05.22.19

What a Long, Strange Triptych It’s Been

  • Before we begin, let’s look at what we’re dealing with. A triangle is a thing with three edges and three vertices (corner points).
  • There are six types of triangles. An easy way to remember ‘em is with the acronym I arose (which may be a little new to some, but it still makes way more sense than the rainbow’s Roy G. Biv).
    • Isosceles (Two sides are equal length)
    • Acute (All interior angles measure less than 90º)
    • Right (One interior angle measures 90º)
    • Obtuse (One interior angle measures more than 90º. Also meaning to be “slow to understand,” it’s our favorite word in all of Shawshank Redemption)
    • Scalene (Three unequal sides)
    • Equilateral (All sides are of equal length; the crowd favorite)

  • Geometric equations concerning the triangle date back as far as 3,000 B.C. After the Egyptians, it was studied for centuries by mathletes from India to Italy. But it wasn’t until 1654 that Blaise Pascal calculated its formula, creating what we know today as Pascal’s Triangle. Say what you will about the man, he knew his binomial expansions.
  • While the triangle is a simple shape, it’s packed with complex meaning and symbolism.
    • The Greeks saw it as a doorway, a new direction that would bring original thoughts, deeper emotions and higher wisdom. Considering how their hieroglyphic alphabet was adopted by fraternities, that belief is debatable.
    • Gender identification aside, scholars have surmised that when the triangle’s tip points upward, it represents masculinity and assertiveness, and if pointed downward, it represents femininity and empowered energy.
    • In pagan symbolism, tip up means fire while tip down means water. But the meaning behind their symbol valknut (comprised of thee interlocking triangles) is anyone’s guess.
    • Triangular tattoos are equated with creativity, harmony, alliance and change.

  • The Research Triangle Park, or RTP, is the high-tech, R&D triumvirate consisting of three universities from three neighboring North Carolina college towns (NC State in Raleigh, Duke in Durham and UNC in Chapel Hill).
  • Just north of that is America’s Historic Triangle. Made up of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown, it marks our journey from English settlement to American independence.
  • In the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis used triangle badges of various colors to categorize interned prisoners. Pink was for homosexual and bisexual men, black for criminals and nonconformists and purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses and other “Bible students”). In the 1970s the pink triangle became a badge of honor for the LGBTQ community and continues to be a popular symbol of the political rights movement.
  • The Eye of Providence: It’s not an eyeglass store in Rhode Island but rather that floating eye inside a triangle on the back of our $1.00 bill. Designed and adopted in 1776, this Christian symbol meant God was watching over us all and was placed atop a topless pyramid of thirteen steps (representing the original thirteen colonies). Above the eye is the motto Annuit Coeptis and below it Novus Ordo Seclorum, which roughly translates to God favors our undertakings in the new order of the ages. Take that, England.

  • The triangle (musical instrument): Dating back to the 14th century, the triangle has long been associated as the designated instrument for those without any musical ability. Yet despite its seemingly unpolished simplicity, this three-sided metallic idiophone has held its own in the percussion family. And while some would say, “Playing the Triangle is an art,” others would reply, “If by art you mean color-by-numbers, then sure.”
  • The love triangle: Historically, the “grass is always greener” proverb not only caused major battles and widespread death, but impacted politics and religion on a global scale. There are tons to choose from, but a few classic examples of being torn between two lovers include:
    • Henry VIII: When wife Catherine was unable to bear him an heir, he moved on to Anne Boleyn. The church didn’t like that one bit, so Hank started a new, more tolerant religion.
    • Antony: Though involved with Cleopatra, Antony made a shrewd move by marrying his arch-enemy’s sister, Octavia. When he took up with Cleo again, his nemesis publicly threw shade, and in the ensuing Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., Octavian won and took Rome as his own.
    • Helen of Sparta: Married at 17 to a much older man, she jumped at the chance of love with the dashing Paris of Troy. After running away together, the husband tracked her down and brought an army with him, sparking a bloody 10-year war. Said every soldier from either side: “Let me get this straight…I have to spend a decade away from home just so you can hook up with your girlfriend?”
  • In culture, you’ll find triangles everywhere, including:
    • Road signs indicating yields, curves, turns, dangers, school crossings and men at work. Or maybe men without hats. We get our 80s groups mixed up sometimes.
    • Pizza slices (with a round pie, square box and triangular servings, it’s the most polygonic of foods). Same goes for pies and cakes.
    • Doritos, butterflies, billiards ball racks, dissected views of prisms and Toblerone chocolate bars, and oddly enough, the measuring tool used in math and architecture that’s shaped like a triangle but called a set square.
 

 

  • Songs named after — or all about — triangles include:
    • The Pink Triangle: Weezer’s jangly lament of a young man yearning for an unobtainable young lady.
    • Bizarre Love Triangle: Forgettable electric dance tune from English MTV darlings New Order.
    • Tra La La La Triangle: Patsy Cline’s perky song of unrequited love.
    • Triangle Walks: From Swedish songstress Karin Dreijerv. Performing under the alias Fever Ray, her avant-garde recording style and use of stage masks and costumes has been described as “one part Laurie Anderson, one part Björk.” Vá!
    • Particle Man: Another accordion-heavy hit from Grammy-winning quirksters They Might Be Giants. Spoiler: Triangle Man hates Particle Man. They fight. Triangle Man wins. But you saw that coming.
  • The Triangles (band): Great story – this indie group from Melbourne was moderately successful in their native Australia yet virtually unheard of worldwide. Then in 2010, they were asked to reunite to perform their song “Applejack” as the soundtrack for a promotional video for Barcelona beer Estrella Damm. The video was a hit, and the tune reached #1 on the Spanish charts. Let that be a lesson to you kids.
  • Triangle (band): A late-70s Japanese pop group known for their single Koi wa Tekkiri Ba-Bi-Bu-Be-Bo. Catchy hook. At least we think it is.
  • In film, we have:
    • The Triangle of Venus: A messy German soap opera featuring a gambling-addicted tennis pro, greed, lust, murder and women in bikinis.
    • The Triangle: Four filmmakers document the goings on in a Montana commune, only to uncover a shocking secret. The secret? No one we know saw it, so we’re not sure.
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