a three-ring circus

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

a three-ring circus

AMERICAN
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

a three-ring circus

1 a circus with three rings for simultaneous performances. 2 a public spectacle, especially one with little substance.
2 1998 Spectator Along the way, these meetings have lost all that might have made them worthwhile…and have turned into a travelling three-ring circus.
See also: circus

three-ring circus, a

An occasion of utter confusion. This late nineteenth-century Americanism alludes to a circus in which three rings or arenas are featuring performances at the same time. Possibly invented by P. T. Barnum, the epitome of American show business entrepreneurs, the term was transferred to other extravagant events and disorderly situations by about 1900. Rudyard Kipling used it in A Diversity of Creatures (1914): “I can see lots of things from here. It’s like a three-ring circus!”
References in periodicals archive ?
I attended a three-ring circus once in my childhood.
Alessi's new Circus Collection from designer Marcel Wanders captures all the magic and fun of a three-ring circus in a mixed material collection.
"At a conference like this, it's sometimes like a three-ring circus, but there are so many people there who think outside the box.
One absurd scene followed another--the effect was like a ringleader trying to contain the chaos of a three-ring circus.
But it's presenting the show, being recorded in Culver City on June 3, she's most looking forward to: "The MTV Movie Awards is like a three-ring circus and I'm thrilled they asked me to be this year's ringmaster," she claims.
Five rings symbolize the Olympics, but hosting them has largely been a three-ring circus. Of the five continents, two--South America and Africa--have never been chosen for an Olympiad.
Some segments of works proved more mystifying than engagingly mysterious: Such was the case in Persona, where a man on a swing at center stage and women at his sides (one battling with a box; the other with a stack of papers) evoked a three-ring circus, separated but similarly obsessive in their tasks.