By NICK JACOBS
We all have used mnemonics in our lives to help us learn things that otherwise might be too challenging to retain.
There was also this historic one: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” intended to help us memorize what year Columbus discovered India, I mean America, or was it Puerto Rico? Wherever, we needed that saying at least until it was proven untrue. It was pre-Google so we had to digest facts as best we could. In the olden times most of our lives were spent memorizing and regurgitating facts.
Some sayings had meteorological significance; Red in the morning is a sailor’s warning; red at night is a sailor’s delight. This of course referred to the color of the sky at sunrise and sunset, and red in the morning meant that storms were ahead. Now that we have Doppler and Satellite Radar, life is a little more sophisticated, or not.
Red Cross classes told us what to do if anyone turned colors; “When the face is red, raise the head. When the face is pale, raise the tail.” Of course, we all knew that this was a really old saying because most of us had not had a tail for a very long time. In fact, if you followed it explicitly you’d be butt raising, and I don’t think that was what they meant at all.
For the longest time, my mind was filled with sentences, sayings and names of things that made little or no sense to anyone else in my life. Roy G Biv was the fictitious name of the man who helped us remember the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, indigo and blue, and everyone who has ever studied music knows that Every Good Boy Does Fine represents the lines of the treble clef; E, G, B, D, F. FACE was the spaces.
Those were the basics. When you got deeper into the music game, life became more complicated because the bass clef was; Good Boys Do Fine Always. The culture was so patriarchal in those days that it didn’t dawn on anyone that this was about boys doing fine and guys named Roy. I’m sure that good girls do fine, too.
Taking up guitar meant learning new combinations for the strings. One of my favorite memory sentences was Easter Bunnies Get Drunk After Easter because I could just feature Peter Cottontail running around deliriously delivering eggs and chocolate sculptures of himself then heading to the nearest bunny pub and getting loaded on aged carrot wine and complaining about all the little kids that harassed him at the mall. The more teachers that I had, the more sayings I heard: Every Boy Gets Dizzy Around Ellen was a good one.
The ukulele, however only uses the top four strings of the guitar; Don’s Got Blue Eyes. (I made that up because my brother had blue eyes.) Because the bass guitar only used the bottom four strings of the guitar the sentence Eat A Dead Groundhog became my memory aid.
My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles recently had to be changed to My Very Earnest Mother Just Served us Noodles when Pluto lost planethood status. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and not Pluto anymore.
That’s the difference between science, history and music. Science, like money, is based mostly upon fiction in that things that you believed to be the bottom line Gospel truth only stayed that way until they were proven not to be that way, but in music, Every Good Boy (still) Does Fine all of those centuries later!
(Nick Jacobs, Windber, international director for SunStone Consulting, LLC is author of the blog Healinghospitals.com.)