Ben Langhinrichs

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Genii Weblog

Rules of thumb

Mon 30 Oct 2006, 07:16 PM



by Ben Langhinrichs
I am always fascinated by simple mnemonics and sayings that help us remember those things which might be hard to remember otherwise.  A few I particularly like are:
  • 'i' before 'e' except after 'c', or when sounding like 'a' as in 'neighbor' and 'weigh'  (I hated learning it, and I still use it)
  • 30 days hath September, April, June and November.  All the rest have 31.  But Leap Year coming once in four, February then has one day more (There are lots of variations, and this version doesn't really make sense, as it implies February has 31 days regularly, but it is the way I learned it and still think it to myself)
  • 'Fork' has four letters, as does 'left', so the fork goes on the left side of the plate.  'Knife' and 'spoon' each have five letters, as does 'right', so the knife and spoon go on the right side of the plate.  (Very handy, and I have no idea where I learned it, as I never hear anybody say it but me.  Maybe my grandmother made it up)
  • Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (helps remind us about precedence order in math, Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction)


There is one some people use to remember the planets, but I never learned it, and don't know the order of the planets, and it probably includes Pluto anyway and is thus obsolete.  Are there any of these you use or like to teach your children?

Copyright 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:


512.1. Julian Robichaux
(10/30/2006 07:30 PM)

Hmm, off the top of my head:

Every Good Boy Does Fine, and

Good Boys Do Fine Always (for the notes that the lines of the treble and bass clefs of a music sheet).

Roy G. Biv = the first letters of the colors of a rainbow.

SoaCahToa = Sine (opposite/hypotenuse), Cosine (adjacent/hypotenuse), Tangent (opposite/adjacent)


512.2. Julian Robichaux
(10/30/2006 07:31 PM)

Oh yeah, and:

There's "a rat" in separate (to remember how to spell the word "separate")


512.3. Mike Smith
(10/31/2006 02:37 AM)

I like "Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain" - its the colours of the rainbow - Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet.

Plus there's the rhyme to remember what happened to the Six Wives of Henry VIII:

Divorced, Beheaded, Died.

Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.


512.4. Nathan T. Freeman
(10/31/2006 07:00 AM)

I always thought the knuckle-counting technique for days in the months was easier.


512.5. Julian Robichaux
(10/31/2006 06:11 PM)

Oh yeah, knuckle months. Me too. That's the only way I know what has 30/31 days.

And there's also "Leftie loosie, rightie tightie" to remember which way to turn the screwdriver. I use that one weekly.

@Ben: funny about the tone deafness. I have a terrible voice too -- unless I'm in the car all by myself. Then I rock.


512.6. Andrew Pollack
(11/04/2006 08:19 PM)

Here are a few from the fire service:

If you can't see your feet, crawl. (it is dark and smoky in a fire -- but this is a good rule of life, really).

At mealtime, never eat more than your mask will hold.

Long lugs lead to light. (in the dark, if you come across a hose line in a building, you can tell which way to follow the line out of the building -- or further in if you're looking for a down crew -- by feeling the raised "lugs" at the couplings between sections of hose).

Don't put water on smoke.

Put the wet stuff, on the red stuff.

In a fire you are either putting the fire out or the fire is winning. There is no stalemate.

Hazmat rule of thumb: Hold your thumb up with your arm extended. Turn, so that your thumb is in the direction of the hazmat scene. Can you still see the scene? You are too close.

We rescue patients; victims are already dead.

(re: the use of the term victim on the radio)

We do not remove patients from vehicles. We remove vehicles from around patients. (extrication - just ask Rocky about this)

Most hazmat situations can be described as dealing with "ethyl methyl bad shit".

Key the mic with your brain first, then your thumb.

Calm is as contagious as panic.

Everyone has heard of the "Fire Triangle" -- the three things necessary for fire (heat, fuel, oxidizer). Ask any fireman and he'll tell you that in fact it is better described as a "Fire Square". Heat, Fuel, Oxidizer, Chiefs. Take one away and the fire will go out.

Fire is just rust. Really really really fast rust.

The best way to get a cat out of a tree is to run the can opener. If that doesn't work, a two inch line at one hundred psi works fairly well too.

Fire trucks are red. If you see something yellow with lights and a Q that is carrying water, it is a school bus being misused. As far as the green ones go, they just haven't ripened up yet and if left in the sun then will usually become fire trucks in a few years.

Take your half of the road out of the middle.

You have the big red truck. They are looking for you to tell them what to do. Drive down the middle of the street and they will get out of the way.


512.7. Ben Langhinrichs
(11/05/2006 04:22 AM)

Andrew, those are excellent! I particularly like "Put the wet stuff, on the red stuff." as the level of advice I would need if I were ever to be involved, which is unlikely. Thanks.


512.8. Mike Pearson
(05/25/2008 04:08 PM)

Plumbers Rule:

Stink goes up; s**t goes down, payday's on Friday.

[works for corporations also]