japonisme: harmony

03 November 2007


[T]richotomy is a pattern of American Culture. [I]t is, and will probably continue to be, an important cognitive category in American (an Old World) culture.

As for how individuals learn about the pattern, there are probably many sources. Three dimensions of space, the three tenses of time, and the good-better-best paradigm all exert some influence.

But an Am- er- ican three-year-old has already been exposed to the category in folkloristic form, perhaps before he realizes the space, time, and linguistic features.

For are there not three men in a tub? three bags of Baa Baa Black Sheep's wool? three little kittens who lost their mittens? three little pigs? Is not the third item called for by Old King Cole his fiddlers three?

Is there an American child who has not heard the story of the three bears? This latter story is a narrative listing of trichotomies in which the mediating third term is invariable "just right." (Note that the third term is associated with the child bear rather than the mother and father bears.)

The child is conditioned by his folklore to expect three and his culture does not disappoint him. Language, social organization, religion, and almost all other aspects of American culture confirm the pattern.

Trichotomy exists but it is not the nature of nature. It is part of the nature of culture. At this point, if anyone is skeptical about there being a three-pattern in American culture, let him give at least three good reasons why.

Alan Dundes 1

Labels: , ,


Blogger Princess Haiku said...

I never thought about the "holy trinity" in this way before. I can't imagine the four little pigs though or the five bears. :)

03 November, 2007 22:36  
Anonymous Liza said...

The Dundes article and the website on threes are fascinating.

Thanks once again for the beautiful art and sparkling ideas.

Your site rocks.

04 November, 2007 06:30  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

yes, princess--i keep wondering if someone from another culture will come along and dispute this.

thanks liza. he's something of a local hero.

you've got me grinning!

04 November, 2007 22:25  

Post a Comment

hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

<< Home

newer posts older posts