The Devil's Dictionary and repetition

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Thu Jan 20 21:21:21 UTC 2000

The article first appeared in the collection _Every Man His Way_ (1968) and
is reprinted in Dundes' _Interpreting Folklore_ (Bloomington: IUP,
1980).  Seven and other magical numbers are discussed in another article in
_Every Man His Way_, the one whose title and author I can't think of.  (But
I may even have the wrong book in mind; witness my confusing McNeill and

At 03:23 PM 1/20/00 -0500, you wrote:
>Beverly Flanigan wrote:
> >
> > A more academic study is a classic piece by Alan Dundes, "The Number Three
> > in American Culture" . . .
>Do you have a citation for this?  I knew of the article (but didn't have the
>title) and was looking for it a few years ago, and failed to find it.  I'd
>heard a reading or discussion of it on the radio many, many years ago, and it
>was intriguing.
>Seven, of course, is also a magic number in many cultures from waaaaay back,
>probably because there were seven wandering celestial bodies, i.e., seven
>visible bodies that did not stay put relative to all the rest (hence the
>seven days of the week with names corresponding to those bodies, or to
>assorted deities associated with them:  Sunday for sun, Monday for moon,
>Tuesday for Tiw [couterpart of Mars], Wednesday for Woden [counterpart of
>Mercury], Thursday for Thor [counterpart of Jupiter], Friday for Freya
>[counterpart of Venus], Saturday for Saturn).
>This magic quality makes seven a popular choice for a number that could just
>as well be six or eight or five or nine (e.g., in defining how many seconds
>you should emphasize a point in order for it to sink in), just as the magic
>quality of "three" makes it a popular choice for numbers that could as easily
>be two or four (e.g., in giving examples, or listing "the most important
>qualities" of something--as "location, location, location"--or for all sorts
>of rhetorical purposes, as "me, myself, and I").
>James E. Clapp

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