O Science Method—Metalleus Son of Lingua Pranca Contents (Untitled)—James D. McCawley

Expansions of Murphy’s Law for Linguists (mostly)


When you’ve finished typing your References pages for your final draft, the reference you left out is never last in the alphabetical order.

The last living speaker of a hitherto unexamined language is always totally deaf or aphasic.

The phonetic symbols you need to type your article are never all on the same IBM or Camwil element. Further, if you only need one symbol, the element it is on will either not go on the spindle or, once on, will not come off.

The deadline for anything whatever was always yesterday.

If your conference paper is extremely technical, it will always be scheduled at 4:30 on the last day of the conference.

If you are attending a conference to be interviewed for several jobs, your paper will always be scheduled for 8:30 the morning after the party.

If you’re on a plane reading Aspects for an exam, the person next to you will always ask you how many languages you speak.

The most heavily weighted question on an exam is never the one you studied for.

The primary sources for anything whatever are always either in Polish, or published in the Kenesaw Junior College Working Papers in Linguistics.

What you need most was always Destroyed in the Great Fire.

The one writer on a new language you are studying has always mysteriously dropped out of Linguistics to attend law school.

The outside examiner at your orals will always mention Mario Pei or George Steiner.

Your first statistical work in sociolinguistics will always reveal a significant correlation between dentalization of alveolars and number of sisters.

O Science Method—Metalleus
(Untitled)—James D. McCawley
Son of Lingua Pranca Contents