Songs my childhood taught me 2: Mnemonic phrases

Rainbow over the Muldrow Glacier


How would we be able to remember all the most essential information of the world — like the colors of the rainbow (in correct order), the planets of our solar system (in the order in which they radiate out from the sun), or what happened to each of Henry VIII’s wives (in chronological order) — without that magical thing called a mnemonic? (The word, whose initial m is silent, is derived from the ancient Greek mnemonikos, meaning “of memory”, and is related to Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory in Greek mythology; both words come from mneme  — “remembrance” or memory”.) This strangely named device is created specifically to aid in the retention and memorization of information; it can come in different forms, but is usually verbal, ie. a short poem, an acronym (see Glossophilia’s earlier post on acronyms here), or a word or phrase made memorable by dint of its humor, absurdity or easy rhyme. Our childhoods and especially our classrooms stocked our minds with these memory aids that are more enduring and accessible than Google or any other encyclopedic resource. Who needs an app to remember how many days are in the current month, whether to spell it receive or recieve, and whether to set your clocks an hour later or earlier when we have our mnemonics permanently on tap?

Here’s a selection of those that have stuck around in my cerebellum for decades, bouncing forward like Beatles lyrics when their services are called upon, and then tucked away for safekeeping until the next time a list of England’s monarchs is needed.

Am I forgetting any? …


Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vaincolors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet)


solar    My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planetsplanets in the solar system (before Pluto was disqualified)


Spring forward, fall backhow to reset your clocks at the beginning and end of daylight savings time        clocksforward


Every Good Boy Deserves Funnotes on the lines of the treble clef

FACEnotes in the spaces of the treble clef         staves

Good Bikes Don’t Fall Apartnotes on the lines of the bass clef

All Cows Eat Grassnotes in the spaces of the bass clef


No Plan Like Yours To Study History Wisely the royal houses of the English monarchy (Norman, Plantagenet, Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Windsor)

Large Elephants Jump Slowly and Sink Rapidly —  the seven articles of the US Constitution (legislative, executive, judicial, supremacy, amendment, statehood, ratification)    wepeople


henry8    Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survivedthe respective fates of Henry VIII’s wives


Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sallythe order of operations in mathematics (parentheses, exponents, multiply, divide, add, subtract)

Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventuallynotes of standard-tuned guitar strings    guitar


I before E, except after Ca spelling reminder


When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talkinganother spelling aid


HOMESNorth America’s great lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)


Number of days in each month:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Save February, with twenty-eight days clear,
And twenty-nine each leap year.


English monarchs – in chronological order of reign:

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 VII VIII and Ned the Lad;
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again…
William and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges I II III IV, William 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
And that’s the end until her death.

2012 update:
Now it’s Liz, then we’ll arrive . . .
At Charlie three, then William five.




1 thought on “Songs my childhood taught me 2: Mnemonic phrases

  1. Fleur Hitchcock

    Mrs D, Mrs I, Mrs F, F, I, Mrs C, Mrs U, Mrs L, T, Y


    Big Elephants Can ( or can’t) Always Understand Small Elephants. Because

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