phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Semper tres

Posted by R. Berg on January 05, 2003

In Reply to: Semper tres posted by Miri Barak on January 05, 2003

: : : : I'm translating a piece about Gauguin, the painter, and it is said about him "I believe I learnt, during my childhood and in that seminary, to hate hypocrisy, double dealing and sneaking *(semper tres)*, and to distrust anything that ran contrary to my instinct, heart and reason. Gauguin says these words about his school days in a religous school in France.
: : : : *semper tres* it is part of a sentence: Non quam duo, semper tres
: : : : and it means: never go in twos - always in threes.
: : : : this is a rule they had to keep at school. I wanted to know the origin of it, what was really the reason for this rule, to be able to understand the connection to this paragraph.
: : : : and my thanks to everyone who tries to enlighten me.
: : : : Miri

: : : This'll be of no help, but it used to be claimed that in the days of the Cold War, the KGB used to only go around in threes - why? One who could read, one who could write, and the last to keep a watchful eye on the intelligentsia.

: : The article linked below suggests that the purpose of the rule in seminaries was to prevent sexual activity between students.
: : projects/priests/ststans.htm

: Thank you for both answers, Berg I did get this link myself but I wanted to know if there was another reason for this rule. maybe if I understand *sneaking* as telling about someone's doings than it could be understood as keeping an eye on the two by the third one.
: I don't konw if I made myself clear.
: thanks miri

"Sneaking" means doing something wrong or forbidden in secrecy--breaking a school rule, for example, while trying not to be found out. Telling about someone's doings is sometimes called "tattling" or "informing." I went to secular schools and don't have any special knowledge of the reason for going around in threes. Regardless of the reason, possibly Gauguin said "semper tres" at that point in the sentence because he had just named three things: hypocrisy, double dealing, sneaking. If so, the point is that he learned the "semper tres" rule so well that later in life he still had a habit of mentioning three things at a time.