Oh, and what he said was
“If there is any way to do it wrong, he will”
He was Captain Ed Murphy from Wright Field Aircraft Lab in 1949 and he was talking about a technician who repeatedly made mistakes.
It was later paraphrased to “if something can go wrong it will”, and now is used in any situation where something goes wrong that might have been prevented. It’s also often used where the wrong choice is made, for example, when it turns out that we’ve chosen the slowest check-out in the supermarket. Which is more a recognition that hindsight is always so clear, and that’s the sense in which I heard it this week.
The concept does predate Captain Ed, there are mentions back to the 1800’s, but it’s Murphy’s name that stuck with the modified saying.
And if Murphy’s law seems too optimistic for you, I’ve heard something called Mrs Murphy’s Law “Murphy was an optimist”.