Susan B Antimony and Other Fun Mnemonics
Susan B Antimony
I recently graduated (Wait... I guess it's been over 4 years!) with my B.S. in Biology. However, during my four years of science classes, I managed to shove in a few psychology classes, and I understand why it is a general education requirement at most universities. Mnemonics were one of the most helpful and interesting topics that were covered in my psychology course. They're a funny thing. Most people utilize numerous mnemonics to remember things without even knowing that's what they're doing. ROY G BIV taught us about the rainbow in elementary school, and most people know that little ditty about the months: "Thirty days has September, April, June and November..." I'm going to teach you the logic behind mnemonics and teach you a few other interesting ones as well.
I can almost guarantee that I'm not the first person to come up with Susan B Antimony, but it definitely helped me pass an exam or two. I was sitting there memorizing the symbols for the elements, and most of them are pretty easy and well known. Hydrogen is H, Carbon is C, Oxygen is O, Nitrogen is N, etc. Antimony stopped me though. Antimony is Sb. Sb?? What am I going to do with that? That's when it hit me: Antimony... Anthony... Antimony... Anthony. Susan B Anthony. Susan B ANTIMONY! I haven't forgotten it since then!
One of the interesting things about mnemonics is that they don't always really have to make sense. Think about the way you remember the colors of the rainbow. ROY G BIV, right? But what makes you remember that so easily? One of the main reasons is that it's a lot more compact then just memorizing a list of colors. The human brain works astoundingly well at remembering groups of 7, which explains why phone numbers are easy to remember (XXX-XXXX). Also, grouping numbers into smaller groups makes them easier to remember as well, which is actually how I remember my driver's license number (LXXX-XXX-XXX-XXX). So ROY G BIV makes sense because it's a group of 7 and it's broken into smaller groups, unlike just listing the colors. It is however just a random unlikely name, but someone most kids can remember after the first time they hear it. Pretty cool, right?
Grouping isn't the only way that mnemonics work. With the Susan B Antimony example, you are associating a well known person with a seemingly random abbreviation of an element. Even if you don't know who Susan B Anthony is, you have probably heard the name numerous times. Linking an item that is easy to remember to a more difficult item is incredibly helpful, even if the items aren't related.
Interested in the Psychology of Memory? - There's so much to learn!
Some Well Known Mnemonics - At least to me!
- ROY G BIV - Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet
- 30 days have September,
April, June and November,
All the rest have 31,
except February which is short by some.
- "Spring forward, fall back" - For remembering to move your clock an hour earlier or later for daylight savings time.
- My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. If you want to leave Pluto out (meanie) then you can switch "Nine Pizzas" to "Nachos" or "Noodles"... Really any N food.
- I before E except after C - Helpful for remembering the spelling of certain words like friend and piece. This doesn't always work and there are a few additional rhymes that help clarify, such as:
Or when sounding like A in neighbor and weigh,
Or when sounding like I in height.
My favorite version was coined by comedian Brian Regan:
"I before E except after C,
or when sounding like A as in neighbor or weigh,
and on weekends, and holidays,
and all throughout May,
and you'll always be wrong, no matter what you say!"
- Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey - You know this one, right?!
What Do You Think?
P.S. That's my head in that picture.
Did you know you were using mnemonics?
More Mnemonic Info
A Few More Quirky Mnemonics
- Big Elephants Are Ugly - For remembering the spelling of "Beautiful." This one really makes me laugh.
- Dining In A Rough Restaurant Hurry Expect Accidents - For remembering the spelling of "Diarrhea." One of those mnemonics that actually make sense, despite being a little gross.
- Mnemonics Now Erase Man's Oldest Nemesis, Insufficient Cerebral Storage - A mnemonic to help spell mnemonic! Ha!
- When one has ants in one's pants, the mites go up and the tights come down. - This is helpful for remembering where stalagmites and stalactites grow. Stalagmites grow from the bottom up and stalactites from the top down.
- Run Oh You Great Big Idiotic Vampire - A funnier way to remember the colors of the rainbow.
- Two N's and two L's,
Then you've spelled it very well,
One L or one N,
You're a big fat stupid hen.
Dave Barry's way to remember how to spell "millennium." This might be my favorite, but I used to have the hardest time spelling millennium, so it's helped me a ton!
- Real Male Intellectual Virgins Undergo X-treme Gaming. I actually made this up in high school to remember the order of waves: radio, micro, infrared, visible, UV, X-ray, and gamma. It might not be so helpful for anyone during everyday life, but it's stuck with me for 10 years despite only using it a handful of times.