The third wheel
Recently, I have found myself on various “dates” with my flat mates “M” and “P” and their respective boyfriends or romances. It just happened that I would go out for dinner with either couple, to concerts or to strive along the mall and have a look at engagement rings. I even got to spend this year’s Valentine’s Day with “M” and her fiancé. And I was present when he met her family.
This got me thinking about the expression to be the third wheel and I wondered where it may come from. Apparently, it makes allusion to the extra wheels attached to the bicycle when children learn how to ride a bike. They are not necessary anymore after the child has gained enough self-esteem to ride by itself. This makes sense somehow but aren’t there four wheels in total then? There are two regular bike wheels and the two supporting ones. But I remember from my own childhood, that one of the support ones is eventually removed when the child gains some more confidence so that there are indeed three wheels then, one of which is not necessary after all.
The original expression is said to have been about the fifth wheel, alluding to the spare tire of a car. In German, this expression is also used: das fünfte Rad am Wagen sein (to be the fifth wheel). In Spanish (at least in Colombian slang) we say: ir de violinista (to go as the violinist).
Either way, it has always been funny to spend time with the couples and I certainly enjoyed being treated by the gentlemen. In the long term though, it must be quite expensive for them to go on dates with two girls instead of just one. Oh well. That’s the wheel of life.