Colombo's Laws: A Compendium of the Laws of Human Behaviour Conceived by Eminent Canadians


88 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-88954-257-0





Edited by John Robert Colombo
Reviewed by Dean Tudor

Dean Tudor is a journalism professor at the Ryerson Polytechnical
Institute and founding editor of the CBRA.


“Laws” named after people are usually based on scientific principles, such as Archimedes’ Principle, Newton’s Law of Motion, or even Gresham’s Law about bad money driving out good money. All of these kinds of laws are usually observational, humourless, and formulative in order to deal with the real world of man and machine. Indeed, in the true spirit of bibliographic control of laws, there is only one moral or human law — that of Kant’s categorical imperative, which deals with the force of will.

Colombo’s little book, while covering 100 aphorisms and maxims, also deals with force — forced humour. Most of these “Canadian” laws are distinctly unfunny, and Colombo’s only rationale for producing the book is that the four other books available deal only with British and/or American “lawmakers.” Occasionally, though, a good Canadian law will creep onto the international scene, such as W.J. Dewar’s 1968 CNR observation: “A late train gets later.” Highlights from the Colombo book include Howe’s Law of Travel (1980: “No matter how little you paid for your airfare, the guy in the next seat paid less”), McLuhan’s Paradox (1960’s: “If it works, it’s obsolete”), and the Spider Statement (from author Spider Robinson — undated [shame, shame Colombo]: “A book review column is always due last week”). And now, John Robert, where are those sources?


“Colombo's Laws: A Compendium of the Laws of Human Behaviour Conceived by Eminent Canadians,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,