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Naming in threes

GUEST,Em99 29 Mar 24 - 11:05 AM
Doug Chadwick 29 Mar 24 - 11:14 AM
Robert B. Waltz 29 Mar 24 - 11:49 AM
GUEST,Em99 29 Mar 24 - 12:29 PM
GerryM 29 Mar 24 - 04:55 PM
GUEST,Em 29 Mar 24 - 05:42 PM
Doug Chadwick 29 Mar 24 - 06:37 PM
sian, west wales 29 Mar 24 - 09:34 PM
sian, west wales 29 Mar 24 - 09:37 PM
Robert B. Waltz 29 Mar 24 - 09:55 PM
GUEST,Paul Slade 30 Mar 24 - 04:25 AM
David C. Carter 30 Mar 24 - 04:39 AM
David C. Carter 30 Mar 24 - 04:40 AM
Doug Chadwick 30 Mar 24 - 04:58 AM
The Doctor 30 Mar 24 - 06:28 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 30 Mar 24 - 10:38 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 30 Mar 24 - 10:41 AM
Nigel Parsons 30 Mar 24 - 11:01 AM
Robert B. Waltz 30 Mar 24 - 11:49 AM
Doug Chadwick 30 Mar 24 - 11:56 AM
Bill D 30 Mar 24 - 01:40 PM
Robert B. Waltz 30 Mar 24 - 03:11 PM
Bill D 30 Mar 24 - 04:38 PM
GUEST,IS 30 Mar 24 - 05:14 PM
GUEST,Jerry 30 Mar 24 - 06:03 PM
GUEST,pete 30 Mar 24 - 06:45 PM
Robert B. Waltz 30 Mar 24 - 06:53 PM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 30 Mar 24 - 07:37 PM
BobL 31 Mar 24 - 03:04 AM
David C. Carter 31 Mar 24 - 04:53 AM
David C. Carter 31 Mar 24 - 05:00 AM
Doug Chadwick 31 Mar 24 - 06:03 AM
GUEST,Jerry 31 Mar 24 - 07:20 AM
GUEST,henryp 31 Mar 24 - 11:08 AM
Robert B. Waltz 31 Mar 24 - 11:29 AM
Doug Chadwick 31 Mar 24 - 02:19 PM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 31 Mar 24 - 05:28 PM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 31 Mar 24 - 07:50 PM
GUEST,paperback 31 Mar 24 - 09:50 PM
leeneia 01 Apr 24 - 12:49 AM
GUEST,E 01 Apr 24 - 01:01 AM
GUEST,henryp 01 Apr 24 - 03:07 AM
Robert B. Waltz 01 Apr 24 - 06:48 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 01 Apr 24 - 07:05 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 01 Apr 24 - 07:17 AM
Bill D 01 Apr 24 - 08:35 AM
Nigel Parsons 01 Apr 24 - 10:37 AM
Mrrzy 01 Apr 24 - 11:05 AM
Robert B. Waltz 01 Apr 24 - 01:40 PM
Jim Dixon 01 Apr 24 - 04:12 PM
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Subject: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Em99
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 11:05 AM

I've been thinking about a folk song, I believe with Scottish roots, called 'Lovely Molly' which closes -- "where the mavis, and the turtle dove, and the nightingale sings."

In the Sam Henry version of the song, it is instead written - "where the lark, the linnet, and the nightingale sings."

It strikes me as very resonant -- the naming of springtime hopes which are also sadly left behind and lost by the singer. I'm wondering if this resonance even has to do with the naming techniques - naming by threes?

Can you think of other songs that do this -- or else that name these longed-for losses in a similar way? I guess I have in mind something like Burns's 'Composed in Spring' - "In vain to me in glen or shaw, / The mavis and the lintwhite sing."

Thanks in advance for any help.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 11:14 AM

NORTH COUNTRY MAID

Oh the oak and the ash and the bonnie rowan tree
They flourish at home in my own country

DC


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Robert B. Waltz
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 11:49 AM

Triple parallelism is a well-known rhetorical technique. (I'm not saying folk song writers knew about it -- I'm sure they didn't -- but it's known to be effective.) Abraham Lincoln was particularly fond of the technique. Take the Gettysburg Address, e.g.: "we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground." "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

For that matter, the tupical meter of ballads is four feet then three feet. In a way, that in itself encourages triple parallelism.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Em99
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 12:29 PM

That's very interesting. I wonder if the contemporary musician Joanna Newsom was intentionally recalling "North Country Maid" by near echoing: "Oh the yoke and the axe ..."


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GerryM
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 04:55 PM

Speaking of Lincoln, and naming in threes, there's the 1968 hit, Abraham, Martin, and John. https://youtu.be/rwn8hIyiHvI?si=XqtAVubKBIbDupQJ


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Em
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 05:42 PM

And 'Tom, Dick, and Harry' -- Cole Porter's song of that name from 'Kiss Me, Kate' uses the phrase to hilarious effect.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 06:37 PM

Cigareetes and whusky and wild, wild women
They'll drive you crazy, they'll drive you insane

DC


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: sian, west wales
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 09:34 PM

Not quite the same thing but re: the employment of 3s ...

There is a whole category of song/verse in Wales called "tribannau" - triplets - which are wise, or funny, or both. e.g.

Tri pheth sy'n hawdd eu 'nabod:
Dyn, derwen, a'r diwrnod.
Y dydd yn troi, y pren yn gou,
A'r dyn yn ddauwynebog.

Three things that are easily recognized:
Man, oak tree, and the day.
The day turns, the tree is solid/dense,
And the man is two faced.

Another:

Tri pheth sy' dda gan grotyn
Yw gwraig y ty yn chwerthin,
A'r crochen bach yn berwi'n ffrwd
A llond y cwd o bwdin.

Three things that a lad likes
Are the housewife laughing,
The little pot boiling swiftly,
And a paunchful of pudding.

There are a LOT of these.

sian


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: sian, west wales
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 09:37 PM

I should have added a link to some triban tunes.

sian


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Robert B. Waltz
Date: 29 Mar 24 - 09:55 PM

Sian wrote, There is a whole category of song/verse in Wales called "tribannau" - triplets - which are wise, or funny, or both. e.g.

And a very old tradition this is, since the "Welsh Triads" date from the early Middle Ages or earlier. (One collection of them, for instance, is in the White Book of Rhydderch, the main source of the Mabinogion. The best publication is probably Rachel Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Islands of Britain, fourth edition, University of Wales Press, 2014. This gives both medieval Welsh texts and English translations. The first one, for instance, is a triad listing the three thrones of Arthur. Many others are lists of people who meet some criterion or other, but some are more like what Sian describes.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Paul Slade
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 04:25 AM

You don't need a formal education in rhetoric to recognise the value of the rule of three and use it for yourself. Some folk singers may have simply picked it up by encountering it in the older songs they know and adopted it from there.

Another interesting use of threes comes in the folk canon's more sinister songs. It was once thought that the Devil knocked three times on the door when he arrived to claim your soul - this being his way of mocking the Holy Trinity - and this led to the number often arising in demonology. When The Gosport Tragedy says of Molly's revenge that she "ripped him and stripped him and tore him in three", that may have delivered an extra little shiver to the song's original listeners.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: David C. Carter
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 04:39 AM

Here's to Cisco,Sonny and Leadbelly too...

Dylan's Song to Woody.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: David C. Carter
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 04:40 AM


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 04:58 AM

THE LEAVING OF LIVERPOOL

Farewell to Lower Frederick Street,
Anson Terrace and Park Lane
For I know that it's going to be a long long time
Before I see you again.

DC


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: The Doctor
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 06:28 AM

No, my love, not I has a chorus that contains three supposedly impossible things:
When fishes fly and swallows die, young men will prove true.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 10:38 AM

"The three men I admire the most
The Father, Son and Holy Ghost..."


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 10:41 AM

Not a song, but:

Friends, Romans and countrymen...


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 11:01 AM

Instead of Oh the oak and the ash and the bonnie rowan tree (above)
Kipling gives us 'Oak, Ash and Thorn'


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Robert B. Waltz
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 11:49 AM

Nigel Parsons wrote: Kipling gives us 'Oak, Ash and Thorn'

Although the combination is much older than Kipling. Supposedly it's "ancient Celtic." I believe claims about "ancient Celtic" about as much as I believe crime statistics cited by ex-presidents of the United States, but if you want some folklore that is probably only about two-thirds fakelore, google "oak ash thorn."


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 11:56 AM

Friends, Romans and countrymen

Staying with Shakespeare:-
.................
.................
Cry God for Harry, England and St George.


DC


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Bill D
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 01:40 PM

It feels to me like the musical need to 'resolve a chord'.... at least in Western music. That 3rd note allows a sound to be 'complete'. In poetry and song, there is a similar almost implicit structural need.
   Those who know music theory may be able to say more about it.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Robert B. Waltz
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 03:11 PM

Bill D wrote: It feels to me like the musical need to 'resolve a chord'.... at least in Western music. That 3rd note allows a sound to be 'complete'. In poetry and song, there is a similar almost implicit structural need.
   Those who know music theory may be able to say more about it.


It's not really that the third resolves a chord -- a modal chord consisting of the first and the fifth (do and sol, so e.g. C and G in the key of G) doesn't sound as if it is particularly lacking. Indeed, modal chords often sounds particularly full. (This is why DADGAD tuning sounds so rich, e.g. -- the D chord you play in DADGAD is DADAAD, which sounds exceptionally strong.)

What the third does is define whether the chord is major or minor. A modal chord, with just the first and the fifth (C and G in the key of C), can be either. It is only when you a the third -- a major third or a minor third -- that you know whether the chord is major (i.e. Ionian or Mixolydian) or minor (i.e. Aeolian or Dorian). So adding the third to the chord defines the scale of that song.

However, that's not really using the third as a "third"; it's the second of three notes making up the chord. You don't use the first, second, and third of a scale (i.e. C, D, E in the key of C) in a chord.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Bill D
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 04:38 PM

Ah.. I knew someone could clarify the musical aspects of it.
Perhaps it's mostly our language structure that brings about so many triad names.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,IS
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 05:14 PM

I think it's a very deeply rooted and ancient phenomenon, to think in threes. Georges Dumézil theorised about what he believed to be the 'tripartite' organisation of Indo-European cultures. Obviously in so-called 'Celtic' culture it's very prominent - not just in the Welsh triads but equivalent early Irish texts, the symbol of the triskelion and the notion of the 'triple goddess' a deity with three contrasting yet complementary aspects. Also the Greek Fates, Norse Norns, etc. Countless examples of this phenomenon across time and cultures.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 06:03 PM

The rule of three applies to so many things in the creative arts: from stage plays, screenplays, sitcom scripts, musical concertos, photo composition, landscape paintings, lectures and speeches, to even joke telling constructs. In stripped down song accompaniments we have the three chord trick of course (tonic, dominant and sub-dominant chords). In artworks though, check out the Divine Section (Fibanacci Principle) where the use of threes explains a lot.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,pete
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 06:45 PM

Sae rantingly, sae wantonly,
Sae dauntingly gaed he!


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Robert B. Waltz
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 06:53 PM

Guest.IS wrote:
I think it's a very deeply rooted and ancient phenomenon, to think in threes. Georges Dumézil theorised about what he believed to be the 'tripartite' organisation of Indo-European cultures. Obviously in so-called 'Celtic' culture it's very prominent - not just in the Welsh triads but equivalent early Irish texts, the symbol of the triskelion and the notion of the 'triple goddess' a deity with three contrasting yet complementary aspects. Also the Greek Fates, Norse Norns, etc. Countless examples of this phenomenon across time and cultures.


Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu in Hinduism. Gods seem to go from one to three very naturally, without stopping at two. :-)

The Hebrew Bible is divided into Torah, Prophets, and Writings.

Burgundy was the "Middle Kingdom" because it was the portion of Charlemagne's empire between France and the (rump of the) Holy Roman Empire.

In the Middle Ages, armies were almost always organized into three wings (divisions, battles, whatever), whether left/center/right or van/main body/rearguard. The King commanded the center, and his two senior officers (dukes or whatever) the two outside wings. I don't think that's some magic rule of three, though; it's more a tactical help: you can devote the larger portion of the army (i.e. two divisions) to one task (attacking or whatever) and the smaller portion (one wing) to holding its position. The number of medieval battles that followed that pattern was very high.

If you're determined to find threes, you probably will. Although, chances are, if you're determined to find twos, you'll find those, too. :-)


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 30 Mar 24 - 07:37 PM

For what it's worth - it's a storytelling feature, too. In terms of the story, (and this is found in a number of cultures) something happens three times and the third time is when it changes. Or there are three characters (often brothers, or sisters) and the third is the one who breaks the spell/wins the prize/defeats the enemy. And in terms of the telling, adjectives and adverbs often go in groups of three (or sometimes two) synonyms. I've spent a lot of time in deep study of a 13th century Occitan story, and spent longer than I would like listing the occurrences of these repetitions.
One theory is that if you're dealing with oral performance (as would have been the case more often than not) it ensures the listeners hear the essential features or, in the case of the "rule of three", make sure they're listening for the third time to see what happens.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: BobL
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 03:04 AM

Priest, Levite, Samaritan.

First time introduces a situation, second time defines "normality", third time is the interesting exception.
Maybe it's because we live in a three-spaced universe - one point is just a point, two points can define a line, three a curve. Or perhaps it's the milking-stool principle.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: David C. Carter
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 04:53 AM

The Father,The Son and The Holy Ghost.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: David C. Carter
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 05:00 AM

My mother,about to tell me something,would often start by saying...

'Between you,me and the gate post'.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 06:03 AM

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman went into a bar .....

DC


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 07:20 AM

Yes, that’s a good example of one for the set up, two for the development and three for the punchline. I saw a film last night where the main character in (Act Three- the denouement ( was searching for something important, and it wasn’t in the first place he looked, nor the second place, but guess what happened in the third place….


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 11:08 AM

The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria

The Three Musketeers; Athos, Aramis, and Porthos

The Three Wise Men; we know them as Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar

Trinity College, Cambridge, has a fleet of punts for hire. The name of each has a connection with a trio of some kind.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Robert B. Waltz
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 11:29 AM

henryp wrote: The Three Wise Men; we know them as Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar

I have to nitpick here -- not the original poster's fault, but worth noting. Yes, people say there were three "wise men." But:

1. The gospel of Matthew does not say they were wise men. It says they were magi (μαγοι, singular μαγος). Magi were Babylonian magicians. The main other use of the word Magi in the New Testament is in Acts, for Simon Magus, who was a magician who was guilty of simony (the buying of clerical offices) and was rejected by the apostles as not ready to be a Christian. Tradition made him the great enemy of the apostle Peter in Rome, though that's not Biblical either. But being a magos implicitly meant he was opposed to God.

2. The gospel of Matthew does not say that there were three of them. It just says that they gave three gifts: gold and two others, one of them being described as either frankincense or something from Lebanon and the other being myrrh, or something from Smyrna, or possible something else (both Greek words are obscure; the translations we use are derived from Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation).

3. There is no actual evidence that they came from the east. It was the star that was in the east. It actually makes more sense to assume that they followed the star from the west.

4. There is, of course, absolutely no Biblical warrant for the three names.

That there were three gifts is absolutely legitimate and conforms to the bit about there being three of things.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 02:19 PM

Getting back to the opening post:-

It strikes me as very resonant -- the naming of springtime hopes which are also sadly left behind and lost by the singer. I'm wondering if this resonance even has to do with the naming techniques - naming by threes?

Can you think of other songs that do this -- or else that name these longed-for losses in a similar way?



Not things that are left behind and lost, in this case, but things that the singer is prepared to lose:-

JOHNNY HAS GONE FOR A SOLDIER

I'll sell my clock
I'll sell my reel
Likewise I'll sell my spinning wheel
To buy my love a sword of steel


DC


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 05:28 PM

Rag, Tag and Bobtail

Bell, book and candle

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 07:50 PM

Yes we can

Back to basics

Stop the boats


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,paperback
Date: 31 Mar 24 - 09:50 PM

Tin Pan Alley

So let's root, root, root for the home team
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.

And, if a player strikes-out three times in a single inning 'you're a turkey'


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: leeneia
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 12:49 AM

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,E
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 01:01 AM

- The three sons of 'The Wife of Usher's Well' (now ghosts)


- ‘The Twa Corbies’

There were three rauens sat on a tree,
downe a downe, hay downe, hay downe,
There were three rauens sat on a tree,
with a downe,
There were three rauens sat on a tree,
They were as blacke as they might be.
With a downe, derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe.


- 'Three Mowers'

They were three bonny mowers,
Were mowing half the day;
They were three bonny lasses
A-making of the hay.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 03:07 AM

The Twa Corbies - The Two Crows

It has a more dark and cynical tone than the Three Ravens, from which its lyrics were clearly derived. There are only two scavengers in "The Twa Corbies", but this is the least of the differences between the songs, though they do begin the same. Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Robert B. Waltz
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 06:48 AM

Lots of examples from Greek mythology. Three different rulers of the universe over time: Ouranos, then Chronos, then Zeus.

Zeus was one of three brothers who divided the realms of the cosmos: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades.

In the Judgment of Paris, Paris had to choose between three goddesses, Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera. Being a nitwit, he chose Aphrodite and was given Helen of Sparta and ended up dead, and all Troy with him. I mean, what sort of numbskull is going to choose Aphrodite when Athena is one of the options? Think about that one. :-)

Anyway, there are other examples too.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 07:05 AM

There are three lovely lasses in Bannion


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 07:17 AM

Three Coins in the Fountain

Knock Three Times

Three Times a Lady


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Bill D
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 08:35 AM

If Goldilocks had eaten only 2 bowls of porridge, the whole story would have been different!


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 10:37 AM

Robert B Waltz:
3. There is no actual evidence that they came from the east. It was the star that was in the east. It actually makes more sense to assume that they followed the star from the west.

Except that, if we are accepting the Bible in general, then this was foretold in Psalm 72 (or commented on if you believe that the Book of Psalms was a late addition):
The eastern kings of Sheba and Seba will bring him gifts. All kings will bow before him, and all nations will serve him. He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Mrrzy
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 11:05 AM

Goldilocks only ate one bowl, pedant alert. The others were too hot or too cold.

I may not be superstitious but I do wait for the third shoe to drop, as it were, when two related things happen close together.

Larry Niven: one the one hand, on the other hand, on the gripping hand.


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Robert B. Waltz
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 01:40 PM

Nigel Parsons wrote: Except that, if we are accepting the Bible in general, then this was foretold in Psalm 72 (or commented on if you believe that the Book of Psalms was a late addition):

This requires a whole bunch of assumptions that I do not consider it justified to make, including that Psalm 72 (71 LXX) is about the Messiah rather than an ordinary king (the obvious reading), and that Matthew had that passage in mind.

I don't really think the Magi came from the west (apart from the fact that I think Matthew made the whole thing up); Magi were from Babylon, which was to the east, and Matthew 2:1 says they came from the east. It's just that the description of the star would seem to imply it.

Actually, based on the gifts, the most logical direction is arguably from the north. They started in Smyrna, picking up the item from Smyrna (unreliably translated "myrrh"), then went through Antioch to the Lebanon, picking up the item from Lebanon (unreliably translated "frankincense"), went on through Jerusalem to Bethlehem.

All of which is way too much meaning to wring out of a short passage full of ambiguities. :-)


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Subject: RE: Naming in threes
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 01 Apr 24 - 04:12 PM

Someone once pointed out to me why folktales often have events that happen in threes--

Three is the smallest number in which you can establish a pattern and then break the pattern.

The first two have something in common; the third thing is different from the first two in an important way.

In the Three Little Pigs story, the first two fail to keep the wolf out of their houses; the third one succeeds.

Sometimes it takes two failed attempts for the hero to figure out what he is doing wrong (and for the storyteller to make it clear to the listener); then he applies his new knowledge and succeeds.


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