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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

bread and circuses

Things given or presented in an attempt to please (or at least distract) disgruntled people. The phrase comes from the Roman poet Juvenal. I really think this event is just bread and circuses to get us to stop protesting.
See also: and, bread, 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

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

bread and circuses

People use bread and circuses to talk about a situation in which a government provides people with things which seem to make their lives more enjoyable in order to stop them complaining about important problems. He limited political dissent through a policy of bread and circuses backed up by a fearsome secret police. Our children and grandchildren will curse us for squandering their prosperity in exchange for today's bread and circuses. Note: This is a translation of a phrase in a satire by the Roman poet Juvenal. It refers to the fact that, in ancient Rome, the authorities provided the people with public amusements and food in order to prevent possible rebellion.
See also: and, bread, circus

a three-ring circus

If you describe a situation as a three-ring circus, you mean there is a lot of noisy or confused activity. Grief was a private thing, not something to be turned into a three-ring circus by over-eager reporters. Cooking needn't be a three-ring circus of sweat and tears.
See also: circus
References in periodicals archive ?
A Big Top expert has hurled down the gauntlet to Britain's circuses - prove you can survive against the odds.
The 2002 season, Let Your Senses Soar, started with projected black and white iconic images of circuses past.
Jan Creamer, chief executive of Animal Defenders International, said: "We urge everyone in the Barry area to shun animal circuses and instead visit circuses with human-only acts - acts who have a choice.
Animals in circuses should be banned and any circus that uses animals must be held accountable by the law without any form of negotiation or explanation on the part of the circus.
Until the Bill is passed, a scheme is in circus licensing place to ensure decent for wild animals in conditions travelling circuses.
The Captive Animals Protection Society has long been campaigning against the use of animals in circuses.
Mr Luff is to present his own proposals for legislation to the House of Commons in October, giving the Home Secretary the power to make circuses exempt, or alternatively allowing them to buy just one licence for every venue.
A growing number of cities are banning circuses with animal acts, and activists are not convinced that Ringling has changed.
Comic books describing circus cruelty to animals began showing up in schools, and PETA opened a circuses.
The San Francisco Bay Area's Pickle Family Circus was the first of the new circuses that performed without animals, the new, redefined circuses that relied on artistry and story themes, humor and acrobatics.
The survival of Switzerland's small circuses in an increasingly perilous market.
Universal Big Top is also unique because it's produced outdoors under a fancy striped tent, just like the circuses of years past.
How were circuses of long, ago different from those of today?
The Moscow Circus recently celebrated its 120th anniversary and is regarded by many as the standard by which all other circuses are judged.
THE start of a two-year project to create five regional youth circuses in the North East and develop Newcastle as an English circus hub will be marked next week.