"Communication Laws" that Work Infallibly*
Jordan's Law of Technology. Invention is the mother of necessity. (How long did
mankind get along satisfactorily without the telephone?)
(D. Wylie Jordan, M.D., Austin, Tex.)
SNAFU Principle. Communication is only possible between equals.
(From Illuminatus by Robert Shea and Robert Anson Wilson. From John W. Gustafson, Chicago.)
Martin's Law of Communication. The inevitable result of improved and enlarged
communication between different levels in a hierarchy is a vastly increased area of
(Thomas L. Martin, Jr., from Malice in Blunderland, McGraw-Hill, 1971.)
FCC (Federal Communications Commission) "Policy." Any sufficiently promising technology
must be regulated or it will succeed.
(R. W. Johnson, from his Ham Radio Humor, 1977.)
Borklund's Law. Communications is equal to the square root of the mistakes times
confusion times contradictions.
(C. W. Borklund, from a November 1966 editorial in Armed Forces Management magazine.)
Parkinson's Telephone Law. The effectiveness of a telephone conversation is in inverse
proportion to the time spent on it.
(Article of same title, New York Times Magazine, April 12, 1974.)
Bell's Law of Frustration. When responding to an urgent message requesting an
immediate return call, you will get: (1) a wrong number, (2) a busy signal, or (3) no
(Named for Ma and Alexander Graham Bell by Joseph P-Sullivan, Indianapolis.)
Lawyer's Law. The phone will not ring until you leave your desk and walk to the other
end of the building.
(Linda A. Lawyer, Pittsburgh.)
Campbell's Constant. The telephone never rings until you are settled in the bathroom.
(Constance E. Campbell, Keokuk, Iowa.)
Kottmeyer's Ring-Around-the-Tub Principle. Telephones displace bodies immersed
(Martin S. Kottmeyer, Carlyle, III.)
Dickson's Rules. A defective pay phone will find your last dime.
(Paul Dickson, Director, The Murphy Center.)
Edwards's Laws. A telephone number is not recorded on the message unless you
already know it.
(Robert V. Edwards, Washington, D.C.)
Oshry's Law. No name, no matter how simple, can be understood correctly over
(James B. Oshry, Elizabeth, N.J.)
Kami's Law of Telephones. The cessation of ringing of a phone is not a function of the
responder's distance, velocity, or time of access. (It will stop ringing just when you reach
for it, no matter how far you have to come, how fast—or slowly—you have traveled to
cover the distance between you and said phone.)
(S. Kami, Professor, University of New Mexico.)
Napier's Discovery. In the past 200 years, America has manufactured close to 100
billion pencils—and we still can't keep one by the phone.
(Arch Napier, from The Wall Street journal.)
Vogel's Rules. The wrong number on a telephone is never busy.
(W. J. Vogel, Toppenish, Wash.)
Bell's Rule. Linear objects (such as wire, string, etc.), when left to their own
devices, occupy time by twisting themselves into tangles and weaving knots.
(Norman R. Bell, Associate Professor of Engineering, North Carolina State University.)
* From the Official Fellows of the Murphy Center collection.
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