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Murphy's Law Dictionary T - Z

Updated: Apr 19

Murphy's Laws T - Z


Taxi Principle

Find out the cost before you get in.

Law of Teenage Opportunity

When opportunity knocks, you've got headphones on.

Law of Television

If you have only watched a TV series once, and you watch it again, it will be a rerun of the same episode.

Terman's Law

There is no direct relationship between the quality of an educational program and its cost.

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.

Teslacle's Deviant to Fudd's Law

It goes in -- it must come out.

Them what has -- gets. Wakefield's Refutation of the Iron Law of Distribution

Them what gets -- has.

Theory of organizational deviance

Every organization has an allotted number of positions to be filled by incompetents.

Theory of the International Society of Philosophic Engineering

1. In any calculation, any error which can creep in will do so.

2. Any error in any calculation will be in the direction of most harm.

3. In any formula, constants (especially those obtained from engineering handbooks) are to be treated as variables.

4. The best approximation of service conditions in the laboratory will not begin to meet those conditions encountered in actual service.

5. The most vital dimension on any plan or drawing stands the greatest chance of being omitted.

6. If only one bid can be secured on any project, the price will be unreasonable.

7. If a test installation functions perfectly, all subsequent production units will malfunction.

8. All delivery promises must be multiplied by a factor of 2.0.

9. Major changes in construction will always be requested after fabrication is nearly completed.

10. Parts that positively cannot be assembled in improper order will be.

11. Interchangeable parts won't.

12. Manufacturer's specifications of performance should be multiplied by a factor of 0.5.

13. Salespeople's claims for performance should be multiplied by a factor of 0.25.

14. Installation and Operating Instructions shipped with the device will be promptly discarded by the Receiving Department.

15. Any device requiring service or adjustment will be least accessible.

16. Service Conditions as given on specifications will be exceeded.

17. If more than one person is responsible for a miscalculation, no one will be at fault.

18. Identical units which test in an identical fashion will not behave in an identical fashion in the field.

19. If, in engineering practice, a safety factor is set through service experience at an ultimate value, an ingenious idiot will promptly calculate a method to exceed said safety factor.

20. Warranty and guarantee clauses are voided by payment of the invoice.

Therapist's Observation

It's easy to criticize paranoid people, but if everybody hated you, you'd be paranoid too.

Fourth Law of Thermodynamics

If the probability of success is not almost one, then it is damned near zero.

Thinking Man's Tautology

If you think you're wrong, you're wrong.

Corollary - If you think you're wrong, you're right.

Thomas's Law of Consumerism

1. A one year warranty guarantees that the product will self-destruct on the 366th day.

2. All warranties expire upon payment of invoice.

3. The negative "Consumer Report" on the item you want to buy will come out one week after you've purchased it.

Thoreau's Law

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

Thoreau's Rule

Any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it.

Thoughts on Management

If everyone dislikes it, it must be looked into. If everyone likes it, it must be looked into.

Thoughts on Programming, Number 52

The user does not know what he wants until he sees what he gets.

The Three Laws of Robotics

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Three 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.

Thurber's Conclusion

There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.

Thwartz's Theorem of Low Profile

Negative expectation thwarts realization, and self-congratulation guarantees disaster. (Or, simply put: If you think of it, it won't happen quite that way.)

Thyme's Law

Everything goes wrong at once.

Time Observation

Good times end too quickly. Bad times go on forever.

Tinker's Law

Nature abhors people.

Tipper's Law

Those who expect the biggest tips provide the worst service.

Titanic Coincidence

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

Titanics Generalized Iceberg Theorem

Seven-eighths of everything can't be seen.

Todd's Political Principles

1. No matter what they're telling you they're not telling you the whole truth.

2. No matter what they're talking about, they're talking about money.

3. The length of time it takes a bill to pass through the legislature is in inverse proportion to the number of lobbying groups favoring it.

4. No politician talks about taxes during an election year.

5. Truth varies.

Law of the Too Solid Goof

In any collection of data, the figures that are obviously correct beyond all need of checking contain the errors.

Corollary 1: No one you ask for help will see the error either.

Corollary2: Any nagging intruder, who

Torquemada's Law

When you are sure you're right, you have a moral duty to impose your will upon anyone who disagrees with you.

Transcription Square Law

The number of errors made is equal to the sum of the squares employed.

First Law of Travel

No matter how many rooms there are in the motel, the fellow who starts up his car at five o'clock in the morning is always parked under your window.

Travel Axiom

He travels fastest who travels alone... but he hasn't anything to do when he gets there.

Trial Lawyer's Dilemma

You can't guard against the arbitrary.

Trischmann's Paradox (Axiom of the Pipe)

A pipe gives a wise man time to think and a fool something to stick in his mouth.

Law of Triviality

The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved.

Troutman's Laws of Computer Programming (and see Peck's Programming Postulates)

1. Any running program is obsolete.

2. Any planned program costs more and takes longer.

3. Any useful program will have to be changed.

4. Any useless program will have to be documented.

5. Any program will expand to fill available memory. Andi's Addendum - And beyond.

6. The size of a program expands to fill all available memory.

7. The value of a program is inversely proportional to the weight of its output.

8. The complexity of a program grows until it exceeds the capability of its maintainers.

9. Any system that relies on computer reliability is unreliable.

10. Any system that relies on human reliability is unreliable.

11. Make it possible for programmers to write programs in English, and you will find that programmers cannot write in English.

12. Profanity is the one language all programmers know best.

Troutman's Programming Postulates

1. If a test installation functions perfectly, all subsequent systems will malfunction.

2. Not until a program has been in production for at least six months will the most harmful error be discovered.

3. Job control cards that positively cannot be arranged in proper order will be.

4. Interchangeable tapes won't.

5. If the input editor has been designed to reject all bad input, an ingenious idiot will discover a method to get bad data past it.

Truman's Law

If you cannot convince them, confuse them.

Trump's Quirk of Human Nature

Nobody loves a winner who wins all the time.

Truths of Management

1. Think before you act; it's not your money.

2. All good management is the expression of one great idea.

3. No executive devotes effort to proving himself wrong.

4. Cash in must exceed cash out.

5. Management capability is always less than the organization actually needs. Truth 5.1 of Management: Organizations always have too many managers.

6. Either an executive can do his job or he can't.

7. If sophisticated calculations are needed to justify an action, don't do it.

8. If you are doing something wrong, you will do it badly.

9. If you are attempting the impossible, you will fail.

10. The easiest way of making money is to stop losing it.

Tuccille's First Law of Reality

Industry always moves in to fill an economic vacuum.

Turnauckas's Observation

To err is human; to really foul things up takes a computer.

Turner's Law

Nearly all prophecies made in public are wrong.

Twain's Rule

Only kings, editors, and people with tapeworm have the right to use the editorial "we".

Tylk's Law

Assumption is the mother of all foul-ups.


Ubell's Law of Press Luncheons

At any public relations luncheon, the quality of the food is inversely related to the quality of the information.

Uhlmann's Razor

When stupidity is a sufficient explanation, there is no need to have recourse to any other.

Corollary (Law of Historical Causation) - It seemed like the thing to do at the time."

The Ultimate Law

All general statements are false.

The Ultimate Principle

By definition, when you are investigating the unknown, you do not know what you will find.

The Ultimate Wisdom

Philosophers must ultimately find their true perfection in knowing all the follies of mankind by introspection.

Umbrella Law

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

The Unapplicable Law

Washing your car to make it rain doesn't work.

Universal Field Theory of Perversity (Mule's Law)

The probability of an event's occurring varies directly with the perversity of the inanimate object involved and inversely with the product of its desirability and the effort expended to produce it.

Universal Law

Anything that begins well ends badly. Anything that begins badly ends worse.

Unnamed Law

If it happens, it must be possible.

The Unspeakable Law

As soon as you mention something, if it's good, it goes away; if it's bad, it happens.


Vail's Axiom

In any human enterprise, work seeks the lowest hierarchical level.

Van Roy's Law

An unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys.

Vance's Rule of 2 1/2

Any military project will take twice as long as planned, cost twice as much, and produce only half of what is wanted.

Law of Vertical Transportation

In a three story building served by one elevator, the elevator car will be on a floor where you are not.

Vique's Law

A man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle.

Von Braun's Law of Gravity

We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.

Von Helsing's Theorem

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

Vonnegut's Corollary

Beauty may be only skin deep, but ugliness goes right to the core.


Waddell's Law of Equipment Failure

A component's degree of reliability is directly proportional to its ease of accessibility (i.e., the harder it is to get to, the more often it breaks down).

Waffle's Law

A professor's enthusiasm for teaching the introductory course varies inversely with the likelihood of his having to do it.

Wain's Conclusion

The only people making money these days are the ones who sell computer paper.

Wakefield's Refutation of the Iron Law of Distribution

Them what gets, has.

Waldo's Observation

One man's red tape is another man's system.

Walinsky's First Law of Political Campaigns

If there are twelve clowns in a ring, you can jump in the middle and start reciting Shakespeare, but to the audience, you'll just be the thirteenth clown.

Walinsky's Law

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants.

Walker's Law

Associate with well-mannered persons and your manners will improve. Run with decent folk and your own decent instincts will be strengthened. Keep the company of bums and you will become a bum. Hang around with rich people and you will end by picking up the check and dying broke.

Wallace's Observation

Everything is in a state of utter dishevelment.

Walters's Law of Management

If you're already in a hole, there's no use to continue digging.

Washington's Law

Space expands to house the people to perform the work that Congress creates.

The Watergate Principle

Government corruption is always reported in the past tense.

Watson's Law

The reliability of machinery is inversely proportional to the number and significance of any persons watching it.

Watson's Law of Cleaning

If you start to clean your desk in the spare bedroom you will probably have to clean the garage to find what you need to finish cleaning the desk.

Rule of the Way Out

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.

Law of Wealth

Victory goes to the candidate with the most accumulated or contributed wealth who has the financial resources to convince the middle class and poor that he will be on their side.

Weaver's Law

When several reporters share a cab on an assignment, the reporter in the front seat pays for all.

Corollary (O'Doyle) - No matter how many reporters share a cab, and no matter who pays, each puts the full fare on his own expense account.

Corollary (Germond) - When a group of newsmen go out to dinner together, the bill is to be divided evenly among them, regardless of what each one eats and drinks.

Weber-Fechner Law

The least change in stimulus necessary to produce a perceptible change in response is proportional to the stimulus already existing.

Weidner's Queries

1. The tide comes in and the tide goes out, and what have you got?

2. They say an elephant never forgets, but what's he got to remember?

Weiler's Law

Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself.

Weinberg's First Law

Progress is made on alternate Fridays.

Weinberg's Second Law

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization. Corollary - An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the Grand Fallacy.

Weiner's Law of Libraries

There are no answers, only cross references.

Weisman's Law of Examinations

If you're confident after you've just finished an exam, it's because you don't know enough to know better.

Wells's Law

A parade should have bands OR horses, not both.

Weskimen's Law

There's never time to do it right, but there is always time to d it over.

Westheimer's Law

A few months in the laboratory can save a few hours in the library.

Westheimer's Rule

To estimate the time it takes to do a task estimate the time you think it should take, multiply by two and change the unit of the measure to the next highest unit. Thus, we allocate two days for a one hour task.

Wethern's Law

Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.

The Whispered Rule

People will believe anything if you whisper it.

White Flag Principle

A military disaster may produce a better postwar situation than victory.

White's Chappaquiddick Theorem

The sooner and in more detail you announce bad news, the better.

White's Observations of Committee Operation

1. People very rarely think in groups; they talk together, they exchange information, they adjudicate, they make compromises. But they do not think; they do not create.

2. A really new idea affronts current agreement.

3. A meeting cannot be productive unless certain premises are so shared that they do not need to be discussed, and the argument can be confined to areas of disagreement. But while this kind of consensus makes a group more effective in its legitimate functions, it does not make the group a creative vehicle -- it would not be a new idea if it didn't -- and the group, impelled as it is to agree, is instinctively hostile to that which is divisive.

White's Statement

Don't lose heart...

Owen's Comment on White's Statement: ... they might want to cut it out...

Byrd's Addition to Owen's Comment on White's Statement: ... and they want to avoid a lengthy search.

Whitehead's Law

The obvious answer is always overlooked.

Whole Picture Principle

Research scientists are so wrapped up in their own narrow endeavors that they cannot possibly see the whole picture of anything, including their own research.

Corollary - The Director of Research should know as little as possible about the specific subject of research he is administering.

Wicker's Law

Government expands to absorb revenue, and then some.

Wilcox's Law

A pat on the back is only a few centimeters from a kick in the pants.

Will's Rule of Informed Citizenship

If you want to understand your government, don't begin by reading the Constitution. (It conveys precious little of the flavor of today's statecraft.) Instead read selected portions of the Washington telephone directory containing listings for all the organizations with titles beginning with the word "National".

Williams and Holland's Law

If enough data is collected, anything may be proven by statistical methods.

Willie Brown's Principle

People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either one being made.

Wilson's Law of Demographics

The public is not made up of people who get their names in the newspapers.

The First Law of Wing Walking

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

First Law of Wing-Walking

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

Wingo's Axiom

All Finagle Laws may be bypassed by learning the simple art of doing without thinking.

Law of Wisdom

Wisdom is considered a sign of weakness by the powerful because a wise man can lead without power but only a powerful man can lead without wisdom.

Witten's Law

Whenever you cut your fingernails, you will find a need for them an hour later.

Wober's SNIDE Rule (Satisfied Needs Incite Demand Excesses)

Ideal goals grow faster than the means of attaining new goals allow.

Wolf's Law (An Optimistic View of a Pessimistic World)

It isn't that things will necessarily go wrong (Murphy's Law), but rather that they will take so much more time and effort than you think if they are not to go wrong.

Wolf's Law of Decision-Making

Major actions are rarely decided by more than four people. If you think a larger meeting you're attending is really "hammering out" a decision, you're probably wrong. Either the decision was agreed to by a smaller group before the meeting began, or the outcome of the larger meeting will be modified later when three or four people get together.

Wolf's Law of History Lessons

Those who don't study the past will repeat its errors. Those who do study it will find OTHER ways to err.

Wolf's Law of Management

The tasks to do immediately are the minor ones; otherwise, you'll forget them. The major ones are often better to defer. They usually need more time for reflection. Besides, if you forget them, they'll remind you.

Wolf's Law of Meetings

The only important result of a meeting is agreement about next steps.

Wolf's Law of Planning

A good place to start from is where you are.

Wolf's Law of Tactics

If you can't beat them, have them join you.

Woltman's Law

Never program and drink beer at the same time.

Woman's Equation

Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.

Wood's Law

The more unworkable the urban plan, the greater the probability of implementation.

Woods's Incomplete Maxims

1. All's well that ends.

2. A penny saved is a penny.

3. Don't leave things unfinishe

Woods's Laws of Procrastination

1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

2. Procrastinate today! (Tomorrow may be too late.)

3. NOW is the time to do things later!

4. If at first you don't succeed, why try again?

Woods's Refutation of the First Law of Socio-Genetics

On the contrary, if you never procreate, neither will your kids.

Woodward's Law

A theory is better than an explanation.

Worker's Dilemma Law (Management's Put-Down Law)

1. No matter how much you do, you'll never do enough.

2. What you don't do is always more important than what you do do.

Wynne's Law

Negative slack tends to increase.

Wyszkowski's Theorem

Regardless of the units used by either the supplier or the customer, the manufacturer shall use his own arbitrary units convertible to those of either the supplier or the customer only by means of weird and unnatural conversion factors.

Wyszowski's Laws

1. No experiment is reproducible.

2. Anything can be made to work if you fiddle with it long enough.

3. Regardless of the units used by either the supplier or the customer, the manufacturer shall use his own arbitrary units convertible to those of either the supplier or the customer only by means of weird and unnatural conversion factors.


Yapp's Basic Fact

If a thing cannot be fitted into something smaller than itself, some dope will do it.

Yolen's Guide for Self-Praise

Proclaim yourself "World Champ" of something -- tiddly-winks, rope- jumping, whatever -- send this notice to newspapers, radio, TV, and wait for challengers to confront you. Avoid challenges as long as possible, but continue to send news of your achievements to all media. Also, develop a newsletter and letterhead for communications.

Young's Handy Guide to the Modern Sciences

If it is green or it wiggles -- it is Biology.

If it stinks -- it is Chemistry.

If it doesn't work -- it is Physics.

Young's Law

All great discoveries are made by mistake.

Corollary - The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.


Zamboni's Parts Laws

1. A dropped part will always roll to the exact geographic center of the largest available object for it to roll under.

2. The probability of the loss or breakage of any part is directly proportional to the difficulty of getting a replacement part.

3. Irreplaceable parts will always break or be lost, and at the worst possible time.

4. Replaceable parts will only become available after an important deadline has passed.

5. Parts that are difficult to install will freely fall out on their own.

6. Parts that go in easily will be extremely hard to remove, and removal will be necessary to accomplish the needed repair.

7. The part you will need will be the irreplaceable part you threw away last week because there is no more serviceable equipment of that type around.

Zellar's Law

Every newspaper, no matter how tight the news hole, has room for a story on another newspaper increasing its newsstand price.

Zimmerman's Law

Regardless of whether a mission expands or contracts, administrative overhead continues to grow at a steady rate.

Zimmerman's Law of Complaints

Nobody notices when things go right.

Zusmann's Rule

A successful symposium depends on the ratio of meeting to eating.

Zymurgy's First Law of Evolving Systems Dynamics

Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a larger can. (Old worms never die, they just worm their way into larger cans.)

Zymurgy's Law of Volunteer Labour

People are always available for work in the past tense.

Zymurgy's Seventh Exception to Murphy's Laws

When it rains, it pours.

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