Mnemonic Devices—Love Them or Hate Them?

I’m working on a new manuscript, and in it, I reference a rainbow. The mnemonic I learned in school, ROYGBIV, popped into my head. Great! Now I could label the colors! Wait a minute. Shouldn’t I know the hues without needing a reminder?

Papers in all colors at Itoya, an iconic stationery store in Japan

How much do I rely on these mind tricks to help me? Certainly, when I competed in Science Olympiad (nerd alert!) in school, I memorized phrases like, “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” to remember planetary order and names (oh, Pluto!). Another nice memory tool was “Kings Play Chess on Fuzzy Green Squares” for classification of living organisms (Kingdom, Phylum, etc.).

I realize, though, that other memory helpers have become hindrances to me. I was trying to find a book for my kid in the library the other day. (BTW, the shelves there are so much more organized than my own haphazard mess.) I needed to hunt down the author’s last name, and I seriously had to go through The Alphabet Song to figure out the letter order.

I bet Dame Agatha didn’t need to rely on the alphabet song

And how about geography? My brother recently visited Australia the country—or is it continent? Spoiler: Both, because there are 7, there are 7 continents.

Then there are those catchy dubiously educational tunes that get stuck in my head. Scratch Garden has one that talks about numbers, and a “salamander is not a number, it’s an amphibian.” Don’t know when I’ll need to use that factoid, but it’s definitely taking up head space.

P.S. Book 2 in the L.A. Night Market Mysteries, HPM, is available for pre-order. If you check the link out on Thursday, Oct. 13th, you’ll be able to see the new book cover!

Your turn! List the best, worst, and meh mnemonics that you know:  

36 thoughts on “Mnemonic Devices—Love Them or Hate Them?

  1. Too funny, Jennifer! Thanks for reminding me of a milestone in my life. In first grade, the teacher asked me to recite the alphabet. Without hesitation, I bellowed the ABC song. No standing ovation, but I left my classmates laughing. Like a gateway drug, their laughter enticed me to become the class clown, a role that would follow me throughout my years in school. For example, the sixth grade proved to be the toughest three years of my life.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Same here with my kid. For couples wondering whether they should have a second child, we offered to rent him out for the afternoon, but no takers! Just kidding! Through my son, I enjoyed reliving all those special moments that shape our lives. Thanks for bringing back more fond memories!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t get the mnemonic thing- you mean I have to memorize 2 things? In elementary school they taught us the one for the planets but I really didn’t see the point, I already knew the planets, I don’t need something to remember them. We got quizzed more on the mnemonic than the actual planet names. Though the one made up by my high school science teacher for the units of measurement was at least pretty fun.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re right, Alicia! It’s actually a conspiracy for us to memorize even *more* things!

      My high school math teacher had us sing the quadratic formula to “Jingle Bells”–that alternate tune still gets stuck in my head.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ha, Jen! I posted this before I saw your post on the bass clef mneumonic.
        Another one just came to mind: HOMES. And my sister and I ran through it this summer, trying to name all the Great Lakes. (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, Jen, I am SO impressed that you were in Science Olympiad. I was, um, never invited to join, because ROYGBIV is the only science mnemonic I remember. I use it to make sure any rainbows I spot are clearly legit. The only other mnemonic I can recall offhand is Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. Sadly, I remembered the phrase but not what it was for. I looked it up. Thanks, Music 101. (PS Can’t wait to see the cover for Night Market #2, yay!)

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Here’s my fave, for the English monarchs (sung to the tune of Good King Wenceslas, who’s not in the list, alas!):

    Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee,
    Harry, Dick, John, Harry three;
    One, two, three Neds, Richard two
    Harrys four, five, six… then who?
    Edwards four, five, Dick the bad,
    Harrys twain and Ned the Lad;
    Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
    Charlie, Charlie, James again…
    Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
    Four Georges I II III IV, Will and Victoria,
    Edward seven next, and then,
    George the fifth in 1910,
    Ned the eighth soon abdicated,
    Then George the sixth was coronated,
    After which Elizabeth, then another Charlie,
    And that’s the end

    Of course, the mnemonic may be just as hard to remember as the list itself.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I love mnemonics. One of my favorites lists all the train station on the Main Line out of Philadelphia. Old Maids Never Wed and Have Babies Rarely: Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Rosemont. Not a very useful one, sadly.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. The one I learned for remembering the planets was “My Very Excellent Master Jesus Saves Us. No Problem.” Usually, I have as much trouble remembering the mnemonic as I do what it is supposed to help me remember. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m with Alicia and Mark. I find mnemonics extra work. But being in the Midwest, I depend on HOMES for the Great Lakes–Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. Then there’s the music staff, every-good-boy-does-fine for the lines above Middle C. I know that and still can’t play piano.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What I need is something to help me remember how to spell tricky words–such as mnemonic. Or remember names of people I just met two minutes ago. Oy.

    And as for mnemonic (yes, I had to check to make sure I spelled that right), I’m also pretty useless, as I find them as hard to remember as the list itself: Every good boy does….well? (That would, after all, be more grammatically correct.) But, as there’s no note in the scale called W, I can usually get that one right.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had to keep double-checking “mnemonic” as I typed this post! And I’m awful with names. I really do apologize to everyone I meet who I continue to greet over and over again!

      You’re right about that music phrase. Can we make a new W note just for you, Leslie?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is fabulous, Jen! I love a good mnemonic. Heck, I even love a meh one!

    Does “I before except after C, or when it sounds like A as in neighbor and weigh” count? I still break that one out!


  10. I learned the I before E except after C. Also, to spell Mississippi, was Mi crooked letter, crooked letter i, crooked letter, crooked letter i, humpback, humpback i.
    Coordinating Conjunctions was FANBOYS: For and nor but or yet so. Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue, in 1492. They have many new ones now for health issues.

    Liked by 1 person

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