13 Mnemonic Sentences To Boost Your General Knowledge

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It’s fair to say that Richard—an ennobled great-grandson of King Edward III—dying at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 probably isn’t the most well known of historical facts. But when you retell that story as “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain,” then it suddenly becomes a bit more familiar: an obscure occurrence from the early days of the Wars of the Roses has become immortalized as a mnemonic to remember the colors of the rainbow.

But there’s more to mnemonics like this than just remembering colors. From royal wives to birthstones, here are some memory-building sentences to give your general knowledge a boost.

1. “A BIG SECRET CONCEALS HER PAST” // HENRY VIII'S WIVES

Henry VIII's wives

Richard Burchett, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Everyone knows the rhyme “divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived” to remember the fates of Henry VIII’s wives—but which wife matches which fate? Mnemonics used to remember the six wives’ names are tricky, not least because there are three Catherines to contend with (some of whom sometimes have their names spelled with a K rather than a C). But when all else fails, try remembering the appropriately evocative sentence “A Big Secret Conceals Her Past” to help recall the dramatic lives of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr.

2. “MOTHER VISITS EVERY MONDAY, JUST STAYS UNTIL NOON” // THE PLANETS

Until the International Astronomical Union downgraded Pluto to a dwarf planet in 2006, the line “My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets” helped a lot of people remember the order of the planets from nearest to furthest from the Sun. You can still use the same line and drop the P, of course, but with only Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune to recall, how about the eight-word “Mother Visits Every Monday, Just Stays Until Noon.”

3. “HAPPY HENRY LIVES BESIDE BORON COTTAGE” // THE CHEMICAL ELEMENTS

From symbols and atomic numbers to groups and periods, any chemistry student knows there’s plenty to remember when it comes to the periodic table. But when it comes to remembering the names of the elements themselves, how about “Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage.” That not only helps recall the names of the first half dozen elements (hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, and carbon) but also their chemical symbols (H, He, Li, Be, B, C—so long as you know which elements have two-letter rather than one-letter symbols, of course). But if you want to remember the first 20 elements, you’ll have to remember a bit more about Happy Henry and his friends:

Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage, Near Our Friend Nelly Nancy MgAllen. Silly Patrick Stays Close. Arthur Kisses Carrie.

From “near” onwards, that’ll help you remember nitrogen (N), oxygen (O), fluorine (F), neon (Ne), sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg), aluminium (Al), silicon (Si), phosphorus (P), sulphur (S), chlorine (Cl), argon (Ar), potassium (K), and calcium (Ca).

4. “SUPER HEROES MUST EAT OATS” // THE GREAT LAKES

Great Lakes Map
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Remembering that the names of the five Great Lakes spell the word HOMES is one thing, but when it comes to remembering them in order of size from largest to smallest surface area, try “Super Heroes Must Eat Oats”—Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario. Want to know them from left to right on a map? Swap those superheroes for “Super Man” who, it’s worth remembering, “Helps Every One.”

5. “KING PHILIP CAME OVER FOR GOOD SPAGHETTI” // ZOOLOGICAL TAXONOMY

Unless you’re a zoologist or a taxonomist, you might not need to know the hierarchy of the chief taxonomical classifications all too often (depending on how difficult your local pub quiz is, of course). But when need be, just remember that time when “King Philip Came Over For Good Spaghetti,” or that “Kings Play Chess On Fine Glass Surfaces,” and you’ll easily recall the order of kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.

6. “BIG GORILLAS EAT HOTDOGS, NOT COLD PIZZA” // CENTRAL AMERICAN COUNTRIES

If you struggle to remember the names of the seven countries of Central America, remember that “Big Gorillas Eat Hotdogs, Not Cold Pizza”: Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

7. “EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FAVOR” // TREBLE CLEF NOTES

In music, the mnemonic “Every Good Boy Deserves Favor” (or “Football,” or “Ferraris,” depending on what your incentive of choice is) is such a well known method for remembering the notes on the lines of the treble clef that it’s been immortalized as both the title of a Tom Stoppard play and a 1971 album by the Moody Blues. If you’ve ever had a piano lesson you’ll also know that the four spaces in between the lines spell FACE.

8. “ALL COWS EAT GRASS” // BASS CLEF NOTES

As for the bass clef? “All cows eat grass” is a neat way of remembering the four bass spaces ACEG, while the five lines either side of them can be used to spell out the fact that “Good Boys Deserve Favor Always.”

9. “FATHER CHARLES GOES DOWN AND ENDS BATTLE” // THE ORDER OF THE SHARPS

Another musical order worth remembering is that of the sharps added to successive keys. So while the key of C major has no sharps at all, G major has an F sharp; D major has both an F and C sharp; A major has an F, C, and G sharp; E major adds a D sharp into the mix; B major adds an A sharp; the key of F sharp major needs an E sharp; and all notes are sharped in the key of C sharp major, which adds a final B sharp into the mix. All told, it’s a bit of a muddle on its own, but if you bear in mind that “Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle”—or that “Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds”—then you can’t go far wrong.

10. “GOOD DOGS ALWAYS EAT” // VIOLIN STRINGS

A 1729 Stradivari known as the 'Solomon, Ex-Lambert' on display.
Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images

From lowest to highest the notes to which the strings on a violin are tuned spell out “Good Dogs Always Eat.”

11. “ELEPHANTS AND DONKEYS GROW BIG EARS” // GUITAR STRINGS

Memorize that sentence to remember the notes of the six strings in a standard guitar tuning.

12. “GREAT ACTORS ALWAYS DEVELOP EVERY POSSIBLE RESOURCE, PERFECTLY SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES TO TRIUMPH” // BIRTHSTONES

Keep the above sentence in mind, and you should be able to remember the order of the 12 traditional birthstones, garnet (January), amethyst (February), aquamarine (March), diamond (April), emerald (May), pearl (June), ruby (July), peridot (August), sapphire (September), opal (October), topaz (November), and turquoise (December).

13. “ANOTHER TOM CAT, CAUGHT NAPPING” // ROMAN EMPERORS

Need to remember the first batch of Roman emperors? “Another Tom Cat, Caught Napping,” put another way, is Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

23 Notoriously Unrhymable Words (That Actually Have Rhymes)

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iStock.com/MeXaHuK

You’ll no doubt have heard the old fact that nothing rhymes with orange. But in fact, the English surname Gorringe—as in Henry Honeychurch Gorringe, captain of the USS Gettysburg—rhymes with orange. And so does Blorenge, the name of a hill in south Wales. But even if proper nouns like surnames and place names are excluded, that still leaves sporange, an obscure name for the sporangium, which is the part of a plant that produces its spores. So although it might all depend on your accent, on how obscure a word you’re willing to accept, and on precisely where the stress falls in the word (because sporange can either rhyme with orange or be pronounced “spuh-ranj”), it seems there actually is a rhyme for orange.

In fact, despite often finding their way onto lists of notoriously unrhymable words, all of the words listed here do have rhymes in English—just so long as bizarre dialect words and obscure scientific jargon are allowed.

1. Acrid rhymes with epacrid (in some pronunciations), a name for any plant of the genus Epacris, most of which are found in Australia.

2. Angst partially rhymes with both phalanxed, meaning “arranged in rows,” and thanksed, an old word meaning “given thanks to.”

3. Beige is pronounced so that it sounds more like the first syllable of Asia than it does similarly spelled words like age, gauge, stage, and rage. But that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of a rhyme; there’s also greige, the name for the dull color of undyed fabric.

4. Bulb rhymes with culb, an obscure 17th century word for a retort or a barbed reply.

5. Chaos rhymes with naos, a name for the innermost part of a Greek temple, and speos, an Egyptian tomb built into a cave.

6. Circle rhymes with hurkle, an old dialect word meaning “to pull your arms and legs in towards your body,” as well as both heterocercal and homocercal, two zoological terms describing the tails of fish that are either asymmetrical or symmetrical, respectively.

7. Circus has a homophone, cercus, which is the name of a bodily appendage found on certain insects, and so rhymes with cysticercus, another name for a tapeworm larva. If that’s too obscure, why not try rhyming it with murcous—a 17th century word meaning “lacking a thumb.”

8. Concierge is a direct borrowing from French, so the number of English words it can rhyme with is already limited. But there is demi-vierge, another French loanword used as an old-fashioned name for a unchaste young woman—or, as Merriam-Webster explains, “a girl … who engages in lewd or suggestive speech and usually promiscuous petting but retains her virginity.” It literally means “half-virgin.”

9. Dunce rhymes with punce, a dialect word for flattened, pounded meat, or for a sudden hard kick, among other definitions.

10. False rhymes with valse, which is an alternative name for a waltz, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

11. Film rhymes with pilm, an old southern English word for dust or fine powder.

12. Filth rhymes with both spilth, which is the quantity lost when a drink is spilled (or the spilling itself), and tilth, meaning hard work or labor.

13. Gouge rhymes with scrouge, which means “to crowd or crush together.” In 19th century college slang, a scrouge was also a long, dull, or arduous lesson or piece of work.

14. Gulf rhymes with both sulf, which is another name for toadflax plants, and culf, an old southwest English word for the loose feathers that come out of pillows and cushions.

15. Music rhymes with both ageusic and dysgeusia, both of which are medical words describing a total lack of or minor malfunction in a person’s sense of taste, respectively.

16. Purple rhymes with hirple, meaning “to limp” or “walk awkwardly,” and curple, an old Scots word for a leather strap that goes beneath the tail of a horse to secure its saddle (it also more broadly means "buttocks").

17. Replenish rhymes with both displenish, which means “to remove furniture,” and Rhenish, meaning “relating to the river Rhine.”

18. Rhythm rhymes with the English place name Lytham as well as smitham, an old word for fine malt dust or powdered lead ore.

19. Silver, after purple and orange, is the third of three English colors supposedly without rhymes. But there is chilver, an old dialect word for a ewe lamb.

20. Wasp rhymes with both cosp, a hasp for fastening a door or gate, and knosp, an architectural ornament resembling the bud of a tree.

21. Width rhymes with sidth, an English dialect word variously used for the length, depth, or breadth of something—or literally the length of one side.

22. Window rhymes with tamarindo, a Spanish-American drink made of boiled and sweetened tamarind fruit.

23. Women rhymes with both timon, an old word for the rudder of a ship, and dimmen, meaning “to grow dim” or “to set like the sun.” Woman, however, has no rhyme at all. (Apparently.)

A version of this list first ran in 2015.

12 Surprising Facts About Emilia Clarke

Larry Busacca, Getty Images
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Game of Thrones fans know every title claimed by Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen: First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons. But there's probably a lot you don't know about the actress who plays her. Emilia Clarke has had almost as fascinating a life as the character that made her famous. Here are just a few surprising facts about the 32-year-old London native.

1. She has wanted to be an actor since she was a toddler.

Show business is in Emilia Clarke's blood. When she was just 3 years old, she attended a performance of Showboat, which her father—a theater sound engineer—was working on. "We sat her in the front row in house seats—Showboat at the London Palladium," Emilia's mom, Jenny, said. "She sat on my lap the whole way through, transfixed by the whole thing." It was then that she decided she wanted to become an actor.

2. Her father gave her some straight talk about becoming an actor.

When Clarke expressed a desire to take to the stage, her father made sure she understood what she was up against. "He wanted me to be very realistic about the whole thing, about how nobody makes any money," she told Esquire in 2015. "The only line you'll ever need to learn, he told me, is 'Do you want fries with that?'"

3. She played a classic Audrey Hepburn character on Broadway.

Emilia Clarke and Cory Michael Smith and Vito Vincent the cat take part in the 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' Broadway Opening Night at Cort Theatre on March 20, 2013 in New York City
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

In 2013, Clarke made her Broadway debut as Holly Golightly in a staged version of Breakfast at Tiffany's. Despite Clarke's acting skills, the play received poor reviews and suffered from low ticket sales; it closed after just one month.

4. She is the second person to play Daenerys Targaryen.

In the original unaired pilot of Game of Thrones, Dany was played by Tamzin Merchant. Though it's never been seen, the script recently resurfaced and seemed to confirm that it was rather problematic. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss ended up reshooting about 90 percent of the pilot to create "Winter is Coming," the series' first official episode. Those reshoots included, for a still-undisclosed reason, the recasting of Daenerys Targaryen. Clarke has since earned three Emmy Award nominations (and counting) for the role.

5. All of that nudity in Game of Thrones wasn't easy for Clarke.

Though Daenerys Targaryen turned out to be a career-changing role for Clarke, she admitted that it wasn't always easy. Between all of the nudity required of her character, and an infamous rape scene, Clarke's early days on the series could be trying. "Once, I had to take a little time out," she told Esquire of filming the first season. "I said I needed a cup of tea, had a bit of a cry, and was ready for the next scene."

6. She is the second Game of Thrones actress to play Sarah Connor.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke in Terminator Genisys (2015)
Melinda Sue Gordon, Paramount Pictures

Clarke starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys, playing the role of Sarah Connor. The part was previously played by Cersei Lannister herself, Lena Headey, in the short-lived TV series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Schwarzenegger was impressed with how well Clarke followed in the footsteps of Linda Hamilton, the original Sarah Connor. Ultimately, however, the movie flopped—which didn't bother Clarke at all. In an interview with Vanity Fair, she admitted that she was "relieved" that the movie was a failure, as it meant she didn't have to return for any sequels.

7. She idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger growing up.

After being forced to watch the first two Terminator movies by her brother as a child, Clarke became a huge fan of the series and of Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. To prepare for her role in Game of Thrones, she told the Irish Examiner that she actually "watched Sarah Connor back, in order to kind of embody some other strong women on screen. So it was funny when this audition [for Terminator Genisys] came around. I was like, ‘Yes, definitely!'" She admitted that she geeked out a bit when filming on Terminator Genisys began, and that she would drop Schwarzenegger's famous "I'll be back" line nonstop. "To his face, not to his face, all of it," Clarke said.

As for her co-star, Clarke commended Schwarzenegger's "calming, gorgeous presence on set that put everyone at ease. And he’s such an iconic figure—there were a lot of ‘pinch me’ moments, when you’re like, ‘I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.'"

8. She's got some serious musical talent.

Clarke is an exceptionally talented musician. With her alto voice, she can expertly sing ballads, blues, cabaret, and jazz numbers. She can also play the piano, flute, and guitar. 

9. Fans often don't recognize her in public.

Emilia Clarke attends the European Premiere of 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' at Palais des Festivals on May 15, 2018 in Cannes, France
Antony Jones, Getty Images for Disney

If you only know Clarke from Game of Thrones, you could be forgiven for thinking she has long, platinum blonde hair in real life. That was just a wig until she dyed her hair blonde in September 2017. Her natural color is much darker, and as a result, she's confessed she still isn't recognized much in the outside world when her hair is brown.

"I don't get recognized, truly," the actress told Conan O'Brien. "I'll be walking with Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, or Gwen [Christie], who plays Brienne of Tarth, and people will be like, ‘Can you take this picture for us?’ And I'm like, ‘Sure! Definitely I can!'"

10. She worked anywhere from three to six jobs at once before being cast.

Actors have to do a lot to make ends meet before their big break. Before landing her role on Game of Thrones, Clarke worked as a server, a bartender, a call center agent, and a licensed real estate agent.

11. She had other jobs in mind.

Everyone tells actors to have a backup plan and Clarke was no different. If acting hadn't worked out, she thinks she would have been a singer, an architect, or a graphic designer. 

12. She was bullied for her eyebrows as a child.

They may be one of her defining features now, but wasn't always a fan of her eyebrows—especially as she was teased about them as a kid. Fortunately, her mother knew better. "My mom had rules when I was younger: 'Don't do drugs, don't have sex, and don't touch your eyebrows,' she'd say," Clarke told Cosmopolitan. "And I didn't and I'm so grateful for that advice."

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