13 Mnemonic Sentences To Boost Your General Knowledge

iStock
iStock

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
iStock

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.

10 Game of Thrones Fan Theories About How the Series Will End

HBO
HBO

Our faces are longer than Jon Snow’s right now. It’s been nearly a year since the last season of Game of Thrones ended, but season 8—the series's final one—won’t air until next spring. To tide you over until 2019, we’ve collected some of the most plausible as well as the most bonkers fan theories about what could go down in the final episodes. They predict everything from a new contender for the Iron Throne to a new species classification for a major character. On the bright side, we’ll all have plenty of time to debate these before the first episode airs.

1. JON SNOW WILL KILL DAENERYS.

Almost since the series began, fans have been predicting that Jon Snow is the Prince Who Was Promised—a reincarnation of the legendary hero Azor Ahai. But most predictions have overlooked a central piece of the Azor Ahai legend, which may spell doom for Daenerys: Azor Ahai, a lousy metallurgist, had a tough time forging his fabled flaming sword Lightbringer. Then he realized he needed to temper the blade by plunging it into the heart of his wife, Nissa Nissa, to imbue it with her power. (Because in the logic of this legend, killing a powerful woman turns a mediocre man into a hero.) If Jon Snow is Azor Ahai, the theory goes, then Daenerys will be his Nissa Nissa—the one true love he must kill in order to save the realm.

2. THE LANNISTERS’ REPAID DEBTS WILL BE THEIR DOWNFALL.

Lena Headey in 'Game of Thrones'
HBO

You know the family creed: A Lannister always pays his debts. In Season 7, Cersei stayed true to her family name when she paid off a large debt to the Iron Bank. Most viewers read this as a play to buy the loyalty of the bank and its mercenary soldiers, but one Machiavellian Redditor has predicted that paying off the debt will have the opposite effect. “While the Lannisters were in debt to the Bank, the Bank had a vested interest in their success,” one Redditor wrote. Now that the debt is paid, the Iron Bank will invest in the side that seems to have the best chance of winning—and right now, that doesn’t look like Cersei's.

3. EURON GREYJOY IS THE FATHER OF CERSEI’S CHILD.

Somehow this seems more disturbing than Jamie being the baby’s incestuous father. PopSugar rolled out this hot take based on some circumstantial evidence. First, Euron and Cersei cooked up a plan to betray Jon and Daenerys without telling Jamie, which “raises the question about what else Cersei was doing with Euron behind Jamie’s back.” Then there’s the fact that Cersei just let Jamie ride north to fight the White Walkers, which doesn’t seem like a risk you’d want your unborn child’s father to take. She has no idea when or if he’ll be back. But on the other hand, she knows exactly where Euron will be. Perhaps she’s keeping an eye on her baby’s true father.

4. DAENERYS WILL DIE BEYOND THE WALL.

Redditor Try_Another_NO reached all the way back to season 2 to substantiate this theory about Daenerys’s demise. While Daenerys is in the House of the Undying, she has a series of possibly prophetic visions. She walks through the throne room in Kings Landing, which is damaged and filled with snow. Before she can touch the Iron Throne, she’s called away by a sound and suddenly finds herself walking beyond the wall. There she meets Khal Drogo who says he has resisted death to wait for her. According to the theory, these were clues about the series’s end: The White Walkers will threaten Kings Landing. Daenerys will turn away from the throne to fight the White Walkers. Death awaits her beyond the wall.

5. CLEGANEBOWL WILL FINALLY HAPPEN.

For years fans have eagerly awaited a fight between Sandor and Gregor Clegane, which has been affectionately dubbed “Cleganebowl.” In the season 7 finale, the Hound hinted that the much-hyped fight is coming when he told his brother, “You know who's coming for you.” The cryptic message also spawned a fan theory about the real origin of the Clegane brothers’ beef. Our only version of the tale comes from noted liar/sleazebag Littlefinger, who claimed Ser Gregor burned his brother’s face over a stolen toy. But Redditor 440k11 thinks the Hound has always had a talent for reading the future in the flames. In fact, the theory goes, the Hound saw his brother’s death foretold in a fire and told him about it. Enraged, young Gregor pushed his brother’s face into the fire he was reading, burning Sandor and cementing their lifelong enmity.

6. VARYS IS ACTUALLY A MERMAN.

The case for this one is watertight. The books make several mentions of merlings living alongside dragons, giants, and White Walkers—mythical creatures we know exist in Essos. Varys, meanwhile, constantly covers his lower body in long robes. What is he hiding? According to Redditor nightflyer, it’s his freaky fish body. In the books, it would explain his cryptic response when Tyrion threatened to have him thrown off a ship: “You might be disappointed by the result.” In the show, it might explain how Varys traveled from Dorne to Daenerys's ship in Mereen seemingly overnight in the middle of season 7. (It wasn’t lazy writing—he swam there!) In general, it might explain why he’s such a slimy weirdo.

7. THE MAESTERS ARE COLLUDING WITH CERSEI TO BEAT DAENERYS.

Finally, a fan theory fit for our political age! According to this theory, the maesters are natural enemies of magic. The strange forces that bring the dead back to life, reveal the future in fire, and allow Arya to wear many faces are beyond the maesters’ powers of rational explanation. But if magic were eliminated, the maesters’ monopoly on knowledge would continue unchallenged. It follows, then, that the maesters would feel comfortable with Cersei’s cruel reign but threatened by Daenerys’s magical dragons. Maybe that explains why a former maester built Cersei a weapon meant to kill dragons. And maybe the maesters will intervene in the conflict more directly in the next season.

8. ARYA WILL KILL CERSEI ... WEARING JAMIE’S FACE.

Maisie Williams in 'Game of Thrones'
HBO

Predicting that Jamie will kill Cersei is so mainstream. Seeing Jamie kill Cersei for the good of the realm would reprise his role as the Kingslayer (or Queenslayer). It would neatly fulfill the Volanqar prophecy—the prediction a witch made to a young Cersei, that she would be killed by a volanqar (which translates to "younger sibling" in High Valyrean). And it would be so easy. Reasoning that George RR Martin would never do something so obvious, and that Arya’s assassin character arc has to led to a more consequential target than Walder Frey, Redditor greypiano predicts that Arya will be Cersei’s killer. If she first kills Jamie and uses his face to catch Cersei unaware, then the volanqar prophecy will be confirmed (even if it’s on a technicality).

9. VISERION WILL COME BACK TO LIFE.

Here’s a fan theory for moms, from a mom. Redditor Cornholio_the_white wrote that after the season 7 finale, their mom called to say she was sad about Viserion’s death. But she had a prediction: “I think it’s going to remember its mother.” She explained that Daenerys’s love would free Viserion from the Night King’s spell. Cornholio_the_white scoffed. That wasn’t possible. The dragon was dead. But then Mom dropped a compelling counterargument: “Not if the Red Woman brings it back. They’re keeping her around for something.”

10. GENDRY IS THE LEGITIMATE CHILD OF CERSEI AND ROBERT BARATHEAN.

This theory throws another contender for the Iron Throne into the mix. It maintains that Gendry was not Robert Barathean’s bastard son—in fact, he was the only legitimate child of the king. We know that Cersei and Robert had a child—a “black-haired beauty”—who supposedly died shortly after birth. Curiously, Cersei says she never visited her firstborn child in the crypt, even though we know she is a fiercely devoted mother. Perhaps that’s because she knew her son was actually in Fleabottom as a blacksmith’s apprentice. And perhaps it was Cersei all along who was looking out for Gendry, securing his apprenticeship and protecting him from Joffrey’s purge of Robert’s bastards. Gendry, for his part, remembers only that his mother had yellow hair. If that yellow-haired woman was Cersei, Gendry would have the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne of anyone in Westeros.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. To celebrate his birthday (he turns 73 today), here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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