Definition of Mnemonic

The word “mnemonic” comes from the Greek term “mnemonikos,” which relates to memory, much like its Greek root. It’s connected to Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory in Greek mythology, but both words trace their origins back to “mneme,” which also means memory or remembrance. Essentially, mnemonics function as mechanisms for enhancing memory and keeping information.

The fields of literature and linguistics rely on mnemonics as a means of aiding memory retention, ultimately resulting in the ease of recall at a later point in time. Mnemonics are a means of achieving retention and recall by utilizing coding, clues, images, and other cues that help the mind store and retrieve information when necessary. The purpose of these aids is to function as memory helpers for those who use them. Mnemonics find applications in various fields, including music, naming, meanings, and literature. The approaches comprise of music mnemonics that support the remembrance of musical notes or compositions, name mnemonics that enable recall of names, model mnemonics that assist with complicated concepts, and image mnemonics that enhance visual memory.

Examples of Mnemonic in Literature

Example #1

Divorced, Beheaded and Died by Anonymous (Public Domain)

Divorced, beheaded and died.
Divorced, beheaded, survived.
I’m Henry VIII, I had six sorry wives.
Some might say I ruined their lives.

The above rhyme, whose creator remains anonymous, illustrates the use of mnemonics through various words and is readily available in the public domain. It shows that the fates of the wives of Henry VIII, who became famous for sending his wives to gallows. In fact, these mnemonics make it easy to remember the names of his wives. Although there are other sentences to remember his wives’ names, this stanza exemplifies that the first was divorced, the second was executed by decapitation, and the third perished, while the fourth and fifth were also separated through divorce and execution, with the sixth being the sole survivor. Another popular sentence about this mnemonic is, A Big Secret Conceals Heart Past..

Example #2

From The Book of Lost Names by Kristina Harmel

“I’ve always loved math. You see, the Fibonacci sequence starts with the number one, then the number one again. Add those numbers together to get two. Then add one and two together to get three. Two and three make five. Three and five make eight. And the series continues like that, adding the two previous numbers to get the following number. Do you understand?” Eva squinted at him. “I understand the math. But I don’t understand what this has to do with an old book.”
He grinned. “Stay with me, Eva. Now, continue the sequence, if you will.” “Rémy…” “Just trust me.” She sighed, feeling as if she were back in l’école primaire, being given a surprise quiz in mathematics. “Very well. One, one, two, three, five, eight, thirteen, twenty-one, thirty-four…” She trailed off.

This passage occurs in the novel, The Book of Lost Names, by Christian Harmel. The explanation provided is a superb representation of the numerical mnemonic developed by Eva Traube Abrams during her time in Paris, where she assisted Jewish orphans and other children in crossing borders to safety. This passage shows how she develops this system with her male counterpart, Mr. Remy, and teaches him how to use it.

Example #3

Order of Planets Mnemonics

Although the origin of this sentence is not clear, it has been used to show the name of the planets. The sentence goes thus; “My very easy method just speeds up naming planets.” It means that if you use every initial letter of the word for every planet, you will get the exact order of the planet in which they revolve around the sun. However, after Pluto got excluded from it in 2006, it is still the same but without it.

Example #4

Taxonomic Mnemonic

In biological studies, the taxonomy of species often tests memories because of the number of different classes and different names. Therefore, students and teachers have devised a mnemonic to remember these. This mnemonic is in a sentence “Kids prefer cheese over friend green spinach” in which every initial letter of every word representative a class such as k stands for a kingdom, p stands for phylum, c stands for class, o stands for order, f stands for family, g stands for genus, and s stands for species.

Example #5

Vowel Mnemonics and Conjunction

The linguists have developed mnemonics for the students to learn vowel sounds. For short vowels, the sentence “That Pen is not much good” is very good as it comprises all six short vowels. For the long vowels, the sentence is “Pay may we all go too?” which has all the six long vowels. Similarly, for remembering conjunctions where a comma is placed, the grammarians have developed a mnemonic, FANBOYS, that represents For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet and So.

Functions of Mnemonic

Mnemonic functions hold great importance in multiple areas of life, including education and literature. In education, mnemonics are highly valued for their ability to enhance memory by implementing memory games that feature techniques using visual, auditory, or numerical stimuli. These techniques are beneficial for children with dyslexia, as they assist in the comprehension of complex ideas by enabling the creation of unique sentences. Children’s creativity can be enhanced through the use of mnemonics, allowing them to comprehend not only stories but also scientific and general concepts. Mnemonics engage sensory imagination, facilitating the retention and retrieval of information. In the realm of literature, stories and poems employ them to facilitate the comprehension of difficult grammatical and abstract concepts that may otherwise be challenging to perceive.