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three-ring circus

A chaotic situation, often one in which a lot of activity is occurring simultaneously. I felt like I was in a three-ring circus when I babysat my neighbor's three noisy, mischievous children. Without the boss around, the business quickly devolved into a three-ring circus.
See also: circus

like a three-ring circus

Fig. chaotic; exciting and busy. Our household is like a three-ring circus on Monday mornings. This meeting is like a three-ring circus. Quiet down and listen!
See also: circus, like

bread and circuses

activities that are intended to keep people happy so that they do not complain about problems Tax cuts are just bread and circuses designed to distract attention from the underlying economic crisis.
See also: and, bread, circus

a three-ring circus

  (American & Australian)
a lot of noisy or confused activity It's a three-ring circus in that classroom - the kids can't possibly be learning anything.
See also: circus

three-ring circus

A situation of complete confusion, as in It was a three-ring circus, with the baby crying, the dog barking, both telephones ringing, and someone at the front door . This term alludes to a circus where three rings or arenas are featuring performances simultaneously. Perhaps invented by show business impresario P.T. Barnum, the term was extended to other confused situations by about 1900.
See also: circus