What does coming up threes mean?

I tried Google, I tried Urban Dictionary, I even tried a plain old dictionary-

but I still can’t figure out what coming up threes means.

What’s the context? With only 19 google results, its clearly not a very common idiom.

Song lyrics (probably most of your google results):

Bury me at sea where no murdered ghost can haunt me
If I rock upon the waves no corpse will lie upon me
Coming up threes, boys
Coming up threes, boys
Let me go down in the mud where the rivers all run dry

In the context of those lyrics - perhaps something to do with the old belief that a drowning man comes to the surface three times?

Hmmm… I know Cecil did a column on this supposed “phenomenon” but I’d never actually heard of it before, nor heard the phrase coming up threes…

In the context of the lyrics, I agree, it seems to be referring to the idiom that a man drowning will go down for the third time and stay down.
Elsewhere, ‘coming up in threes’ usually refers to the idea that significant (usually unfortunate) events often seem to happen in clusters of three - celebrity deaths, natural disasters, crashes, etc. Usually this is just referred to as ‘happening in threes’.

I think the lyric is probably purposely using something that sounds like one idiom, but meaning another (or a little of both). Quite clever actually.

The Irish accent has fooled the lyrics writers

it isn’t “threes”, it is “trees

so “coming up trees” is just an irish way of saying “pushing up daisies” - i.e. dead



Bu… but… but I heard Joe Strummer say it, and he definitely said threes.

:wink: :smiley:

There was a belief prevalent in the 19th century, popularized by authors such as Poe and Verne, that a drowned body will float again after three days.

OK, reading through the google results that don’t deal with the particular song, one definitely uses coming up threes in the sense of drowning.

But another uses it differently, actually seems a bit like ‘coming up roses’: “Besides the rain delay, everything was coming up threes last night.”


I don’t see much sense in the drowning aspect. If you drown, you’re already essentially buried at sea. Furthermore, the lyrics as a whole (one line is “If Im buried neath the sod”) refer to death, burial, and after-death, but don’t suggest any cause of said death, and certainly don’t support the notion that it was specifically by drowning.

It’s part of a larger article where the number three was apparently a frequent occurrance in this guy’s awareness.

It’s preceeded by a mention of a three hour rain delay, then:

“Besides the three hour rain delay, everything was coming up threes last night”
“Only three of us stayed until the game ended”
“Dave S., let out three antibiotic-powered farts that almost killed us…”
“And I got home exactly at 3 a.m.”
“Does anyone think they’ll actually get all three Subway Series games in this weekend?”

…and it continues…

Oh, see, I couldn’t get that to open, so all I had was the little snippet in the google results.

Oh, and as for the interpretation of the song’s meaning as a whole-

He says “If I’m buried 'neath the sod but the angels won’t receive me” then later says the “Bury me at sea” part. So, it sorta sounds like fear of being rejected by the hallowed ground (“If I should fall from grace with God”) and choosing burial at sea instead.

But yeah, he’s already dead at this point (“where no doctor can relieve me”).


Anyone? Anyone even heard the expression before?


I remember older cartoons (from the 50’s or 60’s) that when showing a person drowning always showed the victim doing a count - One (showing one finger), two and three. I’ve had the impression since then that 3 times underwater is required to drown. I’ve never heard the actual expression, but I think that may have been the belief at one time.

I always wondered about Red’s moniker. Now I know for sure. A curse upon you, Oliver Cromwell.

I think the “comes up threes” lines refers to the superstition that good and bad luck are believed to come in threes. Just my two cents worth it could be the drowning superstition or perhaps the luck and bad luck in threes is linked to going down for the third time.

Well zombies certainly come in threes.

I realize this is a zombie but…

Seems to me that this would be related to a dice game. I looked at the Wikipedia article for craps and three didn’t seem that spectacular of a roll. But then I remembered the phrase “sixes and sevens” and looked up the Wikipedia article on that and it led me to the article on the dice game called hazard in which if you throw a three you lose.

So, in hazard, if it looks like it’s coming up threes, it looks like you’re going to lose.