One Big Happy mnemonics

The One Big Happy of 9/13, in which Ruthie and Joe exhibit their prowess in spelling though mnemonics:

Spectacular examples of expression mnemonics, in which

The first letter of each word is combined to form a phrase or sentence — e.g. “Richard of York gave battle in vain” for the colours of the rainbow. (Wikipedia link)

… versus name, or acronymic, mnemonics, in which

The first letter of each word is combined into a new word. For example: VIBGYOR (or ROY G BIV) for the colours of the rainbow or HOMES (Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Superior) the Great Lakes. (also from Wikipedia)

English spelling is notoriously erratic (though far from totally irrational), because it pastes together a bunch of quite different conventions, but it hadn’t occurred to me that arithmetic, geography, and (especially) history were notably problematic — who needs Here in sleepy town, only rebels yell? — but that’s no doubt the comic point of the strip. (It’s surely easier to memorize the spelling of history than to memorize the mnemonic expression.)

But of course the mnemonic expressions are a lot more fun, and sometimes they can be acted out.

2 Responses to “One Big Happy mnemonics”


    Expression mnemonics are rife in medical school freshman anatomy, or were in my day (1959) anyway. Everybody’s been to Old Olympus’ Towering Top. My favorite is

    Sublingual nerve describes a curve
    behind the hyoglossus.
    Sublingual duct, well I’ll [darned],
    the bastard double-crosses!

  2. Anneli Says:

    There are different versions of a mnemonic for the street names in downtown Seattle. We were told “Jesus Christ made Seattle under pressure”, but there are two streets for each letter (we live between Pike and Pine streets, the last letter).

    For a discussion of variants, see

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