Where Four Art Thou: How Four-sided Things Are a Daily Part of Everything

Ever wonder why so many things in our world are … squarish? TVs, laptops, tables, books and a thousand other things. One thing we can tell you is for the most part, it’s no accident. Much like colors, shapes can shape the way we think and feel. Studies have shown that when it comes to quadrilaterals, people possess some pretty positive perceptions, such as discipline, strength, courage, security, reliability, professionalism and efficiency.

Combined with the fact that our eyes naturally go from left to right, it’s easy to see why we’re more comfortable—and can better comprehend stuff—when it’s inside a square or horizontal rectangle.

Outside of literature and electronics, you’ll find quadrilaterals in:

  • Religion, such as in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (from an 1870 essay by an Episcopal priest, it describes the four points of doctrine including the Holy Scripture, creeds, sacraments and the historic Episcopate) and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (a guide from John Wesley, the leader of the Methodist movement of the late 19th century which is made up of scripture, tradition, reason and experience).
  • Politics, including the Quad Security Dialogue (informal talks between Japan, Australia, India and the U.S.).
  • Virtually every country’s flag, the only exceptions being Vatican City, Nepal and Switzerland (which is perfectly square and a perfect match for the Red Cross emblem).

  • Virtually every sport’s playing field, including football and soccer fields, basketball courts, baseball diamonds and hockey rinks (ok, the corners are rounded, but it’s rectangular!).
  • Music groups, such as Thompson Square (husband-wife country duo with hits like “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” and “If I Didn’t Have You”) and T-Square (a Japanese jazz fusion ensemble, popular since the late 70s).
  • Songs, including “Hip to be Square” (a fun rocker by Huey Lewis and the News that reached #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1986), “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” (written in 1939 and recorded by artists from Bing to Frank to the New Vaudeville Band), “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” (uplifting Sherman and Sherman composition from Disney’s Mary Poppins) and “You’re So Square, Baby I Don’t Care” (Twistable tune sung by Buddy Holly and the Beatles, but most closely associated with Elvis and his 1957 film Jailhouse Rock).
  • Architecture: From a design standpoint, virtually every building, home, window and door are under the quad umbrella. And for on-the-money measurable results, no drafting table is complete without a T-Square.

  • Idioms, everyday phrases and stuff that include:
    • Square Meal (or three Squares a Day). Most agree this term originated in the late 1700s when sailors of the British and American Naval forces were served meals on square trays with a beveled circle, thus preventing plates from sliding off during rough waters.
    • Being a Square (or Be There or be Square). Popular with jazz musicians during the 40s and 50s, it was their way of throwing shade at those who were not cool, and could neither rock nor roll.
    • Square Peg in a Round Hole. Dating back to the 1800s, it aptly described a misfit who literally did not fit in with the norms of society.
    • Square Root. Multiple a number by itself (i.e. 5 x 5) and it’s squared (25). Which makes the square root of 25, 5. Even those of us with a remedial math gene can figure this one out.
    • High as a Kite. Whether naturally or otherwise, it’s self-explanatory.
    • Kite Flying. Either “running an idea up the ol’ flag pole” to see what people think, or a form of fraud where people write checks from a non-existent account acquiring money while the check “floats” to the bank (for some beautiful examples, watch the film Catch Me If You Can).
    • Film/Video: Includes Square Pegs (Meh TV series with Sarah Jessica Parker prior to SITC), Hangover Square (Twisted 1945 film about a composer, torn between finishing a concerto for a rich guy or a hit tune for a young singer, goes mad in the process, The Blue Kite (Intense story of a young family during the 1960s Cultural Revolution. Banned by the government, it made the list of “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”) and at the top of the list, the TV and film cultural mecca known as Spongebob Squarepants, (Which follows the daily dilemmas of a squeaky-voice innocent who, as we all know, lives in a pineapple under sea).  
  • Culture: Including
    • Diamond jewelry (The Princess, Radiant, Asscher and Emerald cuts are all brilliant examples of quadrilaterals).
    • Game boards (Checkers, chess, Monopoly and dozens of others are all squared away).
    • Currency (Sawbucks, dead presidents, greenbacks are all great slang for money. But foldin’ rectangles…not so much).
    • Street signs (Featured in four-sides we have street names, speed limits, one ways, U-turns, rest areas and no exits. Tilt a square onto its point are signs of dead ends, bike lanes, veering every which way, steep inclines, construction ahead and the ever popular “Hey, I’m walking here” pedestrian crossing).
    • Rubik’s Cube (Made up of 54 squares, this 1974 invention is the world’s top-selling puzzle game)
  • Fashion: Coming into its own during the mid-century atomic ranch phase (and every decade since), parallelograms, trapezoids and rhombuses were to die four in clothing, art and everyday household items.


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