Souvenirs and mnemories…

From Grammar Tip of the Day (

My best friend in college had an Italian last name with four syllables. I could say it, but spelling it drove me nuts. I believed (and still believe) in correct spelling, especially for names. Her name was consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel. The consonants were easy enough to remember; it was the vowels that gave me trouble. One day I looked at her name and had a flash of genius. I suddenly saw that the vowels were in ascending order starting with “a”: A, E, I and O. Perfect. I had the spelling down from then on. I pointed this out to my friend and she said, “You know, I NEVER noticed that before–pretty cool!”

I’ve always tried to come up with memory devices to remember things. In high school, one English teacher had a vocabulary quiz every Friday. It was maybe 10 or 20 words, not much more, and we had a list ahead of time that included those words. The ones I didn’t know, I would come up with mnemonic devices for myself to remember them. I aced every quiz. To be honest, I didn’t always remember the words six months later, but I remembered them long enough to get a good grade!

Even as a little kid I would do this. Mr. Rogers would sing this song about friendship, part of which went “F-R-I-E-N-D—special …” (does anyone remember this? — if I can find it on YouTube later, I’ll add a link.) Because of that, it was easy to remember whether the “i” or the “e” came first.

Another one I used was for the word “aggressive” (two g’s, two s’s). From the sidelines of our high school football field, the cheerleaders would chant, “Be Aggressive! B-E Aggressive! B-E-A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E, Aggressive!” I think there was another cheer where they spelled out “S-U-C-C-E-S-S.”

The cheerleaders we had in our high school could never quite figure out what was going on in the game. They would frequently start the “DEFENSE!” cheer when our team had the ball. And speaking of clueless, one of the football players used to try to cheat off me during the vocabulary quizzes …

But I digress.

I use whatever helps me, and it usually has to somehow relate to the word. A random sentence such as “A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream” is fine but has nothing to do with “arithmetic.” (I remember it because it was a fairly common memory device suggested when I was a kid, but rats and ice cream have nothing to do with math.)

Here are another two of my favorites: accommodate — it’s big enough to accommodate two c’s and two m’s, and “dessert” vs. “desert”–when you eat dessert (one more “s”) you always want one more.

The reason for this particular post is that, when I came back from vacation a week and a half ago, I was emailing someone about a souvenir I’d purchased for him. “Souvenir” is one of those words I seem to always have to double check. So I said to myself, “Come on. There has GOT to be a mnemonic device for this!”

I did an internet search yesterday. I couldn’t find “souvenir,” but I found a few new ones I hadn’t heard before:

RHYTHM — Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move*
ADVICE or ADVISE — remember that “ice” is a noun and “is” is a verb.
STATIONERY / STATIONARY — Envelopes (starts with “e”) are part of stationery, which has an “e.”
WEIRD — It’s “i before e except after c,” except in weird words like “weird.”

Nothing for “souvenir.” I CAN’T be the only one who has trouble with this word! Right now, I think I’ve spent enough time on this problem that I think I’ve finally got it memorized anyway, but it would be nice to come up with something. Does anyone know of a memory device for this word?

Any suggestions are welcome, and I also welcome any of your tricks and tips for remembering other words or phrases.


*I almost didn’t remember the phrase (“Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move”) when I started writing this blog this morning, and I think I know why: It violated one of  my “rules” for acronyms: The acronym word should not be one of the words making up the acronym. CATS (Cats Against The System) doesn’t work for me. By the way, an acronym is when the initials of a string of words spell out a pronounceable abbreviation. If you can’t pronounce it but have to say the letters, it’s an “initialism,” not an acronym: FBI, FYI.


3 thoughts on “Souvenirs and mnemories…

  1. I could never spell separate until I realized that there’s “a rat” inside. I always spelled it seperate until then. Not exactly an acronym, but sure made a difference for me!

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