"mnemonic possession" (UNCLASSIFIED)

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Fri Oct 25 16:25:44 UTC 2013

My son learned an "American Presidents" song in elementary school.

When he was about 18 or 19, he was stopped by the police one night while driving.  To test for illicit imbibery, the officer instructed him to say the alphabet--at which moment my son realized that he was not able to SAY the alphabet but only to SING the alphabet, an undesirable substitute, under the circumstances.  So he had to busily translate, in his head, the song lyrics into sober-sounding prose.

I myself confess to mentally uttering the mnemonic for spelling "Mississippi" every time I write the word.


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Arnold Zwicky [zwicky at STANFORD.EDU]
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2013 11:36 AM

On Oct 25, 2013, at 7:49 AM, "Mullins, Bill CIV (US)" <william.d.mullins18.civ at MAIL.MIL> wrote:

> So, what other things have you memorized from a song?  I'm aware of (but
> haven't learned):
> Lehrer's song about the elements
> Animaniacs songs of state capitals and countries

i can't believe that anyone has ever learned the names of the elements from Tom Lehrer's song.  it's a tour de force, but not really usable as a mnemonic,


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