2.6 • Acronyms
Acronyms are a technique for memorizing lists of things. The concept is so simple that I’m sure everyone has come across them: for example, ROY G. BIV to remember the colors of the rainbow or Never Eat Sour Watermelons to remember the points on a compass.
Of course, knowing only the first letters of words isn’t much of a clue to the words themselves unless you already have a good idea as to what they are, so this memory technique isn’t as powerful as some of the others mentioned in these web pages. But acronyms are so simple that it a technique everyone should use, and sometimes it just works out the best.
In the rest of this document, I present acronyms that I’ve collected from other sources. In addition to providing good examples and ideas, you might learn a few new things easily thanks to these acronyms. There’s a few non-acronyms in here, but oh well!
The following text is taken from a November 1994 public BBS message written by Chip Edwards.
I also like acronyms. Like for the classification system (at least the way I learned it in high school): King Philip Can Only Find his Green Slippers = Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species.
or the classification for humans: Antropology Can Make People Hate Helping the Sick = Anamalia Cordata Mamalis Primate Hominidae Homo Sapien.
My favorite one of all though is to remember the bill of rights. Our history teacher taught it to us and it involved a rather heavy-set man who student taught at our school and used to make jokes about how heavy he was (his name was Joe Bones). It goes: FATS AS Joe Bones are Positavely Stupid which equals Freedoms (SPRAP another acronym for the freedoms = Speech Press Religion Assembly Petition), Arms (right to bear), Troops (no more quartering), Search (unreasonable search and seasure), Accused (rights of the accused), Speed (right to a speedy trial), Jury (right to a jury trial), Bail (no escessive bail/fines or unusual punnishment), People (rights not mentioned in the constitution are reserved for the people), and State (powers not delegated to the U.S. are reserved for the states). It makes a real easy way to remember something that would have been nasty to remember otherwise.
Here’s a couple of acronyms for memorizing the first 20 periodic table elements from Enid and Philip Yim:
Hi! He Lies Because Boron CanNot Oxide Fluoride H He Li Be Bo C N O F New Nation Might — Sign Peace Security Clause Ne Na Mg Al Si P S Cl A King Can Ar K Ca
It looks as if Aluminum was forgotten, but perhaps you can invent your own word to fit! (One word I thought of is “Also”.)
From the column “Gamboling” by Lawrence Gibbs, in the Stillwater (Oklahoma) NewsPress, 19 Jan 97, 26 Jan 97 and 02 Feb 97. (C) 1997 Stillwater Publishing Company. Used by permission.
Nearly 100 years ago, during our days in grade school, we learned a way to remember the names of the Great Lakes.
Just think of HOMES – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
Using the word “homes” like that is a mnemonic. Here’s another:
What words are the exceptions to the I before E rule? We were taught a sentence that includes all the exceptions. It makes the rule go like this:
I before E, except after C, with the exceptions of Neither Financier Conceived Either Species of Weird Leisure.
And there’s this one: Any word that fits in the blank of this sentence is a preposition: The squirrel ran — the tree. Over, under, after, around, through, etc.
Trying to explain a mnemonic to someone, we attempted to find it in the dictionary and without any luck. We had to call Debbie Hamble at the reference desk at the city library.
We had tried nemonic and pnemonic and knemonic. What could be left? She called back and put us onto the M. In fact, in our lexicons, it’s the only word spelled mn. Look in yours.
Our book says: mnemonic, assisting or intended to assist memory; of or relating to memory; a mnemonic device or code. Mnemonics, a technique of improving memory.
We have another assignment for you. Send us your favorite or unusual mnemonic. Did you use a mnemonic to help you learn something in particular? We’ll pass along some of them.
Post them to Gamboling, c/o NewsPress, Box 2288, Stillwater, 74076.
In this space last week, we discussed mnemonics — a tool to aid memory.
We mentioned HOMES as an example of a way to remember the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
We also asked you to submit mnemonics you recall from your school days. And we received several responses. It seems the spelling of arithmetic and geography was especially difficult because they drew the greatest response. Here are a few:
Bethel Simmons of Stillwater wrote the following:
I am over 50 and went to school in Kansas and I read with interest your Sunday article on mnemonics. I, too, learned the Great Lakes with HOMES. Other spellings that I learned are as follows:
Geography: George Edwards Old Grandma Rode A Pig Home Yesterday.
Arithmetic: A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream.
When we learned the provinces in Canada in the fifth grade, we were taught an easy way to remember how to spell Saskatchewan, one of the harder to spell, as follows:
Ask At Chew An with an S in front of it.
I have always used mnemonics to learn lists of things for different classes or to help me remember what I would write in an essay question, etc.
My I before E rule went like this, but I’m sure you will get many of these:
I before E except after C or when sounded as A as in neighbor or weigh.
Dona Cooper recalled from her country school days this help for geography (similar, but different): George Edison’s Oldest Girl Rode A Pony Home Yesterday.
And these two from Mken Mbreuninger of Stillwater: George Ellis’ Oldest Girl Rode A Pig Home Yesterday. And,A Rat In Tom’s House Might Eat Tom’s Ice Cream.
(Not so fast. Go back to that last paragraph. Did you catch the contributor’s gag?)
Mildred Lee of Stillwater also mastered the I-E rule during her days at Stillwater public schools with the neighbor and weigh mnemonic.
Mary Sawyer of Glencoe (thanks for the coverage of the Glencoe United Methodist Women’s New Year’s Day dinner, we served more than 400, the largest ever) wrote to say she had not heard of the word mnemomic, but she has used the method.
Especially this example she sent along. She said she has used it many times … especially since she has been helping her grandchildren choose colors for the rainbows they were coloring:
Roy G. Biv, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, the colors of the spectrum.
Then comes this letter from James M. Price, associate professor in the psychology department at OSU. We’ll pass along his note:
Here are some that you may have received from a number of people, he writes, since they were commonly learned by people in public schools (or other places) a few years back.
For those who had to deal with the color coding on electronic resistors:
Bad Boys Rape Our Young Girls, But Violet Gives Willingly for Silver or Gold.
[KJN Note: Good grief! That's not very nice... but I guess it is memorable, and that is the whole point of mnemonics. Well, here's the one I learned that isn't so shocking: Bad Beer Rots Our Young Guts But Vodka Goes Well.]
The capital initials, he writes, are a reminder as to the color codes on a numerical scale (black, brown, red, etc.), with silver and gold indicating the tolerance (precision) of the resistor.
From astronomy, he said, here is one indicating the coding for the age and size of stars: Wow! Oh Be A Fine Girl! Kiss Me Right Now, Sweetie.
Price also included the foil rule for multiplying the individual terms in two binomial quantities, like (x+4)(Y+8):
FOIL – First terms, Outside, Inside, Last.
(Just last evening, Mrs. Gibbs asked about the order of precedence among arithmetical operators. Well, Price covered that, too).
He said it’s Eek! My Dear Aunt Sally! (Exponentiation, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction.)
Price concluded by saying such memory aids are fairly common and have been studied by psychologists for at least 25 years.
“I haven’t the slightest idea why. Have fun!”
A Helen Gibbs writes from Oklahoma City to say, “During Bible class last Wednesday, we were trying to remember the names of the disciples when Ralph (the Rev. Ralph Ranney of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church) told of learning their names through a mnemonic.”
Mother, we mean, Mrs. Gibbs, went on to recite the aid:
“This is the way the disciples run
Peter, Andrew, James and John
Phillip and Bartholemew
Thomas next and Matthew, too.
James the less and Judas the greater
Simon the zealot and Judas the traitor.”
Dr. Don Cooper said almost every medical school anatomy class he ever heard of used the following to remember the eight small bones in the wrist:
“Never Lower Tilly’s Pants, Mother Might Come Home.” That helps in recalling navicular, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform, greater Multongular, lesser Multongular, capitate and hamate.
Now that will come in handy.
He also submitted one to remember all 12 of the cranial nurves and used by almost all medical students. Pat Loveland of Stillwater submitted the same one, but with a bit softer wording here and there. They read:
“An Old Olympus Towering Tops, A Finn And German Viewed Some Hops.”
Remember that sentence and it will be easy to remember the nerves: olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, acoustic, glassopharyngeal, vagus, spinal accessory and hypoglossal.
And there’s no excuse for not knowing the function of each nerve, be it sensory, motor or both. Pat said it’s a help to remember, “Some say marry money but my brothers say bad business marry money.” Now you know whether the nerves are S (sensory), M (motor) or B (both).
Pat’s mom gave her this one to learn the planets in order according to their distance from the sun: “Mercy! Vera Ellen Made Johnnie Sit Under Nine Planks.” (Her mom had said Vera Ellen was a movie star “before my time.”)
We’ll wrap this up with some sent in by students of Martha Olsen:
David DeWeese, “eat all dead gophers before Easter” (EADGBE, the strings on a guitar).
Laura Brown, “never eat sour wheat” (points on a compass).
Stacy Baker and Feather Jim, “Mimal” (the shape of these states makes a person, his name is Mimal, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana.)
Kristin Terrill, “please excuse my dear Aunt Sally,” (a mnemonic device applied in pre-algebra which my teacher says is the most important rule you can learn, to get you going: parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction.”
And with that we’ll bid farewell to mnemonics.