The Persistence of Memory

26 Sep

I’m starting to be hindered by the mnemonic devices my teachers passed on to me.

Back when I was taught them, they were fun and no-fail ways to remember pretty much anything – multiplication tables, spelling, the meaning of a word, grammar rules – the fun never ended.  I don’t know if there’s some point in your life where you’re supposed to graduate to just knowing the information instead of singing songs in your head and repeating things quietly under your breath, but I never had that moment.   I feel like other people know their ABC’s just fine without putting them to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  I, however, cannot.  Which is why if you ask me to do the alphabet backwards, I have to sing through it forward, spout out as many letters near the area I can, and then go back to the beginning again.

It’s getting rather irritating.

I’ve worked very hard to get my multiplication tables to the point where I don’t need to sing.  Oh yes, my teachers used singing for everything.  So when going through the multiples of base numbers, I have a song for carrying me through each multiple. Like:

  • 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24… = Old MacDonald Had a Farm
  • 6, 12, 18, 24, 30… = You Are My Sunshine
  • 7, 14, 21, 28, 35… = Happy Birthday 
  • 8, 16, 24, 32, 40… = She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain 

And thanks to these sparkling hits of my elementary education, I still rely on singing through multiples from time to time.  I can, of course, spout of a multiplier without the singing.  But when I need to know the breakdown of it all, I don’t even use division sometimes.  I just sing myself a lovely rendition of Camptown Races.

There are lots more that aren’t even melody-related but still annoying all the same.  Like the fact that I always struggled to spell “aggressive” and so I relied on the cheer team’s spelling cheer: “Be aggressive! B-E Aggressive! B-E  A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E! WOOOOOOOOOO!”  Or how every time I try to spell dessert I have to remind myself it’s two S’s – like two scoops of ice cream.  Or spelling Wednesday, which I always say out loud “WedNESday” to make sure I get that little strange bit in the middle correct.

The most common is the half-song half-poem, terrible excuse for a mnemonic device used for remembering how many days are in a year, which I have to go through every single time I fill out my monthly dry erase board:

Thirty days hath September

April June and November

All the rest have 31

Except February, which blah blah blah 

I never really paid attention to the end of that one, so when it’s February I have to google it.  

So tell me, friends: do you have weird little mechanisms like this rattling around in your head?  Or did everyone graduate to just remembering without the songs, tricks, riddles, and repetition?  

I’m having visions of myself in an old folks home mumbling over and over to myself:


25 Responses to “The Persistence of Memory”

  1. prettyfeetpoptoe September 26, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    It’s too true! I can never spell “necessary” without remembering the completely stupid warning “Never Eat Celery, Eat Something Simple And Remain Young”. It may have taught children how to spell but it’s also probably responsible for some pretty messed up diet plans across the UK.


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

      what a strange phrase. But hey – it works! I had one for the planets too but when they got rid of Pluto, thereby getting rid of “Pizza”, I felt like mnemonic systems had failed me.


  2. Marylou September 26, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    lolol… no i think these things are very normal. if you’re good at just remembering things without association, i think that’s on the Asperger’s spectrum.

    in fact, you introduced me to some new ones that will come in handy in the future…

    however if anyone knows one for broccoli that would be *great* … I consistently still spell that word wrong.


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

      I’ve been trying to make up clever broccoli ones this whole time in the hopes that I could solve this for you but they’re all pretty dumb. I’m sorry I’ve failed you.


  3. pegoleg September 26, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I always have trouble with desert/dessert. Thanks for the 2 scoops helper (although I could do without the picture, which will now forever more be associated with ice-cream in my brain)!


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

      I read that in a post the other day. You were missing a scoop. 😛


  4. Tara September 26, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    I have to count my knuckles to know how many days are in a particular month. When you put your two fists together and call the first knuckle on your left hand January, and the space in-between them February, then the next knuckle March, and so on and so forth, all the knuckles have 31 days and the in-betweens don’t. I also know the quadratic formula by heart, because of a song, but have no idea when to use it. I still sing the ABCs. You are not alone Jackie!


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

      Thank you for explaining that because everyone was just casually mentioning it like I knew what “the knuckle method” was. Totally didn’t. LOL I love that you know the formula but not when to use it 🙂


  5. debra mckune September 26, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    I needed mnemonic devices to remember the mnemonic devices! I could never remember the songs and poems that were supposed to help me remember everything else. I’ll be the one in the nursing home asking, “what was that little saying that was supposed to help me remember that there are two s’s in dessert?” oy!


  6. Lori September 26, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    My teachers rarely instituted songs, so I only need to sing the Spanish alphabet. I use the knuckle trick for remembering days in a month:


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

      I’m amazed at how many people do this and that I’ve never chanced to catch someone in the middle of it all these years


  7. thesinglecell September 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    My teachers didn’t do songs. I’m guessing you learned your states and capitals this way, too… but mine never taught me that stuff. Not even Schoolhouse Rock. So sad. But I do the month/day “poem” you mentioned and laugh when it runs off the rails at February, but I always know how many days February has anyway.


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

      Oh man – no songs? What a cold and sad education. But probably much better in the long run. You don’t need to walk around mumbling songs to yourself.

      I didn’t learn my states and capitals this way. I never learned them at all, actually. There’s an embarrassing post in here somewhere about that.


  8. Jules September 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Ohhh gross. That lady has periodontal problems. *bleghgh*

    I remember ROY G BIV for colors of the rainbow…hey hey heeeeeey~


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

      lol yes, I would peg you for someone who can’t stand poor hygiene.

      I need ROY too. One day I learned that Indigo isn’t really part of it; they just needed a vowel in there.

      It wrecked me.


  9. Emily May September 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Don’t worry. I do this too! And don’t forget my all-time forgotten spelling: necessary (1 Collar 2 Sleeves!)

    Don’t worry. songs are cool, although they annoy the hell out of everyone…


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

      The wheels on the bus go round and round…


  10. Terri September 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    YES! My second grade teacher taught us multiplication table songs too, and I still sing them. For the days in a month thing, I rely on the knuckle technique when doing my own dry erase calendar, February being the crazy outlier.


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

      This knuckle thing seems to be all the rage.

      You learned multiplication tables in 2nd grade?? I didn’t learn until halfway through third. Woooow you must have been a kid genius.


  11. Aprill Brandon September 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Love your blog so I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award:


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

      Hey thanks a lot, Aprill!


  12. Bridgesburning Chris King September 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Love it but cannot remember if I used anything to remember!


    • pegoleg September 26, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

      ha ha!


    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

      Thanks for opening the junk drawers anyway 😉



  1. It’s an honor just to be nominated… | Broke Wife, Big City - September 26, 2011

    […] The Jackie Blog: Blogging every day? Now that deserves an award in and of itself. […]


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