From Murphy To Godwin: Ten Life 'Laws' They Don't Teach In Law School

These aren't the sort of laws that a police officer will pull you over for breaking, or that will ever be debated in a courtroom. Nevertheless, common adages that for one reason or another masquerade as 'laws' can pop up in everyday conversation — particularly on the internet. In case you're looking to expand your online vocabulary, we've tracked down ten 'laws' that govern your life in ways you might not expect.

Hitler picture from Shutterstock

#1 Murphy's Law

We all know about Murphy's Law, though some may know it better as "Sod's Law" or "Finagle's Law". Obviously it's not an actual law, but shorthand for "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." Out of all such adages that disguise themselves as laws, Murphy's Law sees the most common use — given that, for the average human being, things are almost guaranteed to go wrong on a daily basis.

#2 Muphry's Law

An intentionally misspelt version of Murphy's Law, we've all experienced this at one time or another (even if you may not have known that there was a name for it.) Muphry's Law states that "If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written." In online discussions, this law is only proving itself more prevalent — and is likely the reason that Facebook has an edit button. Lifehacker's own Mind Your Language has occasionally fallen foul of this law (usually when we're at our most outspoken.)

#3 Pugsley's Law

Another offshoot of Murphy's Law, this one will be familiar to anyone working in an office with an IT department. Pugsley's Law states that anything that can go wrong will fix itself as soon as IT asks you to demonstrate the fault. "I swear, it was doing it just a minute ago," is the calling card of this particular law.

#4 Sturgeon's Law

Like Finagle's Law mentioned above, this is another law that found its roots in the science fiction community. Sturgeon's Law, as stated by sci-fi author and critic Theodore Sturgeon in 1958, states that "ninety percent of everything is crap". Unlike most predictions of the future written by sci-fi authors of the time, this one only became more relevant with the rise of the internet.

#5 Godwin's Law

Coined on the internet, Godwin's Law is something that anyone who's ever become embroiled in a particularly nasty online argument has probably encountered. It states that as an argument becomes longer and more heated, the chance of someone bringing up Hitler or the Nazis increases exponentially. Don't take it as a victory however — by the rules of Godwin's law, the person who invokes it automatically forfeits the argument.

#6 Blue's Law

Another one that you might encounter during an internet argument; Blue's Law states that the longer a political debate continues, the more likely it is that the conservative party is going to fall back on using the term 'liberal' in an attempt to devalue their opponent's argument. Although here in Australia where liberal has the opposite meaning, a more likely term would be something along the lines of "dirty lefty".

#7 Poe's Law

Another in the range of laws applying to online debate, Poe's Law states that it is impossible to create a parody of a fundamentalist that at least one person will not mistake for the real thing. When you look at extremist groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, anti-vaxxers and PC enthusiasts, it's easy to see why this law is true.

#8 Hofstadter's Law

To return to a classic, Hofstadter's law was minted in 1979 and states that "everything always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law." Say, for instance those renovations you had planned to get done in a matter of weeks which ended up taking months. So next time someone at work is hounding you for an estimated timeframe on a project you're working on, why not politely remind them of Hofstadter's Law.

#9 Segal's Law

Segal's Law states that "a man with a watch knows what time it is, a man with two watches is never sure," referring to the potential pitfalls of having too much information when making a decision. Wikipedia has mathematically been able to prove Segal's watch analogy false, but as an adage it still holds water. Think about the last time you did a quick google search to try and figure out what brand of phone/laptop/camera to buy — and then spent twice as long as you should have trawling through hundreds of conflicting reviews.

#10 Parkinson's Law

Our last law feels especially relevant for a quiet Monday, stating that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." If you're ever wondering why something takes 10 minutes to chuck together when it's almost time to go home, when the same task will take a solid 2 hours if it's assigned to you in the middle of the day — you can blame Parkinson.

So there you have it: ten "laws" that you may never have heard of, but are undeniably relevant to anyone who uses the internet on a daily basis. Just try not to invoke them too often. If there are any you can think of that we forgot to mention, include them in the comments section below!


    You missed my favorite, its "Hanlon's Razor"

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.


      Which isn't actually a law, you asshole.

      ...I mean idiot.

      Last edited 21/09/15 1:32 pm

        Clearly a nazi

    #3 Pugsley’s Law

    Happens all the time to me....also makes my job easier ;)

    I certainly suggest people understand and apply Weaton's Law in preference to a number of those listed. The Internet would be a better place for it.

      Wouldn't that just considered common courtesy rather than an axiom of observed events ?

      Last edited 21/09/15 5:29 pm

    I remember Murphy's Law as having a long version:
    "If anything can go wrong, it will.
    Even if it can't, it might.
    And if it doesn't, it has!"
    Served me well all my life.

      By that logic, one day Murphy's Law will bite you in the ass, careful!

    Don't forget O'Toole's Corollary of Finagle's Law:

    The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum.

    Murphy's Law as I was taught:

    "If anything can go wrong, it will, at the worst possible time."

    The Journalist that wrote this piece is a Liberal (progressive). She picks on conservatives.
    It is the Left that starts name calling because their argument fails and the conservative usually has facts written down whilst the Lefty(her term) goes with the crowd.


    I wonder what law applies to the fact that, sooner or later, a conservative will come on and spout complete bullshit.

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