Oh, for heaven’s sake, let me try again…m-n-e-m-o-n-i-c-s.  There, but please don’t ask me to say it again!

What’s a mnemonic?  I don’t know, I can’t remember! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.)

Do you have a favourite mantra or mnemonic for remembering how to spell words (or facts even)? There are all sorts; they come in all shapes and sizes:

George Eliot’s Old Grandmother Rode A Pig Home Yesterday (Geography)

Rhythm Has Your Two Hips Moving (I like that one)

Two Cots Need Two Mattresses In Any Accommodation

A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream (Arithmetic)

Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants (Because)

StationERy is for things like papER and StationARy is for something that isn’t moving, like a pARked cAR

There is a LIE in beLIEve or Never BeLIEve a LIE

FRI the END of your friend

A deSSert is Super Sweet and a deSert is Sandy

When you assume you make an ass out of u and me

Loops are loose and it is easy to lose a shoe

Wherever there is a Q there is a U too

Goofy Greg loved to exaggerate

There’s a rat in separate

It’s necessary to remember the cesspool in the middle or Not Every Cat Eats Sardines (Some Are Really Yummy)

Then, there’s the good old:

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain (colours of the rainbow)

And infinite variations for the order of the planets (whether or not you include Pluto):

Men Very Easily Make Jugs Serve Useful Nocturnal Purposes

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas

My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Nine Porcupines

Now, my old favourite was: I before E, except after C.  Couldn’t possibly go wrong with that one, (I thought, many moons ago when I was at school).  I’ll always get the spelling right for perceive, receive, conceive, ceiling, receipt, conceit, deceit, deceive, ceiling.

But waddya know: there are more exceptions to the rule than instances that conform to it. There are, in fact, 923 English words that have ‘cie’ within; 21 times as many words break the rule than don’t. Too few words actually follow the rule: it applies, it seems, to words with an ei spelling that have a clear ee sound. There are so many exceptions, it actually nullifies the rule (and is no longer taught in schools).

If I list all 923 words, I may have my gruel rationed yet again, but look at these examples that defy the ‘after C’ part:

Ancient, conscience, financier, society, species

And then these that just laugh in the face of the ‘I before E’ part…

Being, beige, caffeine, feint, feisty, foreign, forfeit, heifer, height, heir, heist, neighbour, protein, reign, rein, seismometer,seize, their, veil, vein, weigh (weight), weird

It’s just not fair, is it? An old-timer you thought you could rely on falls by the wayside.

Do you have any favourites?


Author: Cathy Speight

Reviewer Cathy Speight is British and lives in England. The Kindle revived her passion for reading and after stumbling on a Facebook group of independent authors, she now does her best to encourage and assist indies as much as possible. Books by indie author form the majority of her collection. Cathy shares her views on the books she has read on her blog.

19 thoughts on “Mnem…Mmeno…Mmnem…”

  1. The initial letters of the Great Lakes make HOMES: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. Yvonne beat me to the musical ones. 😉

    Somebody once tried to convince me that I had my stationary/ery mixed up. But I knew the fixed point was -ary.

    Great post, Cathy!

  2. I don’t know if this qualifies: Red and yellow kills a fellow, red and black is safe for Jack. This is how you can distinguish a coral snake from a non-venomous king snake. If the red and yellow are touching, run away!
    Fun post.

      1. I recommend using a Memory Palace because that lets you give each of these mini-mnemonics you’ve listed an organizational location in your mind. Because Memory Palaces are typically based on familiar locations, you then know where you need to go in your mind in order to find the information.

        Take the “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” example.

        Instead of just memorizing that, see your mother serving nine pizzas and place that image in your mother’s kitchen (or in a dedicated Memory Palace).

        Now you’ve got not only a word-based mnemonic, but an image that tells a story to help unpack the planets and a location in your mind where you can find the information. There are now three aids to recalling the planets, not just one.

        And if you do use your mom’s kitchen, then it’s a simple matter to proceed to the living room and place “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain,” and so on.

        Memory Palaces are beautiful things, possibly the greatest invention humanity has ever designed.

  3. Then there’s the mnemonic for the divisions of living things: King Phillip Crossed Over France, Germany, Spain (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species).

  4. lmao – Great post Cathy! But…but…I /still/ do the I-before-E mantra before typing ‘received’. Perhaps they should just upgrade the mantra to :

    ‘I before E except after the sound of CEE.’

    Or perhaps we just have to accept that we are the last generation that still knows how to spell.

  5. In order to remember the 6+1 Traits of Good Writing, I had a contest with my students to come up with a sentence. The winner? People on violent swings will injure children. That made it so much easier for everyone to remember Presentation, Organization, Voice, Sentence Fluency, Word Choice, Ideas, Conventions. I also used it for coming up with by criteria for the book reviews I post on my blog.

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