The Devil's Dictionary and repetition

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 20 00:13:44 UTC 2000

Andrea Vine writes:

>Today I was relating a story of a contentious meeting between me and
>someone who
>works in the same firm.  I found myself repeating things 3 times for emphasis.
>When I stopped to think about it, I remember hearing other folks doing the
>thing.  I even remember one of my Russian instructors doing it (for
>correction).  What is it about 3 times, as opposed to some other number?
>Is it
>part of a certain set of languages, or is it some innate human tendency?
"What I say three times is true"--Lewis Carroll, 'The Hunting of the Snark'
(if memory serves)

(Not an explanation, but additional evidence.)

  One problem with two times is that often this yields a
modifier/specifier-head reading of the type we've discussed on the list (a
DOG dog, a SALAD salad, TALL tall), so thrice is the fewest mentions you
can have that unambiguously signals emphasis rather than some other
function.  And if three works, you don't really need four.  Whence
"Location, location, location" and such.


More information about the Ads-l mailing list