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It's a pretty common occurrence. My code doesn't work. Why? I have no idea. So I call over a coworker to look at it, but the instant he looks at the code it is magically working.

Another situation -- my mother in law's DVD player is not working so she calls and asks for me to fix it. She promises that if I fix it she'll cook me a delicious roast for dinner. I drive four hours to her home and turn on the TV and the DVD is playing.

Does anyone know if there is a well known adage or epigram that goes along with these occurrences of something not working until a third party looks at whatever is broken?

EDIT - I'm going to go out on a limb and say that all of the answers to the previous question don't actually answer this. All of the terms are either personal terms that are used in a small group of people e.g. proximity fix, or are inaccurate e.g. intermittent fault.

Intermittent Fault would explain if it happens occasionally without any explanation. In my situation the problem never arises again after someone else looks at it.

Repair Phobia would imply that the individual is afraid of actually fixing it, which I'm not afraid of when I'm fixing my own code.

See also this question that doesn't give an already existing or well known epigraph or adage. : Is there a term for when just by saying that something is broken and showing it to someone fixes the issue?

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    Great question- happens often in my experience.
    – bobro
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 19:55
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    Sorry, this is a complete and exact duplicate. If there are better terms which are more applicable, then the other question is where to add them (and if that means that my answer gets unaccepted, fine: another answer is better!)
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 20:03
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    I'm also asking for an adage or an epigram -- not a term. Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 20:10
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    How about heisenbug?
    – jxh
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 15:23
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    There's a related phenomenon, where a car that makes a funny noise never makes that funny noise when it's at the mechanic shop, but starts making the noise again as soon as you drive away from the shop. There's also the phenomenon that if you take your shoes to be fixed, the repairman says they'll be ready on Tuesday, and you come back in on Tuesday, and they're not fixed, but he fixes them in five minutes, once you get there. (I don 't know whether we have idioms for these, either.) Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 8:45

2 Answers 2

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The object being referred to can be personified as being stubborn - as if it doesn't want to 'play ball' with you (but will happily 'play ball' with someone else).

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I think what you are describing is a Reverse Froggy Evening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdq1qJkahDY

For reference :)

(Andrew's Suggestion) edit: In order to explain the Reverse Froggy Evening one must understand the phrase Froggy Evening which is derived from the animated short from 1955 of the title name "One Froggy Evening." This film which has been compared to Citizen Kane by Steven Spielberg tells the story of a construction worker who discovers a frog in a box in the foundation of a building being torn down.

The worker finds to his amazement that the frog sings and dances, the construction worker aspires to use the frogs talent to earn wealth and fame. However, in a surprise twist the frog refuses to perform for anyone else except the construction worker leading to terrible consequences for the worker when the people he interacts with and society at large refuse to believe his claim (look up Occam's Razor for possible motivations of disbelief by the other characters in the film).

From this we get the concept of a Froggy Evening, which is that something will only work for a single person and also when no one else is looking. Note that this is less restrictive than the phrase/concept of the Invisible Boy which is derived from the movie "Mystery Men" in which the hero is only able to utilizes his superpower of invisibility when no one else is looking (Froggy Evening) and when he himself is not looking (added restriction).

A Reverse Froggy Evening is when something doesn't work for a single person but will work for others. This is similar to the Indiana Religious Freedom Law that allows discrimination against the LGBT community, but differs in that a minority of people is unable to get something to work (the constitution + human rights), whereas in a Reverse Froggy Evening only one person is unable to get something to work.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Froggy_Evening

http://mysterymen.wikia.com/wiki/Invisible_Boy

https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/568

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor

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  • Could you flesh out your answer to make it accessible without making reference to the video necessary? What happens to this answer when that video is removed?
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 8:54
  • This is a quality answer after the edit +1 Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 15:14

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