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What's the story behind Miranda in our Miranda Rights? Where they named after a real woman? If so, was she a quiet woman? And who is the Murphy of Murphy's Law? Did anything ever go right for him?

-- JBP, the net

Compared to Miranda, Murphy was a luck magnet. And Miranda wasn't very silent, which is why everything hit the fan in the first place. So here's "Eponymous Phrases for Dummies," by Matthew Alice.

Ernesto Miranda was arrested in 1963 in Arizona for robbery. While in custody, he confessed to a recent kidnapping and rape. The prosecution had no trouble persuading the jury to convict him. Defense lawyers appealed, saying Miranda had not been advised that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution gave him the right to refuse to incriminate himself by confessing. In 1966 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed (Miranda v. Arizona). Miranda was retried in Arizona, using other evidence, and again found guilty; but his name has stuck to the disclaimer now read to all arrestees. P.S.: After his parole, the unfortunate defendant was killed in a bar fight. If something could go wrong for Mr. Miranda, it seems it often did.

Edward A. Murphy, on the other hand, was one of several engineers doing research for the Air Force at Edwards AFB in the mid-1940s. The experiment in question involved measuring the reaction of the human body to certain extreme forces. Only when the test was complete did they realize someone had wired some meters backwards and they had no data. One of the engineers took an already well-known adage (if something can be done two ways, one of which will be disastrous, then someone will do it that way) and assigned it the name "Murphy's Law" after his colleague. It gained popularity in military and engineering circles, then in the general population many years later. And here's Matthew's Law: If you discover there's more than one story about who Murphy was, and you think my choice sucks, then you go get your own column and you deal with these word-origin guys, who never seem to agree about anything.

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