12 September 2008

My Head Is Full of Useless Information

You know what “every good boy does fine” means, right? It’s a mnemonic, a trick for remembering what note sits on what line of the treble clef: E G B D F.

And Roy G. Biv? He’s the way you remember the colors of the rainbow, in order: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

In high school biology, King Philip came over from great Spain to remind us that the order of taxonomy is Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

I was a music major in college, and when you learn the history of Western music, you start with Gregorian chant. Chant is intimately tied to the Church, and to the prayer services of the day, known as the canonical hours: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline.

In order to remember the canonical hours, one of my classmates – a cellist named Betsy – came up with a wonderful mnemonic.

My lady, please touch softly, not very clumsily.

As you can see, it’s a good mnemonic, because lo these many years later, I still know my canonical hours.

What’s your favorite mnemonic?


Pinky said...

Weird Aunt Jane makes macaroni and jumps very high, too.

Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler

It was on a calendar I had as a child - and I've never forgotten the first ten presidents of the U.S.

Mayberry said...

A rat in Tom's house might eat Tom's ice cream (= how to spell "arithmetic").

But "righty tighty, lefty loosey" is a little more useful.

She She said...

Ooh, I love these. Thanks for the new ones.

There is A RAT in sepARATe.

The princiPAL is your PAL. A principLE is a ruLE.

Antropóloga said...

Not exactly the same, but I remember that "han" is "he" and "hon" is "she" in Swedish (I get confused since I speak Spanish and the "a" usually goes with the female) by thinking that women waitresses call people "hon" sometimes.

Anonymous said...

BYOB...JUST KIDDING...Really I am, sort of.

Anonymous said...

Dessert is spelled with two "s"es because it's made of Sweet Sugar. Whereas the Desert has one "s" because it's made of Sand.

Perhaps this is my favorite because, I eat far too many sweets while sitting in sand at the beach.

Aunt Becky said...

On Old Olympus' Towering Top A Finn And German Viewed Some Hops.

12 Cranial Nerves.

You can laugh at my nerddom now.

Melissa said...

Since I'm a cellist, it's Good Boys Do Fine Always (bass clef).

lucidkim said...

52 Mab St to remember Jesus' disciples (I went to Christian schools, what can I say?)

5 stands for those whose names start with J: James, John, James, Judas, and Judas Iscariot

The 2 stands for those whose names start with the letter P: Peter and Philip

M stands for Matthew
A is for Andrew
B is for Bartholomew
S is for Simon
T is for Thomas

Jess said...

Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior - HOMES (the Great Lakes)

So many good ones!

Mary said...

Dumb Martians Just Sit Noiselessly Eating Tender Noodles.

It's REALLY useless information: the names of the the children in the Eight Is Enough family, in order of age:

David, Mary, Joanie, Susan, Nancy, Elizabeth, Tommy, Nicholas

Zellmer said...

I like Roy G. Biv personally. I have a friend who wanted to change his name to that. Is it any surprise that he's gay?

shrink on the couch said...

I can't think of a single mnemonic at this moment. How sad is that?

I do try to use one when I meet people to help me remember their names. I remember a guy named Bob who was bald. "bald bob". And a woman named Ann whose hair looked like our former Governor Ann Richards. Because I'm the worst at names. In one ear and straight out the other.

susan said...

Frogs and cows eat green bugs (for the space notes in the treble clef). And the combination for my mailbox in college--which has not been changed, twenty three years later, as I checked at my last reunion, was Initial of First Name of High School Debating Friend 1, Initial of Last Name of High School Debating Friend 1.

the mama bird diaries said...

That's how I use to memorize everything in college.

Love that sneaker shot.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We just did this in my Visual/Performing Arts class for teachers to help us remember the standards.

Art Can Harbor A Candle. I won't bore you with what it stands for.

Anonymous said...

My Very Easy Method Just Seems Useful Naming Planets

Self explanatory!

Anonymous said...

HOMES - Huron, Ottawa, Michigan, Erie, Superior

As a Michiganian, we're required to learn that one in 4th grade. ;-)

Melissa said...

Just thought of another one...

May the ma be with you.

force=mass * acceleration

yes, am geek. :)

Ringleader said...


My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets

and to rememember the fates of Henry the 8th's wives, this little rhyme:

Divorced, beheaded died,
divorced, beheaded, survived

Irish Goddess said...

I learned it like ringleader above,
"Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge". And my mother made some to-die-for fudge!

Maude Lynn said...

I've never forgotten Every Good Boy Does Fine!

Anonymous said...

Further to mummalicious and ringleader:

My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.

Janet said...

I learned your first one as: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.

Another one that sticks in my mind from long ago: Never Eat Shredded Wheat (North East South West).

Lady M said...

Mine is still "i before e . . ."

I linked to your neighbor/pack of gum post today. I had a socially awkward neighbor story to share too, except that I was the awkward one. ;)

Mad said...

For us, it was Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.

The planets were: Man very early made jars stand up nearly perpendicular.

I sometimes wonder where all the creative juices are flowing now that Pluto has lost its status as planet.

Liz Miller said...

My teacher told us that "I before E except after C is not very scientific."

Anonymous said...

I’m so excited someone else remembers weird Aunt Jane! Very effective mnemonic, I’ve remembered it for decades!