13 Mnemonic Sentences To Boost Your General Knowledge

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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

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

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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

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.

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor

Dash/Keurig
Dash/Keurig

If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.

Electronics

Dash/Amazon

- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

- Dash Deluxe Air Fryer $80 (save $20)

- Dash Rapid 6-Egg Cooker $17 (save $3)

- Keurig K-Café Single Coffee Maker $169 (save $30)

- COMFEE Toaster Oven $29 (save $9)

- AmazonBasics 1500W Oscillating Ceramic Heater $31 (save $4)

Home office Essentials

HP/Amazon

- HP Neverstop Laser Printer $250 (save $30)

- HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed OCR Scanner $274 (save $25)

- HP Printer Paper (500 Sheets) $5 (save $2)

- Mead Composition Books Pack of 5 Ruled Notebooks $11 (save $2)

- Swingline Desktop Hole Punch $7 (save $17)

- Officemate OIC Achieva Side Load Letter Tray $15 (save $7)

- PILOT G2 Premium Rolling Ball Gel Pens 12-Pack $10 (save $3)

Toys and games

Selieve/Amazon

- Selieve Toys Old Children's Walkie Talkies $17 (save $7)

- Yard Games Giant Tumbling Timbers $59 (save $21)

- Duckura Jump Rocket Launchers $11 (save $17)

- EXERCISE N PLAY Automatic Launcher Baseball Bat $14 (save $29)

- Holy Stone HS165 GPS Drones with 2K HD Camera $95 (save $40)

Home Improvement

DEWALT/Amazon

- DEWALT 20V MAX LED Hand Held Work Light $54 (save $65)

- Duck EZ Packing Tape with Dispenser, 6 Rolls $11 (save $6)

- Bissell MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage Auto Vacuum $111 (save $39)

- Full Circle Sinksational Sink Strainer with Stopper $5 (save $2)

Home Décor

NECA/Amazon

- A Christmas Story 20-Inch Leg Lamp Prop Replica by NECA $41 save $5

- SYLVANIA 100 LED Warm White Mini Lights $8 (save 2)

- Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle Vanilla Cupcake $17 (save $12)

- Malden 8-Opening Matted Collage Picture Frame $20 (save $8)

- Lush Decor Blue and Gray Flower Curtains Pair $57 (save $55)

- LEVOIT Essential Oil Diffuser $25 (save $5)

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12 Surprising Facts About T.S. Eliot

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Getty

Born September 26, 1888, modernist poet and playwright Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot is best known for writing "The Waste Land." But the 1948 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was also a prankster who coined a perennially popular curse word, and created the characters brought to life in the Broadway musical "Cats." In honor of Eliot’s birthday, here are a few things you might not know about the writer.

1. T.S. Eliot enjoyed holding down "real" jobs.

Throughout his life, Eliot supported himself by working as a teacher, banker, and editor. He could only write poetry in his spare time, but he preferred it that way. In a 1959 interview with The Paris Review, Eliot remarked that his banking and publishing jobs actually helped him be a better poet. “I feel quite sure that if I’d started by having independent means, if I hadn’t had to bother about earning a living and could have given all my time to poetry, it would have had a deadening influence on me,” Eliot said. “The danger, as a rule, of having nothing else to do is that one might write too much rather than concentrating and perfecting smaller amounts.”

2. One of the longest-running Broadway shows ever exists thanks to T.S. Eliot.

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In 1939, Eliot published a book of poetry, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which included feline-focused verses he likely wrote for his godson. In stark contrast to most of Eliot's other works—which are complex and frequently nihilistic—the poems here were decidedly playful. For Eliot, there was never any tension between those two modes: “One wants to keep one’s hand in, you know, in every type of poem, serious and frivolous and proper and improper. One doesn’t want to lose one’s skill,” he explained in his Paris Review interview. A fan of Eliot's Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats since childhood, in the late '70s, Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to set many of Eliot's poems to music. The result: the massively successful stage production "Cats," which opened in London in 1981 and, after its 1982 NYC debut, became one of the longest-running Broadway shows of all time.

3. Three hours per day was his T.S. Eliot’s writing limit.

Eliot wrote poems and plays partly on a typewriter and partly with pencil and paper. But no matter what method he used, he tried to always keep a three hour writing limit. “I sometimes found at first that I wanted to go on longer, but when I looked at the stuff the next day, what I’d done after the three hours were up was never satisfactory," he explained. "It’s much better to stop and think about something else quite different.”

4. T.S. Eliot considered "Four Quartets" to be his best work.

In 1927, Eliot converted to Anglicanism and became a British citizen. His poems and plays in the 1930s and 1940s—including "Ash Wednesday," "Murder in the Cathedral," and "Four Quartets"—reveal themes of religion, faith, and divinity. He considered "Four Quartets,” a set of four poems that explored philosophy and spirituality, to be his best writing. Out of the four, the last is his favorite.

5. T.S. Eliot had an epistolary friendship with Groucho Marx.

Eliot wrote comedian Groucho Marx a fan letter in 1961. Marx replied, gave Eliot a photo of himself, and started a correspondence with the poet. After writing back and forth for a few years, they met in real life in 1964, when Eliot hosted Marx and his wife for dinner at his London home. The two men, unfortunately, didn’t hit it off. The main issue, according to a letter Marx wrote his brother: the comedian had hoped he was in for a "Literary Evening," and tried to discuss King Lear. All Eliot wanted to talk about was Marx's 1933 comedy Duck Soup. (In a 2014 piece for The New Yorker, Lee Siegel suggests there had been "simmering tension" all along, even in their early correspondence.)

6. Ezra Pound tried to crowdfund T.S. Eliot’s writing.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1921, Eliot took a few months off from his banking job after a nervous breakdown. During this time, he finished writing "The Waste Land," which his friend and fellow poet Ezra Pound edited. Pound, with the help of other Bohemian writers, set up Bel Esprit, a fund to raise money for Eliot so he could quit his bank job to focus on writing full-time. Pound managed to get several subscribers to pledge money to Eliot, but Eliot didn’t want to give up his career, which he genuinely liked. The Liverpool Post, Chicago Daily Tribune, and the New York Tribune reported on Pound’s crowdfunding campaign, incorrectly stating that Eliot had taken the money, but continued working at the bank. After Eliot protested, the newspapers printed a retraction.

7. Writing in French helped T.S. Eliot overcome writer’s block.

After studying at Harvard, Eliot spent a year in Paris and fantasized about writing in French rather than English. Although little ever came of that fantasy, during a period of writer’s block, Eliot did manage to write a few poems in French. “That was a very curious thing which I can’t altogether explain. At that period I thought I’d dried up completely. I hadn’t written anything for some time and was rather desperate,” he told The Paris Review. “I started writing a few things in French and found I could, at that period ...Then I suddenly began writing in English again and lost all desire to go on with French. I think it was just something that helped me get started again."

8. T.S. Eliot set off stink bombs in London with his nephew.

Eliot, whose friends and family called him Tom, was supposedly a big prankster. When his nephew was young, Eliot took him to a joke shop in London to purchase stink bombs, which they promptly set off in the lobby of a nearby hotel. Eliot was also known to hand out exploding cigars, and put whoopee cushions on the chairs of his guests.

9. T.S. Eliot may have been the first person to write the word "bulls**t."

In the early 1910s, Eliot wrote a poem called "The Triumph of Bulls**t." Like an early 20th-century Taylor Swift tune, the poem was Eliot’s way of dissing his haters. In 1915, he submitted the poem to a London magazine … which rejected it for publication. The word bulls**t isn’t in the poem itself, only the poem’s title, but The Oxford English Dictionary credits the poem with being the first time the curse word ever appeared in print.

10. T.S. Eliot coined the expression “April is the cruelest month.”

Thanks to Eliot, the phrase “April is the cruelest month” has become an oft-quoted, well-known expression. It comes from the opening lines of "The Waste Land”: “April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.”

11. T.S. Eliot held some troubling beliefs about religion.

Over the years, Eliot made some incredibly problematic remarks about Jewish people, including arguing that members of a society should have a shared religious background, and that a large number of Jews creates an undesirably heterogeneous culture. Many of his early writing also featured offensive portrayals of Jewish characters. (As one critic, Joseph Black, pointed out in a 2010 edition of "The Waste Land" and Other Poems, "Few published works displayed the consistency of association that one finds in Eliot's early poetry between what is Jewish and what is squalid and distasteful.") Eliot's defenders argue that the poet's relationship with Jewish people was much more nuanced that his early poems suggest, and point to his close relationships with a number of Jewish writers and artists.

12. You can watch a movie based on T.S. Eliot’s (really bad) marriage.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Tom & Viv, a 1994 film starring Willem Dafoe, explores Eliot’s tumultuous marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, a dancer and socialite. The couple married in 1915, a few months after they met, but the relationship quickly soured. Haigh-Wood had constant physical ailments, mental health problems, and was addicted to ether. The couple spent a lot of time apart and separated in the 1930s; she died in a mental hospital in 1947. Eliot would go on to remarry at the age of 68—his 30-year-old secretary, Esmé Valerie Fletcher—and would later reveal that his state of despair during his first marriage was the catalyst and inspiration for "The Waste Land."

This story has been updated for 2020.