Rule of Three

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Feb 9 02:08:25 UTC 2004

a commentator on NPR's Sunday Morning Edition today (2/8/04) claimed
that the three most important (electoral) issues in michigan are:
"Jobs, jobs, jobs."

this is (i think) a play on the real estate cliche that the three most
important considerations in buying a house are: "Location, location,
location".  location-location-location itself has been extended to a
great many domains besides real estate; to appreciate this, google on
"location location location" and sample some of the roughly 218,000
sites listed.

in any case, there's a formula here:
   The three most important Xs in Y are: Z, Z, Z.
(conveying something like 'the only really important X in Y is Z').

i've been calling this, in my own  mind, the Rule of Three, but perhaps
somone has studied it already, and given it a name?  has anyone
assembled some collection of instances of the formula?  (they are all
over the place.)  has anyone looked at the history?  (is
location-location-location in the real estate domain the earliest
exemplar in english?  in any case, what's the earliest citation for an

this is *not* an invitation for people to supply their recollections of
exemplars of the formula, though citations from printed sources or data
collections, especially of some age, would be welcome.

arnold (zwicky at

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