Definition of mnemonics

Mnemonics, plural of mnemonic is the study of techniques for ways to remember information more easily. Most often times, a mnemonic device involves taking the first letter of several words one desires to remember, and then changing them into an easily remembered word. For example, HOMES describes the names of the Great Lakes - Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

Etymology of mnemonics

Mnemonic comes from Greek mnemonikos, which means “pertaining to memory,” which is also from mnemon, which means “remembering or mindful” and from memne, which means “memory, record, or epitaph.” This word is based on mnasthai, “to remember,” which comes from men-, which means “to think.”

History of mnemonics

Mnemonic shares an etymology with Mnemosyne, the Greek titan that represented memory. Mnemosyne was the daughter of Gaia (Mother Earth) and Uranus (god of the Sky). Mnemosyne was the mother of the nine muses (all of whom were fathered by Zeus). They slept together for nine nights, each night yielding another muse. Mnemosyne also ruled over a pool in Hades, connected to the river Lethe. The dead would drink from the river Lethe so that they would not remember a previous life once they were reincarnated; however, initiates were encouraged to drink from Mnemosyne’s pool when they died, instead of drinking from Lethe.

Usage of mnemonics

Today, studies have shown that using mnemonic devices in studying is significantly beneficial, because it allows the memory to store “less” active information, thereby allowing the person to memorize (or remember) more at the same time. This expansion of short term memory enhances the creation of long term memories. Different types of mnemonic devices include acronyms, alliteration, anagrams, groups, numbers, poems, rhymes, and chunks. Some common mnemonic devices are:

ROY G BIV: to remember the colors in the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).
My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Noodles: to remember the order of the planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune).
PEMDAS or Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally: to remember the order of operations used in math (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, Addition and Subtraction).
Kings Play Chess On Fine Grassy Spaces: to remember the order of taxonomy in biology (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species).
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge: to remember the order of the notes on each line of a musical staff, starting from the bottom line and moving towards the top (E, G, B, D, F).
Chief SOHCAHTOA: to remember how to derive the sine, cosine, and tangent functions in math (sin = opposite/hypotenuse, cah = adjacent/hypotenuse, toa = opposite/adjacent).

To remember how many days are in a month:
Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have 31,
Except for February alone,
Which has but 28, in fine,
Til leap year gives it 29.

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