three on a match meaning


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three on a match

three on a match

Post by Shannon » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:50 pm

three on a match

Post by Nahani » Wed Apr 13, 2005 3:02 pm

three on a match

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Apr 13, 2005 4:00 pm

three on a match

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Apr 13, 2005 4:20 pm

There is one aspect of this that I find puzzling. If a sniper could target you by the match you used for lighting your cigarette, he must surely also have been able to track your glowing cigarette end?

This seems to me to be yet another demonstration — if any were needed — that smoking kills.

three on a match

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Apr 13, 2005 8:13 pm

Shannon, THREE ON A MATCH is taken to mean any practice which reputedly brings ill luck, but most of the time the specific practice of lighting three cigarettes with one match. And the most often-mentioned, supposed origin of the phrase is the soldier/sniper explanation offered above by Shelly and Bob. But, as Erik said, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because the cigarette itself would also emit a glow, but perhaps not as bright as a flame – let’s do an experiment with live ammunition! ( How Did It Begin: A fascinating study of the superstitions, customs, and strange habits that influence our daily lives by R. Brash (Pocket Book, New York, 1969) – by way of The Phrase Finder (and trusting that they did not screw up the quote) we have:

LIGHTING THREE CIGARETTES WITH ONE MATCH – The Holy Trinity, commercial interests and self-protection in time of war, are cited as the [[three]] direct cause[] of aversion to lighting three cigarettes with one match.

[[1]] Three is the symbol of the trinity. To make a mundane use of it was to defile its sanctity and to transgress the holy law. Man would invite disaster and put himself into the power of the ‘evil one.’ Thus, a match, trebly used, would light the fires of Hell for one’s own soul.

[[2]] Another, less fearful tradition claims that the superstition first arose among British troops during the Crimean War. They learned from Russian captives of the danger of using any light for a threefold purpose. They were told that it was the sacred rule of the Orthodox Church that the three candles on the altar were not to be lit from a single taper, except when the High Priest used it. However, a more likely explanation of the origin of the custom is that British soldiers, entrenched against Dutch foes in the Boer War, learned by bitter experience of the danger of lighting three cigarettes from one match. When the men thriftily used one match to serve three of them, they gave the Boer sniper time to spot the light, take aim and fire, killing ‘the third man.’

[[3]] Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match king, certainly did not create the superstition, as it has been alleged, but he made the widest possible use of it to promote sales. People, innately superstitious, did not mind wasting a match. After all, there might just be something in it! Certainly there were millions of pounds of profit for Mr. Kreuger who thus, by fostering for his own purpose a realistic wartime precaution, was able to increase his sales manifold.”

Having never heard the expression before, I was surprised that Google produced

69,000 hits. Upon examination of the results, I found that

68,500 of these THREE ON A MATCH hits derived from the following three sources:

1) A 1932 movie of this name about the lives of 3 women during the depression. A movie synopsis review said the following: “After 10 years apart, three childhood schoolmates unexpectedly bump into each other and immediately resume their friendship in spite of their very different positions in society. While reminiscing, they light three cigarettes from the same match, defying a popular 1930s superstition that this will result in death for one of them.”

2) A popular TV game show of this name hosted by Bill Cullen that ran from 1971 through 1974.

3) A song of this name recorded by The Cherry Poppin Daddies in 1996: “Three on a match again / Three on a match again / Looks like I lost a friend / I’ll never go three on a match again /Three on a match again”

( Picturesque Expressions by Urdang, Listening to America by Flexner)

Wordwizard For lovers of the English Language Unanswered topics Active topics Search three on a match three on a match Post by Shannon » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:50 pm

three on a match

three on a match

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Definition of three on a match in the Idioms Dictionary. three on a match phrase. What does three on a match expression mean? Definitions by the largest Idiom Dictionary. ]]>