Charm of mnemonics

Praha

There are so many pieces of information we need to know, there are so many pieces of information we need to remember. None of us is able to remember everything and sometimes we may get into trouble when forgetting something important. But there are techniques coming to our aid and probably all of you met and used the art of mnemonics which makes it easier for our brain to remember and recall the important pieces of information. There are many mnemonic devices and you can find plenty of them on the Internet but I would like to mention just a few practical uses which have stuck in my (Czech) mind.

From my school years I do not remember the vitamins which are water-soluble but I will always remember those ones which are fat-soluble. They are A,D,E,K. Firstly, I like the word ADEK which they form though it has no meaning at all. Well, it resembles the word ‘zadek’ which means buttocks and which may make it sound seemingly familiar. But if you switch the letters, you will get the word DEKA which means a blanket. Fat-soluble vitamins are playful ones.

Writing telephone numbers in sections divided by gaps is a helpful mnemonic device and in many countries the numbers are written in this way. In the Czech Republic, telephone numbers usually have 9 digits so if you divide such a number into three groups of three, it is much easier to remember it. You know, although my husband has had the same mobile phone number for ages, I have not been able to remember it. It is high time to do something about it and I could start practising it this way…

Who would not know the Morse code? We were learning it as a list of words starting with the particular letter and containing the proper short and long syllables. Many of the words sounded archaic but it made them even easier to remember. And guess what – I remember the record of just those letters I have associated with the particular words like A-kát (locust); Erb (coat of arms); Jas-mín bí-lý (white jasmine) etc.

Many countries have emergency telephone numbers which can be called free of charge in emergency situations. In the Czech Republic the number 112 which is the European emergency number may be called but there are three traditional emergency numbers in operation as well: 158 – Police, 155 – Ambulance, 150 – Fire brigade. They form an integrated system nowadays and it does not matter which one you choose any more but it always made me feel silly that I was not able to remember which one belongs to which department. Until I read a mnemonic device: the last digit of 158 is 8 which resembles handcuffs – hence police, the last digit of 155 is 5 which resembles a wheelchair – hence ambulance, and finally 150 whose last digit is 0 which resembles a lake (pond), hence fire brigade…

The last example I am going to give you brings me back to the photo where you can see the Czech national flag. Do you know since what time I have remembered faultlessly that the white stripe belongs up and the red stripe down? Since I heard that you put an egg on a brick wall and not the other way around.

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