992: Mnemonics

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Sailor Moon's head exploded once' and 'Some men have explosive orgasms' both work for the Great Lakes from west to east (Paddle-to-the-Sea order).
Title text: Sailor Moon's head exploded once' and 'Some men have explosive orgasms' both work for the Great Lakes from west to east (Paddle-to-the-Sea order).


Here we have six different science mnemonics. A mnemonic is (thanks Wikipedia!) any learning technique that aids memory. Mnemonics rely on associations between easy-to-remember constructs which can be related back to the data that are to be remembered. This is based on the observation that the human mind much more easily remembers spatial, personal, surprising, physical, sexual or humorous or otherwise meaningful information, as compared to retrieving arbitrary sequences. To improve long term memory, mnemonic systems are used to make memorization easier.

The category is listed at the top of the box, the members are listed below that. Then there is the traditional mnemonic that children are usually taught in school to help them remember. Below the comic is one or two options for new mnemonics suggested by Randall. The top one is illustrated in the frame.

  • SI Prefixes are the prefixes for the systems of units from large to small and since there are so many, the mnemonic needs two lines. Karl Marx, as he is seen in the comic, was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. Microsoft's Zune was a failed mp3 player that Microsoft brought to market and never "caught on".
  • Taxonomy is is the science of identifying and naming species. Katy Perry is an America pop music singer, who's popular songs are ones like "Fireworks" or "I Kissed A Girl". And that is the stick figure of her in the illustration.
  • In the geologic periods frame, the illustration is of a month's worth of "the pill" a common contraceptive.
  • In Resistor Color Codes, Glenn Beck is in the illustration. Beck is a far-right conservative commentator in the US, who used to have a show on the Fox News Network.
  • In the Planets frame, the illustration is of Mary and Joseph, who in the story of the Birth of Jesus in the Bible, were mother and father to Jesus. However, Mary's conception of Jesus was from God and Mary was still considered a virgin. This mnemonic shows Joseph not really believing that story.
    • Most traditional Planets mnemonics include Pluto, which was "officially" considered a planet before 2006.


XKCD Presents: Some New Science Mnemonics

Pattern goes:



Traditional mnemonic

Contents of frame

New mnemonics))

Order of Operations

Parentheses, Exponents, Division & Multiplication, Addition & Subtraction

Traditional: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

[Person having a shark delivered to his laptop]

Please Email My Dad A Shark


People Expect More Drugs And Sex

SI Prefixes

Big: Kilo, Mega, Giga, Tera, Peta, Exa, Zetta, Yotta

Milli, Micro, Nano, Pico, Femto, Atto, Zepto, Yocto

(Graph of the declining profits of the Zune)

[Karl Marx delivering a number of zeppelins to a bunch of confused proletariats]

Big: Karl Marx Gave The Proletariat Eleven Zeppelins, Yo

Small: Microsoft Made No Profit From Anyone's Zunes, Yo


Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species

Traditional: King Philip Came Over For Good Sex

Katy Perry: I'm not sure who doubts this, really.

Katy Perry Claims Orgasms Feel Good Sometimes


Kernel Panics Crash Our Family Game System.

Geologic Periods

(Precambrian), Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Paleogene, Neogene

Traditional: [I never learned one]

[A month's set of birth control pills]

PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome Does Cause Problems That Judicious Contraceptives Partially Negate

Resistor Color Codes

Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet, Gray, White

Traditional: [none I care for]

[Glenn Beck holding the traditional "Nanobot Vaccine Chemtrail 9 11" sign]

"Big Brother Reptilian Overlords", yelled Glenn, "Brainwashing Via Ground water!!"


Be Bold, Respect Others; You'll Gradually Become Versatile, Great Wikipedians!


Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

Traditional: My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos

[A pregnant Mary attempting to explain things to an incredulous Joseph]

Mary's "Virgin" Explanation Made Joseph Suspect Upstairs Neighbor.

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The most memorable resistor code mnemonics I know are not...politically correct, shall we say. But they are memorable. Blaisepascal (talk) 19:55, 27 August 2012 (UTC)

tell pls Just some random derp 23:45, 8 June 2015 (UTC)
Bad Boys Rape Our Young Girls But Violet Gives Willingly 22:53, 24 April 2017 (UTC)
And that's one of the better ones. Some use "black" instead of "bad", which is better in that it disambiguates (that color is actually black IIRC), but worse in that it's even more terrible and has added racism. Hppavilion1 (talk) 07:14, 7 September 2017 (UTC)

I feel like he got lazy at the end and didn't provide an "or" to the Jesus one mnemonic. Also, why is mnemonic often pronounced "new-monic" ?

Mnemonic is supposed to be pronounced "nim-monic"; "new-monic" is rather a malapropism, given that is a correct pronunciation of "pneumonic" (meaning related to lungs or to pneumonia"), similar to how some people pronounce "nuclear" as "nu-kyoo-lar" (reminiscent of "-cular"-ending words, such as: perpendicular, particular, jocular, etc.).

I pronounce it as written, same for "gnome" - keeps those muscles going. (Try it with "knight", you'll get an approximation of Chaucer. Seriously.) --Qwach (talk) 02:39, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
My dictionary says it's a schwa sound. Both "nim" and "new" are putting too much emphasis on the first syllable. 06:46, 30 December 2013 (UTC)
Yes, it should be nuh-MAHN-ic (n'monic) 02:15, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

Mnemonics are actually counter-productive. They claim to help you remember something but, in actuality, they replace what you're supposed to remember with something useless, thus causing you to FAIL to remember. 03:32, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

"Mnemonics are actually counter-productive." I disagree. They provide the order to the list of already known, or mostly known, words. They provide a little extra help.--DrMath 20:50, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

The only one I ever learned: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz. Fucking stupid brain! (It HAS been useful, although I don't recall why at the moment. (Fucking stupid brain.))

 I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 07:15, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

Big Brother Reptilian Overlors. This aren't Raptors or Tyranosaurs?? I remmeber any 'fear' from Monroe to they -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"It's the most remarkable word I've ever seen!" 05:25, 6 September 2015 (UTC)

Has anyone noticed the Order of Operations is Out of Order? Please Email Dad & Mum A Shark? - Apostrophyx ( 03:17, 15 July 2014 (UTC))

It's not out of order, multiplication and division are one tier together. 6 x 5 / 2 and 6 / 2 x 5 have the same result. Cflare (talk) 14:29, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

I learned "Kahn's Hot Dogs Use Dead Cow Meat" as a mnemonic for SI prefixes. Covers all the common ones, but leaves out extreme ones like Giga or Zepto.-- 20:13, 17 July 2014 (UTC)

My favorite is for SOHCAHTOA: "Some Old Hippie Caught Another Hippie Tripping On Acid." 05:16, 15 February 2015 (UTC)

And this, fundamentally, is why people don't like Pluto not being a planet. Sure, it's logical, but you took away our nine pizzas and gave us only nachos in return. Who wouldn't be mad about that? 05:25, 6 September 2015 (UTC)

Not to mention the self-referential "My very educated mother just showed us nine planets." 02:15, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

My personal favorite for taxonomy is "Dumb kids playing catch on freeways get squashed."RedHatGuy68 (talk) 01:12, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

Exactly what I was thinking. That one seems to be more traditional because I got taught that back in school. 625571b7-aa66-4f98-ac5c-92464cfb4ed8 (talk) 03:43, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
Do Kindly Please Come Over For Green Soup Cosumel (talk) 01:46, 18 April 2020 (UTC)

Marx didn't "invent" either socialism or communism. Both terms predated him. Gmcgath (talk) 17:09, 6 November 2016 (UTC)

I know one for SI prefixes: Kalium, magnesium, gallium, thallium, palladium, erbium, zinc(, yttrium), for the >1 ones, and "Magnesium, manganese, natrium, palladium, actinium, zinc(, yttrium)" for <1. 10:26, 24 January 2018 (UTC)

It can be noted and I suggest this onto the trivia section that the only sexually suggestive traditional mnemonic has the only sexually non-suggestive suggested mnemonic besides the suggested SI mnemonic. (Sorry, but the more traditional version for taxonomy is "King Phillip Came Over For Good Spaghetti") 11:27, 30 July 2018 (UTC)

My favorite one is for the digestive system: Mouth, Esophagus, Stomach, Gall Bladder, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Rectum, Anus. Better remembered as "Mother Eats Squirrel Guts Because She Is Living In Rural Arkansas." Cosumel (talk) 01:46, 18 April 2020 (UTC)

I learned "Patrick Eats Markers Daily At School." Also, from CGP Grey: "My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming (Planets)" Wilh3lm (talk) 12:58, 29 December 2020 (UTC)