Remember learning this poetic ditty from your childhood? It was designed to help you recall how many days were in certain months. It started with "Thirty days hath November, April, June, and September ..." and so-on and so-on.
This type of rhyme or phrase that allows you to learn or remember something is called a mnemonic. It dates back to 1425 and is named after the Greek goddess of memory, Mnemosyne. Remember her?
These little catch phrases must work. They’re shortcuts to learning or remembering longer pieces of information.
None of us have to remember or just know stuff as readily anymore. Why? Because in this Information Age, however random or important the subject matter, answers are quickly available with a Google search on our phones.
I’m not convinced our smart phones make us smarter, but they sure provide quicker answers while diffusing arguments.
But here’s the conundrum: What’s more valuable — just having more knowledge or just knowing how to get the answers?
I before E
My 9-year-old grandson recently rattled-off some multiplication tables. As impressed as I was with his mental acuity, I was more than thrilled to know that math skill was still being taught.
I figured by now, third-graders were merely using their laptops for those equations. What a gratifying revelation to know some principles just need to be known via memorization.
I continue to love language. Somewhere, somehow, various teachers grilled certain aspects into me that have served me well throughout my career as a public speaker and writer.
Why do I still remember, for instance, that "when two vowels go a’walkin' the first one does the talkin'?"
Whenever I use the words believe and receive, I recall that the general rule is "i before e, except after c." Of course, when I see the word "weird," it’s understood — that’s just weird.
When we’re treated to a late afternoon, early evening blazing sky, I’m reminded of a nautical mnemonic that tells us "Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor take warning."
Retaining information is a valuable skill. Sometimes, I don’t even know why I know something. There are also other times I must have hit the delete button, because what I’m trying to remember just isn’t there.
Some mnemonics are used as acronyms. I told my kids long ago that if they sprain an ankle, remember each letter of the word rice: rest, ice, compression, elevation.
Geography teachers, when instructing students on remembering the Great Lakes, encouraged them to use the word h-o-m-e-s, which would then trigger these lake names: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
I don’t read music, but somewhere I was taught the phrase: Every Good Boy Does Fine. Isn’t that how piano students are taught the notes on a music staff? Those notes are E, G, B, D and F.
I love these innocuous teaching tools. Most of them we learned decades ago, but isn’t it interesting how they still stay with us?
Here’s one to help you remember where you read this:
When Sunday’s gone, and there’s no more prayin’,
Look on Monday’s page 2A, for I’m just sayin’.