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A Nonfiction Column
By Willie Elliott

Memory Devices

When you were in school, you probably learned the colors of the spectrum by using Roy. G. Biv (red, orange, violet, blue, indigo and violet), the names of the Great Lakes by using HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior). Such devices are mnemonic devices and are helpful in remembering certain bits of information.

These devices can be useful even in spelling. I always told my kids that conscience was simply con + science and that separate has a rat in it. Two classic mnemonics are A Red Indian Thought He Might Eat Turkey In Church (of course to spell arithmetic) and George Eliot's Oldest Girl Rode A Pony Home Yesterday (for geography).

This material is the lead-in to an intriguing book by Dr. Ron L. Evans entitled Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, the old classic of the notes on the scale. Dr. Evans has collected mnemonics in 43 categories from astronomy to zoology.

Obviously not all these rememberance devices apply to everyone. In fact, many of them are subject sensitive. For example, suppose you are a science student trying to learn the chemical symbols—especially those that seem to be off track. You see lead and it says Pb. You don't know where that came from so you use the mnemonic lead is subject to point break—viola, there you have it. Pb as the symbol for lead. If you still are going crazy over why they would tag lead with Pb, you might want to know that the Latin word for lead is plumbum and thus the Pb. As an aside I, as a former Latin teacher, suggest you take a course in Latin if you ever get the chance. Your vocabulary will grow by leaps and bounds.

Then there are some mnemonics that would appeal to a select few and would not be of much value (other than that it is interesing to learn these things even if we don't use them) to others. For example Mr and Mrs Lamb will help anyone remember the nine felonies in common law: murder, robbery, rape, manslaughter, sodomy, larceny, arson, mayhem, and burglary.

And then there are some that are just plain fun. For example the squaw on the hippopotamus is equal to the sum of the two squaws on the other two hides for hypotenuse (squared) = base (squared) + height (squared). Most of us will probably never need to know this one: sections of the intestinal track in order, but if we should or we just want to have some fun we now know that we can list them by remembering this little mnemonic—Dow Jones industrial averages closing stock report: duodenum, jejunum, ileum, appendix, colon, sigmoid colon, and rectum.

The book has at least three positive attributes: going through the book is most enjoyable, some of the mnemonics are actually ones we can use in our profession or regular lives, and the book points the way for us to make our own devices so we can remember people, places or things more readily.

If you know a mnemonic that you have used or one you used in school that is not listed in this column, send it to me at Let's spread the fun and knowledge.

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