Three is the magic number – or so the song would have us believe. It’s one of only 9 single digits (discounting 0) – but is it a designers dream? Does it drive photography, design and literature?
I ask myself sometimes why is two of anything boring, but three much more fun?
When people see two things written together, you can usually see a connection – for example solid and liquid, left and right, up and down. (See I used three examples there – so much more comfortable to read eh?)
Even if there isn’t an immediate connection we can find something that links them – Pride and Prejudice; Death in Venice; Heart of Darkness (three examples again)… so even if we can’t find a connection in the words, our brain fills in the relevant gaps. Think big and small, one is dominant, and one isn’t.
You can always, ALWAYS, connect two dots with a straight line….. not so with three, not always.
Add another word and it becomes in English Language a Tricolon.
(A series of three words, phrases or sentences that are parallel in structure, length and/or rhythm.)
It can be a good device for humour… for example “Three ……… walk into a bar”. Two elements get you going in one direction, but the third introduces something unexpected.
Think of these “Wine, Women and Song”, “Veni Vidi, Vici”, “Eat Drink and be Merry”.
With a tricolon you can set up a pattern and then break it… ‘Lies, damned lies, and statistics’ is a good example. Two words send you in one direction, and the third breaks it.
Of course, that’s not always the case… in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, there’s the great question about ‘Life, the Universe, and Everything’. You can’t stop half way through, there’s no meaning. Two is company, three is a list….. (and the answer of course is always 42!)
And that’s the important bit, the ‘good, bad and ugly’ of it all, we’ll just have to ‘eat, drink and be merry’.
This whole sense of it is its completeness, an end to a list, a finish. We’ve said it all, or we’ve photographed it all, and in the end analysis, three, just works…….