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Hay’s Daze: Prime Ministers can’t eat any nachos

Have you ever put a rubber band on your wrist or tied a string on your finger to remind you to remember something? I know I have.

Have you ever put a rubber band on your wrist or tied a string on your finger to remind you to remember something? I know I have.

And have you ever noticed a rubber band on your wrist or a string on your finger and wondered: “What on earth is that doing there?” I certainly have.

So if you’re like me, you may need to do more than tying up your body parts in order to remember something you really don’t want to forget. What you probably need is mnemonics. (Say what??)

Almost everybody relies on mnemonics every single day, and most of us probably don’t even realize it, let alone know how to spell the word or even how to pronounce it. (At least one of the m’s is silent.) The word itself is from the Greek “mne” for: “I am” and “monic” meaning: “a memory moron.”

A mnemonic is any device that a person uses to aid the memory. “Thirty days have September, April, June, and some other months…” That little ditty is a mnemonic. “ ‘I’ before ‘e,’ except after ‘c,’” or “To remember the difference between dessert and desert, remember that dessert has two s’s like Strawberry Shortcake!”

You can use a poem, song, rhyme or a made-up ridiculous saying to help remember important things like how to set the table (“Anything with four letters goes on the left (fork); anything with five letters goes on the right (spoon, knife”), or the time zones of Canada (“Prime Ministers Can’t Eat Any Nachos = Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern, Atlantic, Newfoundland”) or the order of the planets - including the rogue on-again-off-again farthest planet – (“My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas = Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune & Pluto”).

Easy peasy, right? Sure, but the catch is, you gotta remember the mnemonic, which, in my case isn’t always a slam dunk. “My Nine Mothers Served Just Us Pizzas Very Excellently,” doesn’t help much. Not it this solar system anyway.

Experts say the more outrageous the memory device is the better chance you’ll have of actually remembering the remember. For example, many people use “Every Apple Deserves Good Biting Every Day,” for the correct notes to tune a guitar (EADGBE). That doesn’t work for me. I use: “Eddie Anchovy Digs Gooey Boogers Endlessly,” but that’s just me. And maybe that explains why my guitar is never in tune.

When tightening or loosening a bolt, I often have to remind myself “Lefty-loosey; righty-tighty.” If I ever decide to someday try to cook rice (fat chance) for some reason I remember the mnemonic: “Cooking rice? Water’s twice.” (One cup rice, two cups water). Want to avoid poison ivy? “Leaflets of three, let it be.” Or you might be able to save a shock victim’s life with: “If the face is red, raise the head. If the face is pale, raise the tail.” On account of red means too much blood rushing to the head, and white means not enough so raising the head or feet accordingly should help. (And you thought you’d never learn anything useful in this column!)

And of course by now we all know how to figure out Daylight Time. “Spring forward, fall back.” Hmmm. Or is it: “Spring back, fall forward.” “Spring up, fall down??” Mnemonics can be confusing sometimes.

Especially when you try to spell it. Don’t worry Scrabble fans, I have that covered for you. “Mnemonic: ‘Many Nerds Eat Monkey Organs Nightly In Closets.” You probably won’t forget that one.

Harley Hay is a writer and filmmaker in Red Deer.