Who hasn’t wished to have a better memory? Whether you struggle with recalling the names of people whom you just met, have difficulty with how many “c”s and “m”s to include in accommodate, or need to remember the order of the planets for your next science test, the fact is that a better memory makes for an easier life.
One of the most helpful tools for improving your memory is a mnemonic. Mnemonics (pronounced knee-MAHN-ecks) consist of a patters of letters, words, ideas, or associations that help with remembering something.
Most of us learned ROY G. BIV in grade school as a tool for recalling the order of colors in a rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. This is just one of countless memory aids that address things from everyday life to obscure scientific data. Here are a few fun and (possibly) useful mnemonics to help you through the day or to impress your friends with your vast reservoir of knowledge.
- How I Wish I Could Calculate Pi. The number of letters gives the first seven digits of pi: 3.141592. You may also use May I Have a Large Container of Coffee if you want to extend the value of pi to the eighth digit
- My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets or My Very Elderly Mother Juggled Seven Umbrellas Near Peck for remembering the order of the planets. Yes, we know that Pluto has been reclassified as a dwarf planet, but no one consulted Commonplace Fun Facts before making this decision. We hold to the old ways. Note: In case you are curious, “Peck” is a town in the Thumb Region of Michigan.
- Every Good Boy Does Fine will help you with the order of the notes on the treble clef.
- Top = Stop. Have you ever wondered how colorblind people deal with stoplights? The standard positioning of the lights puts the red light on the top and the green on the bottom.
- Able Bodied Seamen Catch Hairy Pirates will help for remembering the surnames of the wives of Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Katherine Parr.
- The fates of Henry VIII’s wives can be remembered through the brief poem: “Divorced, beheaded, died; Divorced, beheaded, survived.”
- The order of taxonomy in biology will stay with you if you remember David Kindly Put (or Dropped) Crowns on Friendly Girl Scouts Visiting Indiana. This translates into Domain, Kingdom, Phylum (or Division), Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, Variety, and Individual.
- Hear! Hark! Listen BBC News On Friday Night. News Maybe About Silly Pupils Smashing Chemical Apparatus. The symbols of the first 18 elements in the periodic table coincide with this mnemonic: hydrogen (H), helium (He), lithium (Li), beryllium (Be), boron (B), carbon (C), nitrogen (N), oxygen (O), fluorine (F), neon (Ne), sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg), aluminum (Al), silicon (Si), phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), chlorine (Cl), and argon (Ar). Want to extend that to the first 20 elements? Just remember Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage, Near Our Friend Nelly Nancy MgAllen. Silly Patrick Stays Close. Arthur Kisses Carrie. From “near” onward, that’ll help you remember nitrogen (N), oxygen (O), fluorine (F), neon (Ne), sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg), aluminum (Al), silicon (Si), phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), chlorine (Cl), argon (Ar), potassium (K), and calcium (Ca).
When it comes to remembering the elements, we can’t help but point to the classic song “The Elements” by Tom Lehrer. Granted, it is a bit out of date, and it doesn’t help you with the order of the Periodic Table, but oh boy, is it ever fun!
- The five Great Lakes, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior make the handy acronym HOMES.
- The Department of Rats, Snakes, Government Bureaucrats, and Other Terrifying Creatures at Commonplace Fun Facts truly believes there is no such thing as a harmless snake. However, if you wish to delude yourself into thinking otherwise, you can distinguish between the venomous coral snakes and the non-venomous snakes of similar appearance by remembering Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, poison lack.
- Have trouble remembering the difference between stalactites and stalagmites? Just remember Stalactites hold on tight; stalagmites might reach the roof one day. You can also remember the T in stalactite coincides with Stalactites on Top.
- Big Gorillas Eat Hotdogs, Not Cold Pizza will help you remember the seven Central American countries of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
- The order of the twelve traditional birthstones can be found with Great Actors Always Develop Every Possible Resource, Perfectly Seizing Opportunities To Triumph: garnet (January), amethyst (February), aquamarine (March), diamond (April), emerald (May), pearl (June), ruby (July), peridot (August), sapphire (September), opal (October), topaz (November), and turquoise (December).
- Need to remember the first five Roman emperors? Try Another Top Cat Caught Napping: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.
- If you are struggling with trigonometry, you have several options. Try Some Officers Have Curly Auburn Hair Til Old Age or Some Old Hippie Caught A High Tripping On Acid for Sine = Opposite Over Hypotenuse; Cosine = Adjacent Over Hypotenuse; Tangent = Opposite Over Adjacent.
- For biology class, you should remember I Protect My Artichokes Too, Cliff. This will help you with cell cycles phases: interphase, prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase, and cytokinesis.
- To remember the difference between affect and effect, just use RAVEN — Remember: Affect = Verb; Effect = Noun.
- When you set the table, it is important to put the eating utensils on the proper sides of the plate. Remember Anything with Four Letters Goes on the Left: fork. Anything with Five Letters Goes on the Right: spoon and knife.
- The first five books of the Bible, can be remembered with God Equals Light, Not Darkness: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
- Spelling tips. The following are a few ways to remember how to spell some commonly-misspelled words:
- This word can accommodate a double c and a double m.
- When you ascertain a fact, be as certain as you can be.
- Never believe a lie.
- Emma faced a dilemma.
- It’s hard to embarrass really righteous (double r) and serious students (double s).
- That liar looks familiar.
- Generally, a general is your best ally.
- It would irritate me if you forgot the second r in irritable, and don’t forget the table at the end.
- An island is land surrounded by water.
- I alone felt Eli‘s loneliness.
- Miss Pell never misspells.
- There’s a rat in separate.
For more helpful ways to improve your memory, check out the excellent website Better Memory Tips.