September 30:  Mnemonic Device Day

On this last day of September we focus on not forgetting one of the more famous mnemonic rhymes in English:

Thirty days hath September,

April, June, and November.

All the rest have 31,

Except for February all alone,

It has 28 each year,

but 29 each leap year.

This verse is attributed to Mother Goose, but it’s only one of many versions of the poem.  One website, for example, lists and astonishing 90 variations of what has come to be called The Month Poem (10.

Mnemonic rhymes are just one type of mnemonic device. No, you can’t buy them in stores. A mnemonic device is a method of remembering something that is difficult to remember by remembering something that is easy to remember.

The word mnemonic is an eponym, originating from the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the Muses, Mnemosyne.

In his book WASPLEG and Other Mnemonics, Bart Benne catalogs hundreds of mnemonic devices. To make things easy to remember, these mnemonic devices use different methods such as rhyme, acrostics, or acronyms. Another method is the nonsense sentence made up from the initial letters of what it is you are trying to remember. Here’s an example of a sentence that was created to remember the most important battles of Julius Caesar’s career:

Is Perpetual Zeal The Means?

I Ilerda

P Pharsalus

Z Zeta

T Thapsus

M Munda

Generations of school children have used the rhyme from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” to remember the start date of the American Revolution:

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

Rhyming couplets are also helpful in remembering key dates in English history:

William the Conqueror, Ten Sixty-Six

Played on the Saxons oft-cruel tricks.

The Spanish Armada met its fate

In Fifteen Hundred and Eighty-Eight

The acronym “BIGOT” helps in remembering the Pacific campaigns in the Unites States Marines in World War II:

Bougainville

Iwo Jima

Guadalcanal

Okinawa

Tarawa

Another mnemonic device helps both soldiers and civilians remember the order of the major rank structures in the U.S. Army from lowest to highest ranking.

Privates Can’t Salute Without Learning Correct Military Command Grades:

Private,

Corporal,

Sergeant,

Warrant Officer,

Lieutenant,

Captain,

Major,

Colonel,

and General (2).

Today’s Challenge:  Remember, Remember the Mnemonics of September
What are some examples of important information that needs to be committed to memory?  Think of something you need to remember, or something that everyone should remember, and create your own original mnemonic device. Use rhyme, acrostics, acronyms, and/or nonsense sentences to package your device in a handy, easy-to-remember format. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good. –Friedrich Nietzsche

 

1 – http://leapyearday.com/content/days-month-poem

2- Benne, Bart. WASPLEG and Other Mnemonics. Dallas: Taylor Publishing

Company, 1988.

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