originally published October 2, 2012
If you’re like me, then you probably… dammit, I had something here… right, you probably have trouble remembering things. If you’ve ever found yourself uttering “30 days hath September…” or “I before E, except after C…” or “if you stuff a monkey’s armpit with oatmeal…”, then you have employed a mnemonic to try to salvage the rusty scraps of your failing memory.
Mnemonics are an easy way to commit something to one’s brain through acronyms, poems, or cute little phrases. Sometimes mnemonics are even visual, like the handy way of remembering which months have 30 days whilst in the middle of a back-alley brawl:
I thought it would be interesting to check out some mnemonics that others have submitted to the Wikiverse. Maybe I’d learn something. Maybe I’d improve upon them. If nothing else, I could carve another thousand-word notch in the side of my laptop.
We’re going to start with math, because when you start with math there’s nowhere to go but up. Remember in high school when you’d be handed a lengthy equation and you’d have to remember which parts you’d have to tackle first? The order was Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication & Division, then Addition & Subtraction. Some people remember this with Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. You could also use People Exhibit Many Downright Antisocial Symptoms. I prefer the latter, because I made it up and it’s also true.
Kids trying to remember their astronomy can use My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos in order to remember the order of the planets from the sun outward. If any such mnemonic existed when I was young, it’s now obsolete. Which is why I endorse Maybe Value Everything; Masses Jilted – Stand! Unite! Note Pluto! I’m still a little broken up over our ninth planet’s demotion.
If you know somebody who has to memorize the biological hierarchy of taxonomy (Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species) – and we all had to learn this crap – you could use the mnemonic I was taught: Dear King Phillip Came Over For Great Spaghetti. Alternately, you could make one of your own: Dumb Kids Prefer Coors Over Fine Golden Scotch.
Isn’t that so much easier? And you don’t have to make up your own; sometimes the mnemonics out there in the world are already depraved and twisted enough to be worthy of retention.
When CPAs want to remember the core principles of professional conduct (Responsibility, Public interest, Integrity, Objectivity & independence, Due care, Scope & nature of services), apparently they use Real Pyros Ignite Objects During Sex. Hard to improve on that.
Memorizing the Great Lakes (Superior, Huron, Erie, Ontario and Michigan – I typed that without having to look it up more than twice!) can be done in several ways. In a random order: HOMES. By decreasing surface area: Super Heroes Must Eat Oats (or, as I like to recall it, Shit Hurts My Everlovin’ Olfactory). And from west to east: Super Man Helps Every One.
I don’t like that last one. First, it’s not true; Superman is a busy guy. Also, Superman is one word. I know, we’re trying to help jog the memory here, but come on. How about: Silence, My Heinously Expensive Ocelot!
Training for a job in the legal profession? Remember Mrs. Baker. That’s the mnemonic for common law felonies: Murder, Rape, Sodomy, Burglary, Arson, Kidnapping, Escape, Robbery. That Mrs. Baker sounds like a fun woman.
Musicians have a sense of humor with their mnemonics. You can remember the five lines of the treble clef via remembering what it’s like to get sand in your shorts (Each Grain Brings Discomfort. Fuck!), or recall the order of a guitar’s strings by employing sound career advice (Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually).
Even aspiring doctors get in on the fun when they rattle off the bones of the wrist (Scaphoid, Lunate, Triquetral, Pisiform, Trapezium, Trapezoid, Capitate, Hamate) with Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can’t Handle. Sound medical advice, especially if you’ve ever broken your wrist attempting an Inverse Lemur-Straddle.
The cardinal directions can be remembered in clockwise order (North, East, South, West) with Never Eat Soggy Waffles. Also, Norwegians Enjoy Spongy Women. Not sure if that’s true, but it fits.
Aspiring chemists might try to remember the organism with inducible beta-lactamase activity that is chromosomally mediated. You might try to remember this yourself, just for fun. Just use ESCAPPM to remember Enterobacter, Serratia, Citrobacter, Acinetobacter, Proteus, Providencia and Morganella morganii. Wow, I think the mnemonic is going to be a little unhelpful here.
Are you looking to become a better writer? Familiarize yourself with the coordinating conjunctions, those precious little words that can effectively join to items (words, clauses, sentences) of equal importance: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet and So. Also, FANBOYS. I learned this in a university course and never used the information. Until now!
If you can’t remember how to spell a word, simply make up a mnemonic. I’d have a hard time doing better than Diarrhoea Is A Really Runny Heap Of Endless Amounts. Except that my word processor wants me to spell it diarrhea. Maybe one could use something more urgent for this spelling: Diarrhea Is A Really Runny Heap… Ech… AUGH!!! I like that. It’s more dramatic.
One mnemonic I truly don’t understand is the suggestion for remembering how to spell ‘TOMORROW’: Trails Of My Old Red Rose Over Window. What the hell does that even mean? How about Talk Of Masturbation Often Reminds Reginald Of Women? No junior high kid will forget that one.
Some mnemonics – and here I mean the fun ones – are visual, like the knuckle thing. For example, a Bactrian camel’s humps look like the letter B, while a Dromedary’s looks like the letter D.
Can’t remember which is an African elephant and which is an Indian elephant? Look at the ears. If they are large and shaped like Africa, it’s an African elephant. Indian elephants are smaller and shaped like India. I think the elephants did this on purpose just to help us out.
I feel I’ve learned a lot. Too much, actually. I’m going to need to come up with a mnemonic to remember all these mnemonics. I might just be getting too old for this.