Hendiatris as Rule of Three? and the Crumbling of Linguistica Logica

By Xah Lee. Date: .

“sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll” used to be “wine, women, and song”.

“Red, White, and Blue.”

“Sex, Lies, and Videotape.”

“Guns, Gays, and God.”

y'know how those phrases flow thru the tongue?

there's a name for these kinda phrases, and it's called hendiatris, a particular type of “figure of speech”.

actually, after reading Wikipedia and did some online search, i am dubious if Wikipedia made it up.

I didn't find “hendiatris” mentioned in any reputable dictionary.

here's what Wikipedia says:

Hendiatris (from the Greek: ἓν διὰ τριῶν, hèn dià triôn, “one through three”) is a figure of speech used for emphasis, in which three words are used to express one idea.[1][2] For example, the phrase sex, drugs and rock'n'roll as used to capture the life of a rock star is of this form. If the units involved are not single words, and if they are not in any way synonyms but rather circumnavigate the one idea expressed, the figure may be described more correctly, precisely, and succinctly as a triad.

A tripartite motto is the conventional English term for a motto, a slogan, or an advertising phrase in the form of a hendiatris. Perhaps equally well known throughout the world are Julius Caesar's Veni, vidi, vici (an example of a tricolon) and the motto of the French Republic: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité; the phrase Peace, Order and Good Government is used as a guiding principle in the parliaments of the Commonwealth of Nations.

[from Wikipedia Hendiatris]

here's another Wikipedia article, “The rule of three”.

The rule of three

The rule of three or power of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.[1] The reader or audience of this form of text is also thereby more likely to remember the information. This is because having three entities combines both brevity and rhythm with having the smallest amount of information to create a pattern.[2][3] It makes the author or speaker appear knowledgeable while being both simple and catchy.

Slogans, film titles and a variety of other things have been structured in threes, a tradition that grew out of oral storytelling.[4] Examples include the Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and the Three Musketeers. Similarly, adjectives are often grouped in threes to emphasize an idea.

The Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete) conveys the same idea as the rule of three.

no doubt, that “rule of three” is a common pattern used by writers. And, am pretty sure, it has long history, and probably a name. Still, i didn't find the word hendiatris in traditional dictionaries.

the Crumbling of Linguistica Logica

on a different note, the existence and wide use of rule of three, suggests that something's wrong with English.

Seems it is impossible to write in a direct dry deadpan logical exposition of something and be effective. Instead, you have to resort to flourishes, adorn it with figures of speech. Figure that!