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MNEMONIC

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MNEMONIC

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:53 pm

• mnemonic •


Pronunciation: nee-mah-nik • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Related to memory. 2. Aiding or intended to aid recall, such as recalling temple as a mnemonic device to jog template when this word is mentally blocked, or the poem Hickory Dickory Dock to help remember hickory.

Notes: As we age, we even forget our mnemonic devices; I know I do. I can remember today's Good Word because it has a large family. It seems to be derived from mnemon "a single recollection", used mostly in psychology, but it isn't (see Word History). Mnemonics is the study and development of systems of improving memory, and mnemicon is another word for "mnemonic device". The adverb is mnemonically, with the required empty suffix -al.

In Play: Today's word is used mostly in the phrase mnemonic device: "Lucinda Head needs a mnemonic device to remember her own name." However, it still means more broadly "related to memory": "The mnemonic powers of Noah Zarque seem to be dwindling as he ages."

Word History: Today's Good Word is Greek mnemonikos "of or related to memory" touched up for English-speakers. This word comes from mnemon "remembering, mindful", which is, in turn, from mneme "memory, memorial, a remembrance". The root of this word appears in two other Greek words that English borrowed: amnesia and amnesty, the process of forgetting crimes. (The prefix a- means "not" in Greek.) This root reached Greek from Proto-Indo-European men- "to think", which came to English as mind. In Old Persian it turned into mazda- "wise". It manifested itself in Sanskrit mantrah "prayer, hymn", which English borrowed as mantra "a frequently repeated phrase". (I don't need a mnemonic device to remember the name of Jeremy Busch, for he is a regular contributor to the Good Word series and the Alpha Agora.)
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby MTC » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:40 am

In a site devoted to words we should pay our respects to the Greek goddess Mnemosyne:

"MNEMOSYNE was Titan goddess of memory and remembrance and the inventress of language and words.

As a Titan daughter of Ouranos (Heaven), Mnemosyne was also a goddess of time. She represented the rote memorisation required, before the introduction of writing, to preserve the stories of history and sagas of myth. In this role she was represented as the mother of the Mousai (Muses), originally patron goddesses of the poets of the oral tradition."

(http://www.theoi.com/Titan/TitanisMnemosyne.html)

Without rote memorization, mnemonic devices, and arguably the patronage of Mnemosyne there would be no Illiad and Odyssey. Western literature would not be the grand edifice it is today without its mnemonic plinth. James Joyce could not have written Ulysses. Proust could not have written Remembrance of Things Past . Vladimir Nabokov could not have written Speak Memory. (He originally intended the title to be Speak, Mnemosyne, but was talked out of it by his editors.)

Without memory we would lose our link to the past. Indeed, "History is a people's memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals." - Malcolm X.

So much depends on the gift of memory. We should show our gratitude today by burning a candle at the altar of Mnemosyne.
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:31 pm

I don't know about burning candles, but I am all in favor
of rote memorization, and rue the day the poems I had
to repeat in class, are not taught any longer.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby David Myer » Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:01 am

Most commonly and nearly exclusively, where I come from (UK and Australia), the word is generally used for the specific memory device - enabling you to remember say, the sequence of the colours in a rainbow by turning the initial letters into a word - ROYGBIV. A sort of acronym but with a different purpose: memory, rather than 'abbreviation for convenience'. I think the "30 days hath September, April, June and November" rhyme that we learned in primary school would also count as a mnemonic in the UK, but in my experience anyway, it is very rarely used for other than memory-jogging initialisms.

As for rote learning (times tables daily and poetry in detention), well, like beatings, it never did me any harm! But I think the new generations are better off even if the can't quote Blake's Tiger. I can, but I've never had occasion to do so. Perhaps detention didn't do me much good!
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:41 am

Going with the tide of this discussion toward memorization: I was fortunate enough to have teachers in church and school who stressed memorization. I memorized long passages from the Bible and, while I may not still be able to quote KJV verbatim, I know the content of much of the Bible. I learned many poems and I repeat them in my dotage with the same ardor I learned them.

At the funeral of my brother-in-law this week, the minister, my brother, recited: "Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." I could quote it in my mind and receive great consolation. In the same way, I can quote Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody", or Lanier's "Song of the Chattahoochee", to regain my perspective of life and its purpose. I know there are many people who do not appreciate poetry. But without poetry and song, I would be poor indeed.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Oct 12, 2012 2:32 pm

I too came from the rote memory generation, however I find other ways to impress on memory as if by accident. At Baylor Theater I was on the light crew for many rehearsals and performances of Hamlet. From that repetition (with Burgess Meredith in the title role) plus rereading and repeated viewing of every Hamlet movie, I know it almost as well as I do some Bible passages. No longer can I quote most of the latter well because I know them too well. Which combo of translations I quote is anyone's guess.

Rote, btw, doesn't always succeed. For years I have quoted the end of Blake's famous lines as "dare frame they fearful symetry." i recently ran into it and found that ain't what he wrote!
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:46 am

If you rote it incorrectly, then you will say it incorrectly. (I know that rote is not usually a verb.) This adds nothing to the reliability or unreliability of rote learning. For myself, it has never entered my mind whether I have learned something by rote. Some people have good memories, others don't. My pastor preaches with notes but not by rote. My brother, who is a pastor, reads his sermons word for word. They both do great jobs. I teach by letter. I open my mouth and let 'er fly.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby Slava » Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:11 am

It is a wee bit odd to me that this word has gone off on a tangent regarding rote learning. Rote learning is memorization. A mnemonic is a way of reminding you of what you already know, by rote or other means.

Roy G. Biv is a mnemonic device. You do, however, have to have memorized the contents.
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:21 am

We don't just go off on tangents; we wander all over Hell's half acre in these threads.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby MTC » Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:36 am

Just so we'll know where we've wandered:

HELL'S HALF ACRE - "n. a wild, desolate, or dangerous place. 1864 'E. Kirke' 'Down in Tenn.' 130 'I come ter de place whar dey fit so two days arterwuds - dey call it 'Hell's-half-acre.'." Also "all over hell's half acre - everywhere. 1930 Sage 'Last Rustler' 251 'The cattle was.scatter all over hell's half acre.'." From the "Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 2, H-O, by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1997."

Personally, I find our wanderings more edifying than hellacious. Some timid souls would have us tethered tightly to our linguistic posts, but I prefer a wider charge: Boldy go where the word and its associations lead, even if there be dragons!
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Oct 13, 2012 7:42 pm

Yeah. No fear. We can drag the dragons along with us. I just did!
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:39 pm

MTC: I have often wandered over Hell's half acre, but never associated it with anything wild and desolate. To me, it is just a colorful expression to mean everywhere one can wander. Now "God's Little Acre" is a whole 'nother place. I have never gone there and never intend to. God's little acre is a promised gift to God on which one reneges. See Erskine Caldwell's novel.

Wandering enriches my appreciation and it is fun. As for there being dragons, Puff the Magic Dragon had fun didn't he?
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby MTC » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:54 am

I seem to recall Puff did have fun, but then my memories of the period are clouded...

As for "God's Little Acre," you struck paydirt. Never having read the novel, I looked it up on Wikipedia:

" The novel was so controversial that the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice attempted to censor it, leading to the author's arrest and trial for obscenity. Exonerated after a jury trial[1], the author counter-sued the literary society for false arrest and malicious prosecution. Every page referred to pornographic content through detailed descriptions."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God's_Little_Acre)

I'm rushing out to buy a copy right now. At my age this may be the best I can do.

But back to "God's Little Acre," Wikipedia provides the following explanation:

"The title of the book refers to Ty Ty's land, full of holes. Ty Ty feels he is generous by setting aside one acre (4,000 m2) to be "for God"—that all proceeds from the acre will be donated to the church. But in actuality, Ty Ty "moves" the acre around to make sure that he never digs on it—he doesn't want to risk his gold going to the church."

Of course, "God's Acre" is another name for a church cemetery. Caldwell must have chosen his title and theme with that in mind.

But we have divigated dangerously, and I can feel the hot breath of the dragons on my back.
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:58 am

I am reminded of Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood. There be
no dragons there.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: MNEMONIC

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Oct 14, 2012 3:43 pm

But Hefalumps. Definitely Hefalumps. Though you couldn't track them. Perhaps they were kin to Bigfoot.
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