Mnemonics, Mnemosyne and How to Memorize

Let me take you back in time just a few wee centuries and share with you what very little I know about Greek Mythology.

Zeus was king of the Gods at that time (must have had a good election campaign that year) and he had a little intern called Mnemosyne.

Now Mnemosyne is the personification of memory in Greek mythology or as we would say on our side of the river – the goddess of memory.

Zeus and Mnemosyne had a little thing going one night, well for nine nights actually, and created the nine muses.

What is a Muse I hear you muse?

Well, in mythological terms (and according to good old Wikipedia a muse was one of the nine spirits (or goddesses) who who embodied the arts and inspired the creation process.

So it was felt in those mythological times that memory (through the goddess Mnemosyne) was the mother of creativity.

And this is where the term “mnemonic” comes from and one that has had poor old dyslexics pulling their hair out in spelling tests for years.

So what is a “mnemonic”?

Well quite simply it is “an aid to memory” or a “device to aid recall”.

Technically speaking when you want to remember something and you write it down, that piece of paper becomes your “mnemonic” in that instance.

Of course if you had written it down on a giraffe then that would also become your “mnemonic”.

But if you had to remember that you had to buy a giraffe and you wrote that down on a giraffe then we get into all sorts of circular logic and highly improbably scenarios so I shall cease that train of thought

Back to something more sensible now

So a mnemonic is an aid to memory and whilst I dipped into the technicalities of the term, it is usually a reference to a mental device constructed to help in the recall of one or more facts.

In principle devices like Mind Mapping and some of the more structured memory techniques like the journey system are also mnemonics but specifically we are looking at something on a much smaller scale.

There are some very famous mnemonics such as:

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

The first letter of each word helping recall the colours of the rainbow.

This of course works on the premise that you know the colours of the rainbow in the first place but just need a little bit of help remembering the order.

And that is the beauty of these things called mnemonics – they help you organise, sort and recall what you already know and simply trigger what is already there.

Another very popular set of information that has hundreds of different mnemonic variations is that of the order of the 9 planets from the Sun (yes I know Pluto has been downgraded and is not technically a planet, but have a heart and let him down gently).

Here is just one version of it:

My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets

This of course helps you remember the order of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

Over the coming weeks and months I shall be publishing some of the mnemonics I have collected over the years and will be sharing with you many of the ones sent to me by my readers from all over the world.

So if you have got a mnemonic that you are particularly fond of and think would help others, then do send it in to me or share it with us in the comments section below.