Every TMBG song has a meaning. Well, MOST TMBG songs have meanings. And people devote great portions of their lives to finding these meanings, or, failing that, making one up and trying to justify it in terms of Biblical facts, or ironic twists on misspellings in John and John's autobiographical web stuff. So it is with me, and this song. It's fascinated me for years since I first heard it. It's not *that* difficult to understand; the Tiny Toons did a cartoon music video of it, and though I can't remember much of said video, I remember that it was a wonderfully done creation, and I remember thinking, "Whoa, this is exactly what the song was about..." If I remember correctly, they actually had a Particle Man wrestling in a gigantic ring, and that he actually fought and lost against a huge triangle, and they had a Father Time-style person as Universe Man, and Triangle kicked both their asses, and then they had a Stereotypical Hobo that fought against Triangle Man... Ah, the days when I would waste time watching that show before catching the bus to Hell...

Momentarily disregarding the Tiny Toons video, I must ask a question and then try to answer it myself.

Who wins?

Because... Well, technically, Universe Man could kick the ass of anyone he wanted. But he's "usually kind to smaller man", which includes everyone, since he's the size of the entire Universe. So I think he's abstaining. He's not actually fighting. So he shouldn't even be in the song, technically.

And since Triangle Man kicks the collective ass of Particle Man and Person Man, then I suppose he wins the fight.

But only because Universe Man lets him!

"Particle Man": The Meaning of the Song

Particle Man is a song by They Might Be Giants. Those not in the know have seen the cartoon of the song on Tiny Toons

As Triangle Man seems more powerful than Particle Man, it would be that God is more powerful than science or scientists. Moreover, Triangle Man would hate Person Man because of the Original Sin or Fall of Man. However, the Universe seems to abstain from these arguments, being more the indifferent force of the spacetime continuum.

While sitting around in our small liberal arts university dorm, someone played this song. Using our highly developed skills of postdeconstructionalism we realised that this song is actually a metaphor for religious strife. This is somewhat different from Alias Mother Jonez's conception as all Men represent religions rather than simply cultural institutions. Allow me to explain...

Triangle Man
is clearly Christianity as represented by the Holy Trinity; you may wish to extend the metaphor to include Judaism and Islam if you see them as united in hatred.
Particle Man
represents Buddhism (or all Eastern religions, if you like), this is evident from the koans in the second verse. Particle Man does not represent science because these are very unscientific questions; also it seems unlikely that anyone would still believe that Christianity will "win" against science.
Person Man
is atheism or humanism1. Clearly TMBG are theistic2 by their belief that atheism leads to depression.
Universe Man
is the most difficult Man to interpret. I believe that He is either God as absent from all religious spin, some kind of deeper religion than all currently practiced, or else something beyond religion like science. Clearly, unlike Triangle Man and Particle Man, Universe Man is universal, as well as being kind (a hybrid or superset?) to "lesser" religions. Finally His watch suggests that He is either timeless or still destined to arrive (at least to our corner of the universe).

1: ((human = person) ⊃ (humanism = personism)) ⊃ (Person Man = humanism)

2: I was unable to verify this hypothesis, therefore from my point of view if I learned that TMBG were theistic or, even better, Buddhists, I would consider this evidence in favour of my interpretation of this song.

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