What’s the Use of Trine: A Fun Look at the Rule of Three

The rule of three is a delightful technique in which events, characters or subjects are grouped in threes. Because of the way our minds work, and how we find great comfort in patterns, these little trios are more memorable, humorous, enjoyable and compelling than any other number. From literature to slogans to punch lines, the rule of three rules.

Don’t believe us? Then stop, look and listen at this list (see how we snuck one in there already?)

  • In storytelling, we loved the three little pigs, the three bears (not to mention too hot, too cold and just right), the three musketeers, the three amigos and the three men in a tub.
  • In slogans and catch phrases we have “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;” “I came, I saw, I conquered;” “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”; “blood, sweat and tears;” “the good, the bad and the ugly;” and “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.”
  • Comedians have found that setting up their audience up with two related subjects, then misdirecting them with a third, is pure comic gold.
    • My first bikini was a three piece — a top, a bottom and a blindfold for my husband.
    • To an unwanted guest, “Can I get you something…coffee? Tea? Roundup?”
    • And virtually every “going to heaven” or “walk into a bar” joke proves good things come in threes.

A rabbi, a priest and a duck walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What is this, a joke?!”


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