Sod's law

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For the album by British rock band Spear of Destiny, see Sod's Law (album).

Sod's law is a name for the axiom that "if something can go wrong, it will", with the further addendum, in British culture, that it will happen at "the worst possible time". This may simply be construed, again in British culture, as "hope for the best, expect the worst"[1]

The phrase is seemingly derived, at least in part, from the colloquialism an "unlucky sod"; a term for someone who has had some bad unlucky experience, and is usually used as a sympathetic reference to the person

The term is still used in the United Kingdom, though in North America the eponymous "Murphy's law" is more popular.[2]

Sod's law is similar to, but broader than, Murphy's law ("Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong"). For example, concepts such as "bad fortune will be tailored to the individual" and "good fortune will occur in spite of the individual's actions" are sometimes given as examples of Sod's law in action. This would broaden Sod's law to a general sense of being "mocked by fate". In these aspects it is similar to some definitions of irony, particularly the irony of fate. Murphy's technological origin on John Stapp's Project MX981 is more upbeat—it was a reminder to the engineers and team members to be cautious and make sure everything was accounted for, to let no stone be left unturned—not an acceptance of an uncaring uninfluenceable fate.


Some examples of "bad fortune will be tailored to the individual" include:

  • Ludwig van Beethoven's loss of hearing—loss of hearing is bad fortune for anyone, but it is Sod's law that it would happen to a brilliant composer. - In British definition, this is Irony,
  • Adolph Coors III, who was allergic to beer, was the heir to the Coors beer empire—being allergic to beer is bad fortune for many, but it is Sod's law that someone allergic to beer would inherit a beer empire. - In British definition, this is Irony.

Some examples of "good fortune will occur in spite of the individual's actions" include:

  • If you take your raincoat and umbrella with you, it will be sunny; any attempt at control will be thwarted by fate. This example is actually a case of Sod's Law applying both in this sense and the one defined by Murphy's Law, since the act of either carrying or having to wear the raincoat on a sunny day will very likely make you sweat, making you wet anyway.
  • You move to another city, only to meet and fall in love with someone from your home town.
  • If you lose an object, then despite all search attempts the object will only re-appear after a replacement has been purchased.
  • British Definition : Sods Law - Essentially sods law is the polar opposite of "Due Diligence". If you do not make sure 100% that you have covered all your bases something will go wrong.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Partridge, Eric (1992). Dictionary of Catch Phrases. Scarborough House. p. 278. ISBN 9781461660408. 
  2. ^ "Murphy's laws origin". The Desert Wings. Murphy's laws site. March 3, 1978. 

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