Thursday, January 15, 2015

Word of the Week: Mnemonic

Huzzah for Thursdays!

Word: mnemonic

How you say it: [nuh-mon-ik]

What it is: adjective (meanings 1 and 2), noun (meanings 3 and 4)

How to pluralize it: mnemonics

What it means: adj. 1.) assisting or intended to assist the memory. 2.) pertaining to mnemonics or to memory. n. 3.) something intended to assist the memory, as a verse or formula. 4.) Computers. a programming code that is easy to remember, as STO for “store.” (Definition courtesy of

Use it three times and it's yours! Using a word three times can help you remember it.

"'I' before 'e,' except after 'c'" is a commonly used mnemonic device.

When I was in grade school, I remembered the biological taxomonic categories of kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species using the mnemonic "Klingons plant carrots often; Ferengi grow squash."

Studies have shown that the use of mnemonics in teaching have a positive effect on test scores.

[Side note: That second sentence is a completely true statement. That mnemonic is actually what I used. No, seriously. Family of know how it is. Unless you don't. But yeah, the textbooks hadn't added 'domain' in front of 'kingdom' yet.]

Share your three sentences in the comments!

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  1. Nice! I especially like the Star Trek one.

    1) The first mnemonic I learned was for order of operations: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.
    2) Mnemonic devices in the forms of rhymes or little poems are my favorites.
    3) Perhaps high school teachers should use mnemonics more often; many students would likely benefit.

    I hope I used that colon right in the first sentence. The punctuation marks that seem simple make me nervous.

    I learned a song listing all the U.S. presidents from Washington to Clinton from Animaniacs. I take it that that would be a sort of mnemonic as well? (And does it seems grammatically correct to use both 'that's in this?)

  2. Well, the first sentence is a little off, but it's not because of the colon per se. Firstly, inserting 'the' between 'for' and 'order' would clarify the sentence greatly. Now, as for the colon placement - anybody with half a brain can tell exactly what you mean, so it's not really an 'incorrect' use. But, if you're a member of Nit Pickers Anonymous, there is room for improvement.

    You see, a colon indicates that the following phrase is related to the immediately preceding phrase, so your placement makes it seem that the actual order of operations is "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally," as opposed to the mnemonic being "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally." As I said, anybody with half a brain (or who is familiar with the mnemonic) won't be confused by this. But, if you felt like maaayybe this wasn't quiiite right, then this is why. There are at least two ways to rework your sentence with greater clarity.

    I loved the Animaniacs songs. In a broad sense, they are mnemonics inasmuch as they are memory devices. So, yes, it fits the definition. Most of the time, however, people hear 'mnemonic' and think of something short and concise, like "Oscar Had A Hold On Arthur" (you mentioned you're in Trig, so you might recognize that one), rather than a song. Sometimes, it's not about rigid definitions so much as common perception.

    Ah...'that.' I have a tendency to run 'that's together too, so don't feel bad. It's not incorrect (per se), but it is inelegant. (Absolutely no offense intended.) You will communicate exactly the same thing by removing one 'that.' Consider the two following sentences:

    I take it you are not hungry?
    I take it that you are not hungry?

    They mean exactly the same thing, and you will probably hear people use variations of this. You might immediately latch on to one as the 'proper' way to say it, and this depends on dialect and what you are used to hearing. Grammatically, however, they are equivalent (and the 'that' is extraneous).

    All right, short questions, long answers, I know, I know. But I hope this has made sense and helped a little.