] ♦ 1) PRON INDEF: v PRON, oft PRON adj You use anything in statements with negative meaning to indicate in a general way that nothing is present or that an action or event does not or cannot happen. We can t do anything... Dad sat …   English dictionary

  • wrong — 1 adjective 1 NOT CORRECT saying, believing, or depending on something that is not correct: Your calculations must be wrong. | be wrong to think/say: I m sorry; I was wrong to assume that you wanted to go. | prove sb wrong: I wish you d stop… …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • wrong — wrong1 W1S1 [rɔŋ US ro:ŋ] adj ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 1¦(not correct)¦ 2 be wrong (about somebody/something) 3¦(problems)¦ 4¦(not the right one)¦ 5¦(not morally right)¦ 6¦(not suitable)¦ 7¦(not working)¦ 8 be the wrong way round/around 9 the wrong way up …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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