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Murphy’s Law

I thought I’ve always used the expression “Murphy’s Law” correctly, but now a native English speaker cast doubt on my usage. This happens a lot with me. I thought I had been using certain terms correctly for years, and one day, someone tells me that it’s wrong. I correct it, then years later, someone else corrects me again.

The context I used “Murphy’s Law” was this:

In buying more storage space for a computer server, I said the Murphy’s Law is this: Whatever the amount of space you provide, that’s how much people end up using it, because most people are too lazy to properly back up files and delete them off the server. So, the bigger is not always the better. If you provide too much space, you’ll end up with unmanageable amount of data to back up properly.

There are certain phenomena in life where things naturally incline towards the worst case scenario. File storage is one such case. If no one puts pressures on people to back up and delete, the servers usually get full no matter how big it is. Is this a wrong use of “Murphy’s Law”?

  • December 3, 2004
  • Posted by Dyske
  • Filed in Usage
  • 6 comments

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Murphy's Law is literally, "If anything can go wrong, it will."

speedwell2 December 3, 2004 @ 6:59PM

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Murphy's Law, as I understand it, is something that you can't control, not something resulting from a choice you make. In the case you mention it is your decision to increase or not, it is not something that happens by "nature".
It's not just inclining towards the worst case scenario, it's a worst case scenario beyond human control...

The second case mentioned by janet is more "Boss Law" than Murphy's Law

ensanders December 4, 2004 @ 1:24AM

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Not Murphy's Law, but Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time (or space)allotted for it.
C. Northcote Parkinson, who wrote the book.

panama December 4, 2004 @ 9:37AM

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Oh, there WAS a Murphy! The version of the Law I gave below is its popularization. See this page for details: http://www.cpuidle.de/murphy.shtml

speedwell2 December 4, 2004 @ 9:39AM

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There's a list? Awesome.

I bet it's in the book... I never got around to reading the book, actually. :(

speedwell2 December 17, 2004 @ 8:56AM

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Your use of the definite article is incorrect. "Murphy's Law"" is equivalent to "the Law of Murphy", therefore "the Murphy's Law" contains an implicit reduncancy, since it would be equivalent to "the the Law of Murphy".

richard-brodie April 5, 2005 @ 4:35PM

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