Monday, November 1, 2010

Left to Our Own Mnemonic Devices

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
February has twenty eight alone
All the rest have thirty-one
Except in Leap Year, that's the time
When February's Days are twenty-nine

So how many days in November then? This poem, one of the many atrocities passed down to us from old England (including, but not limited to, the King James version of the Bible) does little to answer my question.

This is a particularly bad mnemonic device. December also rhymes with September. I've see many people screw up the singing of The US National Anthem, so not getting the words right to this forgettable little poem must be common. December, in some people's minds, must have 30 days. This would put the kibosh on New Year's Eve and prevent Christmas and New Year's Day from being exactly one week apart. I question too, whether memorizing these 32 words is more of a task than just remembering that November has 30 days or procuring a calender and / or utilizing the wonderful calender provided by your computer's OS

I relied on the knuckle method for years. This works pretty well if you are not wearing mittens. The trick is making sure the pinkie knuckle is tapped twice to insure that the Roman emperors each get their full 31-day month. Follow the link for the detailed instructions on how to perform this cute trick. Give up? November has 30 days. Much easier isn't it?

I fell sorry for those who operate solely in the lower regions of the cognitive domain. Mnemonic devices are often used by these folks to fortify useless or easily obtained information. Thinking and creativity take a back seat to banality. Mnemonic devices clutter our brains just as much as the knowledge they help us recall. I wish I was free from them.

I leave you with:

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