Mnemonic devices you remember, except you forgot the thing they're supposed to help you remember

If that title doesn’t make sense, here’s an example:

The acronym “BALLS PDQ” is forever embedded in my brain. I know it’s a mnemonic device; I’m pretty sure I learned it in Boy Scouts to remember something about swimming safety. Except I can no longer remember what BALLS PDQ stands for. I think the ‘B’ was maybe “buddy system”. But the rest I have no idea. Oh well, whatever it was I remembered it long enough to pass the test and get my swimming merit badge.


Physical fitness, Discipline, Qualified supervision, Buddy system, Ability groups, Lifeguard, Lookout, Safe swim area


I can sing the quadratic formula, but I wouldn’t recognize a quadratic equation anymore.

I still remember On Old Olympus Treeless Tops A Fat Assed German Vends Some Hops is the mnemonic for the cranial nerves, but I have no idea what any of them stand for.

In French Immersion we learned (or, we were supposed to learn) “Dr. Mrs. Vandertramp” the initials of which stand for the French verbs that are conjugated with être (to be) rather than avoir (to have). It’s kind of the Gallic equivalent of the ser/estar split in Spanish. I just had to google it to make sure I even got the mnemonic correct, so it obviously didn’t take.

Going from south to north, the names of the east-west streets in downtown Seattle begin with the letters JCMSUP, which lends itself to the mnemonic “Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest”.

I’ll be damned if I can actually remember the names of those streets, though.

Can’t help showing off…

Jesus (Jefferson, James)
Christ (Cherry, Columbia)
Made (Marion, Madison)
Seattle (Spring, Seneca)
Under (University, Union)
Pressure (Pike, Pine)

But my knowing this is weird. I’m not from Seattle…

Not exactly a mnemonic device, but I learned the set of dative prepositions in German via the tune of the Blue Danube waltz: aus, ausser, bei, mit, nach, zeit, von, zu.

Today, I might know the English meaning of about 3 of these words, and I have no idea what a dative preposition is.

There’s a PADI scuba pre-dive checklist that I find unhelpful because, while I remember what each item stands for, I don’t really see how those words correspond with what you’re supposed to do. The acronym is BWRAF, which stands for BCD, weights, releases, air, and final check. The mnemonic in the PADI manuals is Begin With Review And Friend, which makes no goddamn sense at all, though cleverer instructors have substituted Bruce Willis Ruins All Films and other memorable variations. Anyway, I remember that B/Begin/Bruce is for BCD, but… then what? Make sure I’m wearing it? (Hard to forget; I’d just be standing around in my wetsuit without it.) Make sure it’s buckled? (Or is that under Releases?) Make sure my weight pouches are clipped in? (No, that’s Weights…) Make sure it can hold air? (No, that’s gotta be part of Air, right?) It certainly can’t be about making sure I’m not about to enter the water without my mask, fins, or dive computer, which is a dumb thing people definitely do and I guess is supposed to be covered by the final check, but… really? Those are not exactly minor details to be lumped together in a quick once-over!

GUE, another dive training agency, has a head-to-toe equipment check with no acronym that makes more sense to me: start at the top and touch all the things that are supposed to be there or need to be set a certain way while saying them aloud (starting with that elusive mask.) But then they have a dive planning acronym that’s even worse: GUE EDGE. Yes, that’s right: there’s three freakin’ Es in there. One is definitely equipment, and that’s where you do your head-to-toe check. I think one of them is for environment? Something about taking the conditions into account in your dive plan? Again, not really that helpful. I can’t even remember what the other E is right now. They didn’t even have the courtesy to throw in a nice F like PADI did to facilitate raunchier parodies when you get annoyed that you can’t remember what it’s supposed to be.

As a pilot, GUMPS will always be remembered. My own creation was “CVCEDS” for clearances, but it wasn’t a word (I just said “see-vee-seds” to myself). I always wrote the letters vertically on my pad before calling the delivery freq. Everyone else used “CRAFT” though.

Cleared (to some limit)
Via (route)
Climb (initial altitude)
Expect (next altitude at time X)
Departure (frequency)
Squawk (transponder freq)

But to the OP, for years I had the mnemonic “A Giraffe Stands in Concrete” and other nonsense phrases in my brain, but couldn’t remember what it was for. A conversation with an old friend reminded me it was street names I had to memorize during my days as a package sorter (45 years ago).

There’s one that I can’t seem to recall what its for:

Mexicans never eat menudo outside near insolent cholas.

Or, “On Old Olympus’s Towering Tops A Finn and German View Some Hops”

Actually, I think I know the meanings of all the mnemonics I have memorized. One I learned just a few years ago: kings play chess on fine gray sand (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species). One I actually use from time to time: Now, I have a rhyme assisting my feeble brain its tasks resisting (look at the number of letters).

Mostly, I can never remember things like this. These I know.

Guitarists know the strings on the instrument from Eddie Ate Dynamite Goodbye Eddie.

On my ukelele, I made up my own: Good Cats Eat Anything. (I have two cats.)

And from 8th grade science, the colors in the spectrum: ROY G BIV.

I had a high school teacher give us “King Philip Came Over For Great Sex” for that one, which definitely made a more lasting impression on a roomful of 15-year-olds.

AEIOU-TIPS is supposed to help one remember some of the many possible causes for altered consciousness. If only there were a mnemonic to help me remember the specifics of the mnemonic… Is A for alcohol? No, even though that’s ridiculously common. I think A is for acidosis. Then I think E is for epilepsy. But wait, wasn’t S for seizure? Then E must be something else. And so on . . .

(emergency medicine) Alcohol, epilepsy, insulin, overdose, underdose / uremia, trauma, infection, psychiatric, stroke / shock; used to identify the reasons a patient may have an altered mental state.

My guitar teacher asked his students to make up their own. A classmate came up with:
Eat Apples Daily Guitar Becomes Easy

That’s King Philip Came Over From Great Spain.

Anyways, how about Can Orville See Down My Pants Pocket? Tom Jones can- Tom’s queer. This is for the geologic time scale. One has to just remember precambrian as it’s not included.

Thanks to TV Funhouse, I remember the ‘Not Safe For This Thread’ Mnemonic device.


Edit: I remember now! Phylum, Class, Order, Family Genus, Species.