Tuesday, May 30, 2006

May 30: Memorial Day

Today is the anniversary of the celebration of the first Memorial Day in 1868. American General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30th a day "designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land." It wasn’t until after World War I that the holiday became a national day, honoring not just the Civil War dead, but also those who served in any war.

On this day of remembrance a few mnemonic devices might be helpful. No, you can’t buy them in stores. A mnemonic device is a method of remembering something that is difficult to remember by remembering something that is easy to remember.

The word mnemonic is from the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the Muses, Mnemosyne.

In his book WASPLEG and Other Mnemonics, Bart Benne catalogs hundreds of mnemonic devices. To make things easy to remember, these mnemonic devices use different methods such as rhyme, acrostics, or acronyms. Another method is the nonsense sentence made up from the initial letters of what it is you are trying to remember. Here’s an example of a sentence that was created to remember the most important battles of Julius Caesar’s career:

Is Perpetual Zeal The Means?

I Ilerda
P Pharsalus
Z Zeta
T Thapsus
M Munda

Generations of school children have used the rhyme from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" to remember the start date of the American Revolution:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Rhyming couplets are helpful in remembering key dates in English history:

William the Conqueror, Ten Sixty-Six
Played on the Saxons oft-cruel tricks.

The Spanish Armada met its fate
In Fifteen Hundred and Eighty-Eight

The acronym "BIGOT" helps in remembering the Marine campaigns in the Pacific in World War II:

Iwo Jima

Another mnemonic device helps both soldiers and civilians remember the order of the major rank structures in the U.S. Army from lowest to highest ranking.

Privates Can’t Salute Without Learning Correct Military Command Grades:

Private, Corporal, Sergeant, Warrant Officer, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Colonel, and General (2).

Today’s Challenge: Rhyme, Acrostics, and Acronyms Oh My!
Think of something you need to remember, or something that everyone should remember, and create your own mnemonic device.

1 -
2 - Benne, Bart. WASPLEG and Other Mnemonics. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1988.

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