three time's a charm

chuck grandgent chuck at CHUCKG.COM
Thu Jan 15 13:13:17 UTC 2004

> From:    Geoffrey Nunberg <nunberg at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject: Re: three time's a charm
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> In a JSTOR search, I did find "three's a charm" cited in a 1927
> article in The Journal of American Folklore on Louisiana
> superstitions, and  "The third time is the charm" recorded as a
> proverb in a 1950 article from the same journal on "Folk Beliefs
> Collected in Southeastern Illinois."
> It seems pretty clear that the proverb originally implied the sense
> of 'charm' as a magical incantation or talisman. A 1989 article on
> Russian ritual incantations from the Slavic and  East European
> Journal mentions the saying in connection with the belief that spells
> and incantations must be repeated three times to be effective, though
> he doesn't say whether there's a Russian equivalent. And a number of
> articles mention the significance of the number 3 in charms; for
> example a 1909 article on Anglo Saxon charms in the The Journal of
> American Folklore points out that "The numbers 3 and 9 occur much
> more frequently than any other numbers in the charms. ... Thus,
> certain rites are to be performed three times [or] on three
> successive days. Chants are to be sung three times..." The author
> mentions other charms involving  three stones, three nails, three
> cups, three leek-leaves, three herbs, three incisions, etc.
> Geoff Nunberg

In sanskrit texts, something is repeated three times as a means of clearly
stressing a point, as in "kalau nast'eva nast'eva nast'eva gatir anyatha".

If you Google on "sanskrit repeat three times" you will see a lot on this.

   Chuck Grandgent, Jacksonville, Florida

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