Particle Man

Particle man, particle man
Doing the things a particle can
What’s he like? It’s not important
Particle man

— From “Particle Man”, by They Might Be Giants

…nothing is missing from your understanding of “Particle Man”…

— John Linnell of They Might Be Giants

In the song “Particle Man”, four “men” that are maybe super heroes are discussed:

  • Particle Man: even if something was known about this entity, except for being minute, it would seem to be of no consequence
  • Person Man: whether this individual just has low self esteem or actually deserves their belittled state is indeterminate
  • Triangle Man: hates Particle Man and Person Man for some reason, and bests each one individually in fights; a bully perhaps
  • Universe Man: might be identified with the whole of space-time itself and so may be too large or important for petty conflicts

Further Reading:

[*11. 88]



7 thoughts on “Particle Man”

  1. A parable in four sizes. 1. Universe man seems about right. 2. Particle man – smaller than a molecule and hard to detect, much less to figure out. From him all else is made. 3. Person man tries to understand and hopes to control particle man, but… 4. Triangle man is not only triune but jealous, and some models of Him really are a Bully! He rejects the notion that He and He alone didn’t make everything. Doesn’t acknowledge Universe man. There, that’s cleared up!

  2. Some good points. However, what size is Triangle Man? I imagine he could be any size he wants to be: smaller than the smallest particle, or as large as the universe. So perhaps the fights that he has are all ideological. He wins by making everyone else accept his way of thought. Eventually even Universe Man might succumb to “triangulation”. That’s what the diagram is saying to me (maybe).

    1. I always pictured triangle man to be the Bible thumper’s trinity, the Calvinist sort, capricious and mean. And unlike particle man and universe man, not of the natural order, a fake.

  3. Well, some might even say that all of these characters are in fact social constructions, so all are equally real or fake. Regardless, I don’t think all triangles are bad. Remember those tri-sexual beings in Asimov’s “The Gods Themselves”? … Wait, they were bad too. But I wish that someone would do a blog about threes. I don’t think there is one, although I haven’t looked in many years. Not that I could do it, of course, because it’s not really my “thing”.

    1. DUA TRITT ODEEN and DEROLA I think and Hard One Eck…wald? Titillated rock merging. Isn’t the dialect triangular? Thesis Antithesis Synthesis -> new Thesis.

      1. Yes, from memory. I was impressed that he came up with three distinct and equally necessary genders for wholeness and for reproduction. Also I liked the characters and wanted them to survive. … Hindu deities are three. Brahma Vishnu Shiva. Brahma makes, Shiva unmakes, and Vishnu holds it all in balance. … typing on the iPhone, ugh!

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