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Uncle Goose Ho Ho Holmium

Ho, Ho, Holmium: using acrostics as mnemonic devices

Mnemonic devices can help you remember hard-to-remember things. To make your own mnemonic devices, associate what you want to remember with something you already know.

Coming up with your own mnemonics can be fun! They also serve as great study aids.

One of the most-used mnemonic devices is the acrostic. In an acrostic, the first letter in every word represents the first letter of the word you want to remember.

Acrostics can get awfully silly. Let’s suppose you need to remember all the elements in the periodic table of elements in order. You might try developing silly acrostics like these:

  • Hysterical Henry Likes Bear Bottoms
    (Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron)
  • Call Nightingale’s Ox Florence? Never!
    (Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluorine, Neon)
  • Some Magpies Always Sing Phonetically.
    (Sodium, Magnesium, Aluminum, Silicon, Phosphorus)

Do these acrostics sound silly or strange? Of course they do! That’s the point.

Periodic table of elements by Uncle Goose

The sillier the mnemonic, the more likely it is that you’ll remember it. When you create your mnemonic devices, try to make them as fun or as silly as possible.

Who knows? Your acrostic may become so popular it becomes a meme.

Some acrostics have become so popular as study aids, they’re almost famous. For example:

  • My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. This well-know acrostic helps people remember the order of the planets and the closest dwarf planet in our solar system.
    (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.)
  • Didn’t King Phillip Came Over From Great Spain? This age-old acrostic helps students remember the taxonomy order in biological classification.
    (Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.)
  • Every Good Boy Does Fine. This acrostic helps musicians remember the notes on the five lines of the treble clef.
    (E, G, B, D, F.)

Planet tiles by Uncle Goose. Collect all 9!

If you have a long list of hard-to-remember terms to memorize, try using acrostics. Further, you can also use acrostics to kick start your memory to go deeper on one difficult topic.

For example, Holmium might be a hard element for anyone to remember. It’s one of the least popular elements on the periodic table. Holmium has no commercial applications, so it’s not something you regularly see or use.

And at atomic number 67, Holmium is a lanthanide. It’s tucked between two other hard-to-remember lanthanides, Dysprosium and Erbium. And to make Holmium even less memorable: all lanthanides look pretty much the same.

So how the devil are you supposed to remember Holmium? This is where mnemonics come into play. Get creative. Have some fun with it.

Ho Ho Holmium

  • You already know know Santa says “ho, ho, ho”. Perhaps you could make Holmium stand out by associating its symbol ‘HO’ with Santa.
  • Or you might already know that Holmium was named after Stockholm because it was discovered by Swedish chemist Per Theodor Cleve.
  • Which could in turn, lead you down a rabbit hole of mnemonic devices. Holmia, as it turns out, is the Latin name for Stockholm.

Swedish blocks

Remember, the sillier the mnemonic device, the more likely you are to remember it. Go for it - be as weird as you want when you develop your mnemonic devices.

You can go wide to remember long lists or strings of information. Or you can go deep to associate your topic with many related topics you already know.

How likely are you to remember HO stands for Holmium 6 months from now? Time will tell!