So, I totally didn’t even know this word until 1990 when a movie came out with it in the title. Oldsters will remember the title if not the movie. I never saw the movie itself, but there was a huge PR campaign around it. The movie, of course is Johnny Mnemonic. Since I’ve never seen the movie, I can’t really tell y’all if it was any good, but the name stuck with me forever because it just sounded good. You know? Maybe that’s what the writers were hoping for.
Even though I’d never heard of the word before then (or maybe I had but never gave it much thought, who knows? I was young), that doesn’t mean I never used the concept. Oh no, I use mnemonic devices all of the time. As someone with Dyscalculia, mnemonics plays a huge role in my life. Mnemonics, for those who don’t know, are memory tricks that people use to, well, remember something. And because my brain isn’t wired right — bipolar is a huge factor here as well — I have a lot of trouble remembering many things. For example, I have difficulties telling right from left. Like all of the time. All of the damned time. >_< I’m fifty one years old, and I still have to pause and say, “Right… Left? Okay, right…” Now, some people will say, “Hold up your hands and your left finger and thumb will make an /L/.” (pictured) and that’s how they tell their left from their right. But when I hold up my hands, they both look like /L/’s to me. So that never worked. My mnemonic way of remembering my left from my right is that “write with my right hand” and I let muscle memory show me the way. In other words, which hand would I grab the pencil with? The one that twitches is right (and hence the “right” way).
My dog, Poptart, is a Chihuahua. Wanna know how I remember how to spell Chihuahua? Because I used to watch this television show a long time ago called WKRP in Cincinnati, and there was a character called “Les Nessman” on that show (again, I’m totally showing age), and he called these little guys “Chee-whooa–whooa-s”. Ever since I heard that as a kid, I’ve remembered how to spell Chihuahua. Mnemonics are great for spelling — though I’ve never found one for the word itself. I use mnemonics for spelling all of the time, for as long as I can remember, I’ve subconsciously said “laBORatory” while spelling laboratory and whenever I spell miscellaneous I have to mentally say the /c/ to spell it right – so I say “mis/k/ellaneous when I’m spelling it. I often wonder if people are silently saying “WedNESday”, and the /r/ in February to remember to spell it. When we were kids, we broke words apart to remember how to spell them, so together breaks apart into “to get her”, and assume “makes an ass of u and me” &c… Of course, spellcheck and grammar check helps nowadays, but these are not perfect tools, and they don’t catch all of the homonyms or synonyms. They will catch most of them, but not all of them.
Another thing I’m pretty awful with, thanks to both the Dyscalculia and the bipolar, is recognizing faces. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m just really bad at recognizing people. It’s always been bad because of the aforementioned maladies, but when I developed fibromyalgia, it got worse. I’ve had entire conversations with people who obviously know me – I mean they talked about me, things we’ve done together, people I know, &c… but I have no idea who they were. Though as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also gotten to the point where I’ll just flat out say, “I’m sorry, I can’t remember who you are.” I may have relayed this story before, but way back in the mid ’90’s there was this one time I was out with a friend of mine and we were sitting at a bar and this dude sat down and talked with us for a good half an hour, then he left. I turned to my friend and asked who he was. She was like, “Oh my god, Willow! That’s Todd! (I totes don’t remember his name, this is a made up name) You dated him for, like, three months last year!” I totally didn’t recognize him. Like, at all. Not his face, not his voice, nothing. I mean, he seemed vaguely familiar, but that was it. I thought he was her friend and I knew him through her.
So what does that have to do with mnemonics? Well, I “recognize” people by their hairline. Just above the forehead, and sometimes if they have distinct eyes, their eyes, but mostly their hairline. That’s my trick. Almost everyone has a distinct hairstyle that they stay with — for a while anyway. If I meet someone and they get their hair cut or changed shortly afterwards, I flat out won’t recognize them the next time I see them. I will totally walk right past them as if I’d never met them. As I get to know someone (and start to remember more of their face) if they change their hair style, and hence their hair line, it won’t affect my ability to recognize them as much. But, I’ll probably be the first to notice their new ‘do because my brain will have to process their new “face” pattern. It’s kinda funny because when I play video games, I totally don’t even realize when lip syncing is out of whack unless it’s really off because even in video games I often concentrate on people’s foreheads. That’s why I can’t stand it when games have awful hair. ^_^ I think that’s why I couldn’t play minecraft… no faces at all really. Just… dots. My mind couldn’t cope with that. I think I didn’t recognize “Todd” in the above story because he was wearing a cowboy hat (we were in a C&W bar) and when I knew him, I don’t believe he wore said hat. I dunno. It’s a possibility. Like I said, it was nearly thirty years ago, and that, dear readers was a long time ago. It sticks in my memory because he’s (probably) the only one I’ve ever dated that I’ve openly forgotten like that. I mean yeah, I’ve dated and forgotten many people, but not quite so overtly. Ha!
So anyway, mnemonics plays a big role in how I navigate the world thanks to Dyscalculia, bipolar, fibromyalgia and… sadly age, which comes to us all. But memory tricks can’t overcome everything. My poor brain just can’t do math. It’s never been able to, even before most of these things reared their ugly heads. I’ve tried every trick in the book (that I could think of) and even with the help of calculators, computers, and counting on my fingers, I still can’t do something as simple as balance my checkbook. You see, helpful devices like calculators and computers only work if one puts in the correct numbers. Garbage In, Garbage Out as the old saying goes (GIGO). I tried all kinds of spreadsheets and helpful computer programs as they came out (like Microsoft Money, et al) but GIGO gets me every time. The computer program can’t possibly know I meant to add 7 and 3 if I put in 4 and 3. How could it possibly know that? At least with spell check, it can guess I meant to write choose instead of chose. So yeah, while mnemonics are great for many things, alas and alack, I still can’t do math past a fifth grade level. And unfortunately, that’s kept me from doing many, many beautiful and wonderful things. Why? because like or not, Math is the universal language that explains… well… just about everything, and it honestly breaks my heart that I’ve never been able to crack that code. I’da made a great engineer. I just know it.
I coulda been someone. I coulda been a contender! ^_^ I’ve got old movies on the brain. Ah well, it just wasn’t meant to be.
A mnemonic for my age…