Three, It’s a Magic Number
Lots of things come in threes.
The songwriters for Schoolhouse Rock, as well as members of the rock band Blind Melon, knew the power of three.
The human mind seems to have an easier time remembering things in groups of three, and speech writers know that a group of three items will pack more punch than a group of two or four. Winston Churchill used this structure often, and it may be one reason that the Declaration of Independence mentions “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It’s certainly the reason that I, on the rare occasion when someone asks me to sign their copy of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks, usually write, “live, laugh, learn.”
In writing, the “Rule of Three” is employed all the time, especially in humorous writing. Many jokes contain three elements, under the theory that the first element sets the stage, the second builds tension, and the third delivers the punch line. Like this gem from comedienne Laura Kightlinger:
I can’t think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, or how you met, or why they’re dead.
Or this one from Drew Carey:
Hate your job? There’s a support group for that. It’s called “everybody,” and they meet at a bar.
It’s also the reason that bars are often walked into by “a rabbi, a minister, and a priest” or “a doctor, a lawyer, and an Indian chief.” And it’s the reason there’s a section in Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks called “Three Dudes” with jokes about “a chemist, a physicist, and a mathematician.” Here’s one of my favorite jokes of this variety.
A pastor, a doctor, and a mathematician were stuck behind a slow foursome while playing golf. The greenskeeper noticed their frustration and explained to them, “The slow group ahead of you is a bunch of blind firemen. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free.”
The pastor responded, “That’s terrible! I’ll say a prayer for them.”
The doctor said, “I’ll contact my ophthalmologist friends and see if there isn’t something that can be done for them.”
And the mathematician asked, “Why can’t these guys play at night?”