Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

A mnemonic device is a shortcut memory aid to storing facts fast and accurately. Mnemonic (the m is silent) is eponymously derived from Mnemosyne, the shadowy daughter of Uranus and Gaea, a wife of Zeus and mother of the nine muses. Mnemosyne caught Zeus’s eye when he decided that he wanted to record — so that people would remember — the triumphs of the gods.

Why was Mnemosyne the mother of the nine patronesses of literature and the other arts? Because in ancient times all poetry was memorized. Before the invention of alphabets and printing presses, human beings were capable of feats of memory that most people today find incomprehensible. Epic poems were composed from memory and improvisation and transmitted by song and chant. We must not forget that epics, such as the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey,” were created by illiterates and passed from person to person, in the manner of the book people in Ray Bradbury’s book-burning world of “Fahrenheit 451.”

The most common mnemonic is an acrostic-style sentence in which the first letter of each word triggers the name of each item to be memorized:

• Every Good Boy Does Fine (the musical notes on the treble-clef lines).

• Will A Jolly Man Make A Jolly Visitor? (last names of our first eight presidents: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren)

• My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles (our nine planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto; with Pluto demoted from planethood (My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Noodles)

The next most common mnemonics are acronyms, in which each letter triggers a name, like STABS (the singing parts soprano, tenor, alto, bass) and HOMES (the Great Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).

Rhymed jingles also help us with remembrances of things fast:

Thirty days hath September,

April, June and November.

February 8 and 20, all alone.

All the rest have thirty-one.


I before E,

Except after C,

Or in rhyming with A,

As in neighbor and weigh.


Put a CHIcken in the car.

And the CAr can’t GO.

That’s how you spell CHICAGO.

Finally, there’s wordplay and letter play. The most famous mnemonic pun is “Fall back. Spring ahead,” so that we know what to do with our time pieces when we move from and to daylight saving time. An example of a letter-play mnemonic is “Pie. I wish I could calculate pi. Eureka! cried the great inventor. Christmas pudding, Christmas pie is the problem’s very center.” Here the number of letters in each word yields pi to the 20th decimal place — 3.14159265358979323846.

Can you identify what each of the following mnemonic devices refers to?:

1. FACE (hint: music) 2. NASA’s Astronaut Enjoys Aussie Affairs Again (hint: geography) 3. Violet Adopts Again Cats Needing Personal Protection. (hint: grammar) 4. Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived (hint: history) 5. Hairy Dwarfs Decant Great Sherry Bottles Slowly

Answers 1. the notes of the treble-clef spaces 2. the seven continents: North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa 3. the seven parts of speech: verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, noun, preposition, pronoun 4. the fates of the six wives of Henry VIII: Katharine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr 5. the Seven Dwarfs: Happy, Dopey, Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy