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
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.