Metatalktail Hour: What's in your Memory Palace? April 6, 2019 7:42 AM   Subscribe

For this Euro time shift edition of Metatalktails we ask: what weird or ordinary things have you memorized, either through great effort, or entirely accidentally? Interpret as narrowly or broadly as you like.

Or just tell us about what's happening with you, or something that's made you laugh or smile recently! And send ideas for future metatalktails to Eyebrows McGee!
posted by taz (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 7:42 AM (230 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

When I was young, I used to love fantasy novels that had lots of song or poetry embedded. I’d read it over and over and make up my own tunes.

I’m less enamored of it as an adult (some of it is quite bad poetry), but it’s still in there. I can still quote many pages of JRR Tolkien or Anne McCaffrey poetry if I really have to.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 7:50 AM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I no longer remember the entire thing, but I won some kind of regional French competition reciting a poem about a seafaring man and a pelican, and I've had the first few lines stuck in my head since approximately 1987:

Le capitaine Jonathan
é tant âgé de dix huit ans
capture un jour un pélican
dans une île d'extrême orient.

posted by Lyn Never at 7:55 AM on April 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

My memory isn't great so not a lot. But from memory:


Also the fact that the last "9" is an 8 rounded up, though I don't remember what the next digit is other than it's ≥ 5 (Google says it's a 9).

I memorized this for Quiz Bowl in high school. It was never a question, and since then it has never, ever come in handy. But I still enjoy that I remember it.
posted by Tehhund at 7:58 AM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

A mouse took a stroll through a deep dark wood.
A fox saw the mouse, and the mouse looked good.
"Where are you going to, little brown mouse? Come and have lunch in my underground house."
"It's terribly kind of you fox, but no; I'm going to have lunch with a gruffalo."
(I can do pretty much the whole book, just from the repetition of reading it to an obsessed kid)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:59 AM on April 6, 2019 [9 favorites]

When I was in my last year of high school and during vacations of my first year of college, I worked at a vaguely high end book shop (in the weird realm between Daltons and Barnes and Noble). Around the same time, the terrible movie Wolf came out. Jack Nicholson bit by a wolf, becomes a werewolf, etc, uses newfound vitality to fight off the young guy trying to take his job away from him. But for whatever reason, his character worked at a publisher. In all of the offices there were tons of hardcover books on the shelves, but with the titles and authors removed. Even so, I remember being acutely aware of what almost every book on the shelves was from the artwork on the spine, down to the point that I thought it was funny that one office was nothing but different Robert Jordan/Wheel of Time books.

Sure, it was an overly specific time and place, and it's probably gone now, but I still remember that, if very little else from a very forgettable film.

My own armchair psychology take on myself is that, when I was very (let's say "too") young, my mother managed to organize a showing of the Holocaust documentary The Shoah in our small community. It's something like six hours long, and it's pretty much just interviews with survivors. I was definitely younger than ten, and of the film, all I remember is the interviewer and a survivor walking down overgrown train tracks that had carried the survivor, in a box car, to a camp.

Maybe a week before, there'd been a rummage sale at our synagogue, and I'd found a first edition Monster Manual for AD&D for a quarter. That book was all I had with me when we went to the theater, and I spent most of my time with the book on the floor at the end of the aisle, where there was a dim light denoting the end of each row, reading the contents again and again. To this day, I probably remember more of that book than I do of that movie, and could probably put together a character from 2nd editon AD&D with a couple of dice and some paper, even though I haven't played in over twenty years.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:05 AM on April 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

I memorized pi to 50 digits when I was a kid and have never forgotten. The most recent time I had to recall it was when chatting with another geek in Amsterdam who claimed the same thing. So of course we both started reciting it simultaneously until one of us (me) made a mistake. A pi-off.

But my wife has memorized all the dialogue of Blazing Saddles - the entire movie. She has watched it that many times and says she even uses it as a tool to sleep - just starts replaying the dialogue in her head until she nods off..
posted by vacapinta at 8:07 AM on April 6, 2019 [14 favorites]

I know pretty much all the dialogue to The Julekalender off by heart after watching it every Christmas for most of my life. It's a... niche skill.
posted by Dysk at 8:14 AM on April 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

My partner and I have three children we raised from birth, and from thousands of repetitions have a number of picture books memorized, although our youngest is almost 12. In particular, two books: Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo, which annoyed one of our kids because the illustrator didn't make sure the train tracks would actually work as drawn; and Bear in Sunshine. We can do big parts of Fox in Socks and plenty of others as well. But mostly we will go to our graves able to recite Bear in Sunshine together.
posted by Orlop at 8:14 AM on April 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

When I meet German people, I tell them I only know how to say 1 thing in German, and they smile expecting me to say 'guten tag' or something. Then I say, in what is apparently passable pronounciation: 'Ich habe eine Idee, heute Abend gehen wir ins Kino, aber ich habe kein Geld. Können Sie für mich bezahlen?', which is 'I have an idea, tonight let's go to the movies, but i have no money, can you pay for me?'.
Long story short, German speaking ex-gf, I wanted to go to the movies but was broke, and she had a thing about me having less money than her, I thought it would go down better in German, so I got a friend to teach me how to say it. We broke up shortly afterwards, but 25 years later I still remember the phrase.
posted by signal at 8:22 AM on April 6, 2019 [14 favorites]

I also know the powers of 2 up to 2^16, because that's how much RAM my C64 had.
posted by signal at 8:25 AM on April 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

I have most of Fox in Socks memorized.

Fox In Socks our game is done sir
Thank you for a lot of fun, sir

posted by jazon at 8:30 AM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

The first four stanzas of The Old Astronomer.

SO many children's books.

I played bass in the pit orchestra for my high school's production of Jesus Christ Superstar and when they did it live with John Legend earlier this year, my left hand was twitching along the entire time because apparently that is all FIRMLY embedded in my neural pathways after the weeks and weeks of playing it non-stop. (We rehearsed so much, and the bass is non-stop except for 39 bars, that I wore all the fingerprints off my left hand fingers and off my right first and middle finger. Obviously the moment I should have taken up a life of crime.)

So, so much Russian poetry (spoken and sung), mostly Pushkin, some folk songs, from my high school Russian teacher who basically felt the best way for anyone to learn Russian was to memorize an asston of poetry. A bunch of it I don't remember what it means, but I can still recite it.

Random Shakespeare monologues and dialogues I had to memorize for high school assignments. My BFF and I did a LONG Brutus and Cassius dialogue and we can still do it and we periodically do so to annoy our children.

The liturgical things I have memorized are too voluminous to mention and I didn't really memorize them on purpose, it was just a side effect of studying it, but if I'm ever on a ship going down at sea with a bunch of Anglicans, I can recite the appropriate prayer for that. ("O most powerful and glorious Lord God, at whose command the winds blow and lift up the waves of the sea, and who stills the rage thereof: We thy creatures, but miserable sinners, do in this our great distress cry unto thee for help: Save, Lord, or else we perish ...")

(And a device etc. just made me realize that I can ALSO quote many pages of Anne McCaffrey poetry, I had a Menolly fixation, okay?)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:35 AM on April 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

Around the time I learned to drive, my older sister claimed that if you were pulled over, as a sobriety test the officer might ask you to recite the alphabet backwards. I've never been asked to perform any kind of field sobriety test, so while I strongly suspect it's an urban legend, I don't know for sure. What I do know for sure is that I can still these many years later recite the alphabet backwards faster than most people can saying it forwards.
posted by solotoro at 8:38 AM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

The periodic table (names/symbols/atomic numbers), though they've added elements to it since, and some of the tentative names in the 80s wound up not being accepted. As a result, these days, if I try to get through the periodic table, I start to falter at lawrencium, flail for fourteen elements, and then land confidently on oganesson (element 118), which I can only remember because it's such a fantastic word.

Though Tennessine (element 117) is also pretty sweet, so I might get that one nailed down eventually too.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 8:43 AM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I was in high school, I became obsessed with the paranoia that I was going to be pulled over and administered a field sobriety test that I would fail. (No idea why this was my fear, because I did not drink alcohol in high school) . Thus, I memorized the alphabet backwards, because that's the question they always ask on TV sobriety tests. zyxwvutsrqponmlklihgfedcba, in about the same time most people can speed through it forwards: 2.5 seconds or so.

The weirdest part of this is that I have met multiple other people (all software developers, hmm) who did exactly the same thing for exactly the same reason. None of us managed to come up with the real reason you would be asked that at a traffic stop: because lots of people instinctively blurt out "I couldn't do that even if I were sober!"

(On failure to preview: *waves at solotoro*)
posted by Mayor West at 8:44 AM on April 6, 2019 [11 favorites]

For the record, while I have cycled through several different careers, none of them could be mistaken for "software developer" even if you squint.
posted by solotoro at 8:46 AM on April 6, 2019

I still have most of Harold Hill's songs from The Music Man memorized from my 8th grade leading performance. I also committed several songs to memory after my kiddo was born, because I like to sing to her. That's Amore is on heavy rotation, as is Rainbow Connection and I Don't Want to Live on the Moon. I used to sing L'Chaim to her while she was breastfeeding, though my wife didn't think that was as funny as I did.

In other news, I wrote a really bad limerick yesterday:
There once was a man named Tom Skeritt
who'd recently purchased a ferret
He thought it more durable
than Richard Gere's gerbil
but wasn't quite sure he could bear it
posted by duffell at 8:47 AM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

The Greek alphabet.

If I hear a song more than twice, I know the lyrics. Forever and ever. I can bust out an entire song from the 80s even if I haven't heard that song since it was first played on the radio. It's a gift or a curse, depending on the song.

Random bits of Shakespeare sonnets, Robert Frost poems. Lots and lots and lots of tv and movie dialogue. Lots of it. So much of it.

But to remember my wedding anniversary, I have to remind myself that my son was born in 1997, so I was pregnant with him in 1996, therefore I was married in 1994. *shrug*
posted by cooker girl at 8:48 AM on April 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

Many songs (especially silly camp songs), a couple good poems and the entirety of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

I am terrible at dialogue though. I only know a handful of lines from movies, even movies I love, and generally find baffling the popular genre of bonding/humor that consists of quoting dialogue back and forth. I am a constant disappointment to people in this respect.
posted by the primroses were over at 8:55 AM on April 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

When I was a child, my mom paid my brother and I nickles/dimes (depending on length) to memorize poetry. I can still recite:

The Moon's the North Wind's cookie,
He eats it day by day,
Until its but a rim of scraps
The North Wind blows away.

The South Wind is the baker,
He kneads clouds in his den,
and bakes a fresh New Moon,
That greedy North Wind eats again.

That and several comic routines my college friends and I would recite back and forth to each other, plus some Monty Python bits are forever etched in my brain. I have a pretty poor memory these days.
posted by agatha_magatha at 8:55 AM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

My memory is ... well, I don't have a memory. Like, I really cannot remember vast swathes of my own life, much less arcane data or little things like our landline telephone number, or the street address of the place we lived before this place. Sometimes I know my age, sometimes I have to subtract my birth year from the current year to figure it out. I've always been this way.

I DO have a lot of stuff crammed into my head, higgledypiggledy, so I can do hard crosswords (and similar) and info seems to float up from nowhere, even for items I would swear I've never ever encountered before. But I cannot command that stuff. It just appears like magic, but if I tried to remember... No.

However, there's one thing I've memorized, just because I loved it and read it so much, which is the poem "Spring and Fall" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Not very impressive, I acknowledge. Still.

(Okay, there might be some other things I've memorized, but I can't remember.)
posted by taz (staff) at 9:03 AM on April 6, 2019 [17 favorites]

Oh also almost all of the Schoolhouse Rock songs. Came in handy when we had to write out the preamble to the Constitution for a pop quiz in high school Government class!

We the People,
in order to form a more perfect union,
establish justice, ensure domestic tranquilty-eeeeeee.
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare aaahhhaand
Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and estaaaaaablish this constutioooooon
For the United States ooooof America.
posted by cooker girl at 9:05 AM on April 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

When I was 14, I memorized the first five pages of The Princess Bride: "The year Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette...."

Frost poems. The NATO alphabet. Usually to stay away during long drives.

It was particularly fun to attempt to freak out any visiting nieces who were defying bedtime by staring blankly into nothing and reciting the following in a haunted monotone as if possessed:

At midnight drink no water
For I have heard said
That at the stroke of midnight all the water turns dead.
You may drink the moment after
Or the moment just before
But it's better to be cautious and to wait a moment more
'Til the clock has finished striking
And tomorrow is today
Or you'll drink dead water
And wither quite away.

Which generally resulted in one niece helplessly clinging to Granny and wailing I DON'WANT DEAD WATURRRRR! and the other niece enthusiastically heading for the faucet and a glass to test it all out for science.
posted by mochapickle at 9:06 AM on April 6, 2019 [17 favorites]

Oh! I can also write out the name of every country in the modern world from memory given 10-15 minutes.
posted by duffell at 9:08 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

My father will burst out into LISTEN MY CHILDREN AND YOU SHALL HEAR OF THE MIDNIGHT RIDE OF PAUL REVERE at the drop of a hat but will not continue the poem, possibly because he doesn't remember the rest of it any more. However, this means I have heard the first line roughly one million times so I have come up with this:

Listen my children and you will hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere
Are you listening children, gathered near?
Dad's not going to finish the poem from here.

And now I can't read the original at all.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:09 AM on April 6, 2019 [25 favorites]

I memorized the Ontario Reportable Disease List. Technically didn't have to because as a healthcare librarian I don't need to know them by rote. That said I find it soothing to write the diseases alphabetically during meetings.
posted by biggreenplant at 9:11 AM on April 6, 2019 [16 favorites]

Longfellow is great for this. Paul Revere's Ride is kinda great. I'm with your dad.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:14 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's a fine poem and loudly and proudly declaiming LISTEN CHILDREN AND YOU SHALL HEAR etc. is a great way to get squabbling children to shut up and pay attention because they are confused.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:16 AM on April 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

But I also sympathize with your dad - the beginning is great, so disciplined, so the first couple stanzas come easy -- but then the poem loses its momentum a bit, both Revere and his accomplice spend too much time standing, contemplating the dead and the shapes in shadowy night, etc, the meter falls apart a little in the middle sections. You have to grapple your way along from memorable phrase, mumblety mum, next memorable phrase.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:16 AM on April 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

I basically remember anything that rhymes. I have so many random song lyrics stuck in my head. I also can remember almost anything set to music, which is interesting, because I am borderline tone deaf. I think it's the rhythm, not the music, that makes it stick in my head. If I need to memorize something, I can set it to a tune, and it will stick. I remember random dates and factoids. I remember a lot of stuff, most of which is useless. It can come in handy sometimes, but it's actually not always great, because sometimes I fixate on random things that are stuck in my head and can't make them go away.
Hah! My dad does this with "Let us go now you and I while the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table...." I think I finally asked him what etherized meant when I was about 8.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:16 AM on April 6, 2019 [12 favorites]

Piacere di fare la sua conoscenza. Italian for 'pleased to meet you', which will get you exactly to the point that someone thinks you can speak Italian (if you practice enough to let it roll off your tongue convincingly, which it seems I did) and not a syllable further than that. Talk about setting someone up for disappointment! I'm not doing that again.
Nevertheless, the businessman who was meeting my then-boyfriend and me for dinner spoke decent enough English and we did have a nice enough time.

I have taught myself to read upside down at a pretty much normal reading speed because it allowed me to share the newspaper with someone who was sitting on the other side of the table in a bar that I used to frequent, half a lifetime ago.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:21 AM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

For variety, he also does the SHE CRAWLS ON HER BELLY LIKE A REPTILE bit of this song, which I did not know was from a song until much later in life when I coincidentally heard it on the radio. It is a very strange feeling to memorize something you don't know was from somewhere else.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:22 AM on April 6, 2019

Thanks to my 8th-grade algebra teacher, it's

x equals the opposite of b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac over 2 a

She wrote it in our yearbooks. My job has zero to do with solving quadratic equations, but I'm ready if it ever does.
posted by kimberussell at 9:32 AM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

I have permanently stuck in my head the musical note names and vague rhythm of this little diddy we played on recorder when i was in elementary school. No idea what it is or where it came from, other than an elementary school recorder sheet music. 'A C G C FGFDE A, D D C A FGAFG... ' It goes on for a bit. I gave up my musical education in high school, but 20+ years later this is still using up my valuable brain space. One of these days i'll plunk it out on a piano or something and see if there's a shazam like program that can tell me what it is.. (or maybe even mefites...hmmm... future ask question maybe!)
posted by cgg at 9:42 AM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Random quotes from fantasy and science fiction novels. Entire passages from Frank Herbert's Dune & J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. These little quotes just stay in my head and I think about them a lot whenever I run into every day situations that bring them to the forefront of my brain.

“Fear is the mind-killer.”
posted by Fizz at 9:47 AM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

Dads and rhyming poetry must go together like dads and dad jokes! Together my dad and I memorized the entire part ii of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which we would recite while doing chores or hiking, and when we both got to this part - the whole reason why we memorized part ii and just part ii - we would bellow it out at the top of our lungs:

Water, water, everywhere,
and all the boards did shrink;
water, water, everywhere,
nor any drop to drink.

Also thanks to Dad: Some of you have dads who taught you about punk or the Beatles or Led Zeppelin. I had an entirely different musical experience which included both country and western. However. For some reason both my dad and I loved songs about trains, so we memorized all the words to Rock Island Line and City of New Orleans among others. My dad really liked CW McCall, who people might also be familiar with thanks to his song Convoy, which I know all the words to quite unintentionally. But the song on that album we both really loved was the Silverton Train song, and I did set out to memorize that; I often wail it out. It's such a fun song to sing:

"She drunk a whole lotta water and she ate a lotta coal,
And they called her the Silverton, Silverton Train!
Here comes the Silverton UP from Dur-RANG-go!
Here come the Silverton a shovelin' coal
Here comes the Silverton up from the canyon
See the smoke and hear the whistle blow!"

My dad also LOVED Dan Fogelberg and even though I haven't heard any of this particular album in 20 years, I know every lyric to every song on Dan Fogelberg's album High Country Snows, as well as every detail of the album cover, including the diamonds on the weird cape-poncho I don't know what it is thing, what is that?!! he is wearing. I don't want to know this! But it's there in my brain forever. And since we live near the mineral belt in Colorado I absolutely cannot see any old mining debris or equipment without my traitor brain wailing, "Some were lost in the Rocky Mountains, with their hands froze to the reins. O-OHHHH, some would fail and some would prosper, some would die and some would kill!" from the song John Sutter's Mill.

And as for you young 'uns who might not be familiar with Dan Fogelberg, I give you Bloom County's wonderful cartoon Who the dickens is Dan Fogerburp
posted by barchan at 9:51 AM on April 6, 2019 [11 favorites]

My Swahili professor had us translate stories into Swahili and then read them to the class; if they were memorized we got extra points. And that is why I still have Where The Wild Things Are more or less memorized in Swahili. Usiku mmoja, Max amevaa nguo yake ya mbwa msitu, na alifanya ukutuku ya namna mmoja, na namna nyingine... It was great when I was in Kenya and found myself entertaining small children, so I made myself more or less memorize it in French too. Un nuit, Max portait des vêtements de loup, et il a fait des bêtises ...
posted by ChuraChura at 9:58 AM on April 6, 2019 [27 favorites]

My mom busts out The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock on the regular, often in the car when the weather or scenery reminds her of an image from the poem (I too hear about the evening sky being etherized) but other times too. She wrote her college thesis on it. It wasn't until I read it in high school that I realized her strange poetry snippets (etherized skies, old people with rolled trousers, that is not what I meant, women talking of Michaelangelo) were all connected!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:08 AM on April 6, 2019 [15 favorites]

I've also memorized "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"! Got bored during a summer job as a not-very-needed receptionist in high school. I still recite it to myself often.

Also some Shakespeare monologues and "The Walrus and the Carpenter," which works quite well when sung to the tune of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and sometimes becomes my internal hiking song.
posted by lazuli at 10:13 AM on April 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

I mean, "song I sing internally while hiking." Not "song I sing while internally hiking."
posted by lazuli at 10:14 AM on April 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

x equals the opposite of b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac over 2 a

We learned that to the tune of Pop Goes The Weasel!

X is equal to negative b
Plus or minus the square root
Of b squared minus four ac
ALL! over two a
posted by mochapickle at 10:14 AM on April 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

Nice to know that busting out with "the love song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is apparently a thing, I thought only my mom did that. She has a great memory. I do not. Well- I do, it's just almost totally situational. I have to remember a thing to remember a thing, and I can't remember a thing unless I'm physically somewhere where I have to remember a thing? Does that make sense? Like I can't remember my pin unless I'm at a checkout stand looking at the input screen. This is the reason for my tangents. I have so much crazy stuff stuck in my head, I just can't drag it out on command. I weird.

Ha ha ha I am exhausted. This week was non-stop garden work, which was nice, as the rain was largely sprinkles so I could get out and do stuff. But I feel like a punchline: boy are my arms tired. I gave in and used the weed wacker so that I wasn't wading through a thicket while I worked, and its a good machine, but heavy. I ended up doing so much work that after finally getting my April plants I had to take a break and plant them in stages. First the herbs went in, just a chamomile plant and a couple of parsleys nothing fancy there. I also got a pennyroyal which I've always wanted. Its a semi-toxic mint relative that used to be used as an abortifacient. I wont use it culinary, but it smells nice and should attract bees and I like it's history. The the real work began, I had tomatoes to plant, along with the squash monster. I got a squash plant that was several plants mushed together, and as separating them was futile, I just made a hill and plonked them in. It's squash it will be fine. I also got a roma tomato monster, some madman put three romas in a pot and then this madman put those three plants into a big red pot, which I am affectionately calling the sauce pot. I also got a sweet 100 cherry tomato, and an Heirloom "Black Krim". I think I'm all up on tomatoes this year. Then, finally, came the blackberry vine. Now I have since learned that you have to plant two for them to be productive, so I will be getting a second this weekend, but wow trenching for that bad boy was a lot of work. Blackberries basically grow wild where I'm at, so I have no doubt they'll take. The only thing left to do was to cage my tomatoes. That was easier said than done, especially due to the size of the sauce pot. I also got to fill up my first two potato bags with fresh soil, hopefully meaning I will get lots of potatoes.

Mom is still sick, doctors are running around like chickens with their heads cut off ordering more tests, but no one is any closer to figuring it out. She seems to be getting a smidge better, but it's still worrying. Everything is worrying- but that's one of the reasons I throw myself into gardening. Takes my mind off of things while I apply for jobs no one will ever hire me for.

Edit: SO I don't end on a downer- I am super happy that people seem to enjoy the non-fiction club I started on fanfare. Feel free to post in the club yourselves. Now that I've hit 30 of my books I'm going to take the week off and maybe do two a week from now on. Happy reading!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:46 AM on April 6, 2019 [12 favorites]

The first (part?) of Kubla Kahn
The lyrics to Rapper’s Delight and American Pie

I think that’s about it.
posted by sundrop at 10:49 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

My party trick is the 50 US states in alpha order, I know many of you also learned the song in elementary school (but living in Canada, it's a better party trick).

I know all the song lyrics. I sometimes wish I could carve them out and make room for other things I need to know, but...nope.
posted by wellred at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Concord Hymn

By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled.
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard 'round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept,
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps,
And time, the ruined bridge has swept,
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank by this soft stream
We set today a votive stone
In memory may their deeds redeem
When like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit who made those heroes dare
To die and leave their children free,
May time and memory gently spare
This shaft we raise to them and thee.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
posted by Oyéah at 10:56 AM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

So this guy walks into a dragon's lair and he says
'Why the long tail?'
'Har har buddy,' says the dragon
'Fuck you'

The dragon's a classic,
The 57 chevy of existential chthonic threats
Take in those Christmas colors, those impervious green scales
Sticky-candy red firebreath comes standard with a heap of
ruby-lust, goldhuddled treasure
Go ahead
Kick the tires, boy
See how she rides

'Sit down, kid' says the dragon
Diamonds roll off her back like dandruff
'Oh, you'd rather be called a paladin?
Well I'd rather be called a unicorn
Always thought that was the better gig
Every calls you innocent
Every calls you
Pretty girls come right up to you
with their little hands out for you to sniff
Like you're a puppy and they're gonna take you home
They let you lay your head right in their laps
But hey
Nobody on this earth ever got what they wanted

I know what you're here for.
You want my body.
To hang it up on a nail over your fireplace
Say to some milk and rosewater chica who lays her head in your lap
'Look how much it takes to make me look like a man'
We're in the dark now, you and me
Grendel, Smaug, St. George
you've been called up
this is the big game
You don't have to make
stupid puns
Flash your feathers like your monkey bravado can impress
I saw a t-rex fight a comet and lose
You've got nothing
I want

Here's something I bet you don't know
Every time someone tells a story about a dragon
A real dragon dies
Something about seeing
and being seen
Something about mirrors
That old tune about how a photograph can take your whole soul
At the end of this poem
I'm going to go out like electricity in an ice storm
I've made my peace with it
A dragon's gotta get zen with ephemerality
The last blockbuster took out a whole family of Bhutan thunder dragons living in Latvia
the fumes of their cleargas hoard hanging from their beards like blue ghosts

You want to cut me up? Chickenscratch my hide with butcher's chalk
Pork, chops, brisket, ribs for the company barbecue
I get it, I do
I want to eat everything too

What the Dragon Said: a Love Story

I've been working on memorizing it on and off for a year or two now. It's not perfect and I start getting too shaky after the first half so I wasn't gonna even try there. Also, no idea where any of the paragraph breaks are. Still sounds impressive when I recite it out loud no one has asked me to do so yet, though :(
posted by brook horse at 11:07 AM on April 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

So, in Seventh Grade my dad started buying me fruit crates full of books from the local flea market because I was such a voracious reader - they were cheap, and chock full Readers's Digest Condensed Books, weird books like PIN and House of Stairs, Peyton Place and Wifey. In one was a book of poetry, and I thought it would make me seem deep to memorize some of these tantalizingly sad and romantic little bits of lyric poetry and have the ability spout one at any moment that barely resembled an appropriate occasion. That poet would be Sara Teasdale, and that is why guests at my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary were treated to "the Kiss."
posted by peagood at 11:10 AM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

Thinking back on it, I accidentally memorized the cross streets of the Muni 29 since I took the bus easily 2 to 3 times a day for many years. This is easy because they are mostly alphabetical. Geary Balboa Cabrillo Fulton (Golden Gate Park) Lincoln Irving (Tacos) Kirkham Lawton Moraga Noriega Ortega Pachuco Quintana Rivera Santiago Taraval (L train) Ulloa Vincente (Charlie Sava Pool) Wawona Sloat Eucalyptus (the mall.) This is super useful in NY.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:13 AM on April 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

When Mr. gudrun was a young college lad and I was newly smitten with the darkest brown eyes I had ever seen, I spent way too much time helping him write an English paper on Nabakov's Pale Fire. One result of this (besides him getting an A on the paper) is that the opening lines of the poem in the book are still stuck in my head:

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff—and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.

I don't have the greatest memory generally, particularly for names, so most of the other stuff stuck in my head is of course random useless bits, like my home address circa age 6 - 10 ... 727 Highland Avenue ..., my college mailbox combination, the first few lines of the first Dick and Jane book (because 6 year old me thought they were so stupid), and the first line in Latin from my high school Latin textbook: Villa est villa Romana (the house is a Roman house.)

Oh, and one more thing my father used to do when I was a kid, and he was tired of telling me stories (and it drove me crazy). When I begged for one more he would say:

It was a dark and stormy night, and the wind blew, and all the little children gathered around the Captain and said, "Captain, tell us a story." And the Captain said, "It was a dark and stormy night, and the wind blew ...." (continue on repeat till young gudrun gives up in frustration.)
posted by gudrun at 11:14 AM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

El oso no cabe por la puerta! Thanks Duolingo for this useful holiday vocabulary.
posted by quacks like a duck at 11:14 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I know (or knew) Kubla Khan, some chunks of Shakespeare (standard passages from Henry V, Macbeth, Hamlet, R&J, etc., and maybe a half dozen sonnets), and a few beauties from Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley, and so on. But that was when I used to ride the bus to and from work with no electronic distractions. Now I bicycle to work and I have a demanding kid at home. I probably don't remember half the things I used to recite to myself.
posted by pracowity at 11:19 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am deeply resentful that my brain at some point decided it was most important to use its limited storage space to retain -- not those things that might actually be useful or edifying (e.g., names/faces of co-workers, beautiful and emotionally moving poetry, where I put the storage locker key) -- but rather, the lyrics to theme songs from many terrible 60's TV shows. Petticoat Junction, Mr. Ed, My Mother the Car, Beverley Hillbillies, F Troop, Gilligan's Island, McHale's Navy . . .


posted by Kat Allison at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

All the US presidents. Most of the losing candidates since 1820 too, though some of them seem to have dropped out.

I used to know the first twenty lines of the Canterbury tales in the original Middle English. I've forgotten most of them, but have found if I spout the first four lines people are more than willing to believe I know more in return for me shutting up.
posted by mark k at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Neither weird nor ordinary, but I have a mini-hobby of memorizing poetry while walking my dog. I print them out on little pieces of paper that I can have in my pocket. Sometimes I wear a different jacket and find a different poem in it and refresh my memory on that one. If I ever find myself without one to memorize, I recite the ones I already know. It's a hobby of purely private satisfaction, because I'm convinced that absolutely no one would want to hear me recite poetry. At least no one I know. Anyway I know lots and lots of them by now--not all with perfect recall, of course, but part of the fun is trying to dredge up the bits you've forgotten.

Omg, on preview, I used to know some of the Canterbury tales in Middle English too! In fact all of this poetry memorizing is due to the teacher who taught us the Canterbury tales. She used to give us extra credit for each poem we memorized. I was a disorganized, apathetic pothead with a good memory so I used to salvage my grade with lots of memorized poems.
posted by HotToddy at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2019 [9 favorites]

I spent most of my teenage life memorising gigantic swaths of music. I was preparing for juries, competitions, and performances to get into conservatory. Even now I find it natural to remember long sequences of info: now movies, mostly. I can describe many films sequence by sequence, scene by scene, dialogue and blocking. Mr. lemon_icing finds it weird and useful.

So things I didn’t know I knew till someone triggered a memory:

* phone number where we lived when I was 2.5 to 5 y.o. My mother had found stuff in an old box and jokingly asked me if I could recite it.

* Monty Python and the Holy Grail. My brother (talented amateur clarinetist) and I began to recite bits of it at each other during holiday meals about 10 years ago. Why? dunno. neither of us had seen it in years. We ROFL; no one else is amused. We are still not discouraged.

* a recurring dream since university: in it, I’m very tall (in reality, tallest in my family is 5’4”). I’m entering an apartment with a tiny foyer. To my right are shelves mounted atop a half wall. I can describe the figurines. Thru the shelves I see the balcony. Before me, I see the kitchen.... I can see this all from a great height. I described this dream once to my parents. They looked at each other and gave me paper. I drew the floor plan, listed everything I could see. Turns out we lived in that apartment until I was 1.5 years old. My father thinks I remember that way because his boss, head of radiology, loved to carry me around. He was a very tall man, about 6’4”. Baby me loved him so much - I clutched him hard whenever he held me, I’d beg and reach for him, and wept when he left. I would stroke and pet his face while he ate.
posted by lemon_icing at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

2nd the fifty nifty United States. The first 20-30 elements of the periodic table, because I had a teacher once cram all the symbols together and say it as a sentence and for some reason it stuck.

A lot of the "key words and tricky phrases" from Navy nuclear power school when they were teaching us fundamentals we wouldn't really understand until later when it all started coming together, but we could recognize and recite the answer on a test when asked the question. "When two metals are in such intimate contact that..." (galvanic corrosion); "stronger, harder, more brittle, less ductile, less tough" (materials course). There are a lot of ex-navy nukes where I work, and occasionally in conversation someone will still out of habit spit out not only the casual language of something, but the nuke school-approved 4.0 verbatim exam-answer phrasing and get a bunch of chuckles and knowing smiles while everyone else is like "what? Am I missing a joke?" It's not intentional, they're just set pieces recorded forever in people's minds waiting to be accidentally triggered.

Some of the masonic ritual phrasing works the same way, but fewer people notice when it leaks out.
posted by ctmf at 12:10 PM on April 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

So many 90s RnB and hiphop song lyrics, and most of the NATO alphabet.

I read this extract of Buried Light by Beau Taplin at my sister’s wedding last weekend, I did have it memorised but ending up reading it as I was close to tears throughout!

Home is not where you are from, it is where you belong. Some of us travel the whole world to find it. Others, find it in a person.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:17 PM on April 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

This may seem very weird, but while I remember none of my childhood until after my highschool graduation, I remember the following:

My driver's license number
My bank account number
My credit card numbers including expiration dates and CVV codes
My health insurance number
The capital of every state (which can be a very fun party trick)

It may be weird, but holy crap, does it come in handy sometimes.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:19 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I couldn't tell you my parents' address but I could tell you how to write to Stick Stickly or McGruff the Crime Dog.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:20 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Most of George Carlin's first few albums, that my friend and I listened to for literal hours over and over again when we were 14 or 15, though a lot of it has become hidden in the hazy past by now. But I can still recite his Hair poem:

I'm aware
That some stare
At my hair.
In fact to be fair,
Some really despair
At my hair.
But I don't care
For they're not aware
Nor are they debonaire
In fact they're just square.
They see hair
Down to there,
Say "Beware!",
And go off on a tear.
I say no fair.
A head that's bare
Is really nowhere.
So be like a bear,
Be fair to your hair.
Show it you care.
Wear it to there,
Or to there,
Or to there
If you dare.
My wife bought some hair
At a fair
To use as a spare.
Did I care?
Au contraire!
Spare hair is fair.
In fact, hair can be rare.
Fred Astaire got no hair,
Nor does a chair,
Nor a chocolate eclair,
And where is the hair
On a pear?
Mon frere.
Now that I've shared
This affair
Of the hair,
I think I'll repair
To my lair
And use Nair...
Do you care?

I worked as a waiter for a couple years. Often on a busy Friday or Saturday night as the cooks were bustling to keep up and waiters were zooming in and out of the kitchen, a running recital of Monty Python's Holy Grail (or just Python skits in general) would spring up out of nowhere with different people calling out the lines as they came and went. Needless to say I was an enthusiastic participant.

I have a very good memory for music. Things I heard on the radio in the 70's and 80's - even the stuff I didn't especially like - got stuck in my brain such that I can "hear" them in...what's the aural equivalent of 3-D? All the instruments, all the parts, all the details; to the point that when I hear modified versions in stores or restaurants (adding a superfluous pounding drum track seems to be popular nowadays), the "non-original" parts drive me up a wall. There's a Russian group of musicians that have a few YouTube videos where they cover old Chicago hits; they do a pretty good job, right down to recreating the solos from the originals. They're fine musicians, but I can't help noticing the little differences and minor deviations and all I can do is grit my teeth. By the way, reinterpretations like piano solo versions, rearrangements, reorchestrations, etc. are fine. It's only the not-quite-truly-faithful "original" versions that bother me.

When I got into playing jazz in my 30's I had a knack for memorizing the melodies and chord progressions of tunes once I'd read through them a few times. The other musicians were bemused at how seldom I needed to pull out a fake book to refresh my memory, or for a tune I didn't know well yet. Eventually I got to where I quit lugging the backpack full of fake books to gigs at all. Nowadays of course, you can have an entire library on a tablet, which is nice, but once upon a time being in possession of multiple fake books showed you were Serious About Your Craft - at least for the tier of players I hung out with.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:25 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Hair poem related:

Here's my beard
Ain't it weird?
Don't be skeered,
It's just a beard.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

God, so much random shit.

When I was 12, I lived in Cambridge (England edition) with my dad, who was on sabbatical. It made a huge impression on me, I loved it so much there, and due to my mom not being there to tell my dad hey woah there, could you maybe keep track of your kid a little?, I roamed far and wide on my bike basically any time I wasn't in school. So for years after I returned stateside, I could draw a map of Cambridge from memory. And did. Frequently. It was my way of hanging on to those memories and feelings.

My kid is 6 and is as good as a GPS when we're around town, so apparently this is genetic.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:43 PM on April 6, 2019 [11 favorites]

I've known Jabberwocky by heart since I was a teenager.
posted by Caduceus at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I don't really know much poetry, but I've memorized a little snippet from a book called The Ascent of Rum Doodle, which is an obscure British book parodying the giant 1950s Everest mountaineering expeditions.

I used to recite this in my head when I was hiking in the winter as a self-check to make sure I wasn't getting hypothermic. I figured as long as I could remember it I was doing ok.

Organ grinders, kings and queens
Call for Binder's butter beans.
Three times daily, knave and noodle
Eat them gaily, on Rum Doodle.

It's a dumb poem, especially taken out of context, but I still remember it 30 years after I learned it. I guess i am not currently hypothermic.
posted by bondcliff at 1:13 PM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

From memory (spellings might be... creative...):

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
did gyre and gimble in the wabe
all mimsy were the borogoves
and the mome wraths outgrabe

Beware the Jabberwok my son
the jaws that bite the claws that catch
beware the jubjub bird and shun
that frumious bandersnatch!

He took his vorpol sword in hand
long time the manxome foe he sought
so rested he by the tumtum tree
and stood a while in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood
the Jabberwok, with eyes of flame
came wiffling through the tugly wood
and burbled as it came

One! Two! One! Two! And through and through
The vorpol blade went snicker snack
He left it dead and with its head
He went gallumphing back

And hast though slain the Jabberwok?
Come to my arms my beamish boy
Oh frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!
He chortled in his joy

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
did gyre and gimble in the wabe
all mimsy were the borogoves
and the mome wraths outgrabe.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:14 PM on April 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

The funny thing, bondcliff, is that if I heard anyone say that particular odd poem, I would assume they were clearly hypothermic!
posted by mochapickle at 1:20 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

As a person who works in theater, I can also do La Vie Boheme from Rent, although I always get messed up on "To apathy, to entropy, to empathy, ecstasy..."

And I memorized One Week by Bare-naked Ladies (the chickity China the Chinese chicken song), so I would have something to do at karaoke that doesn't require much actual singing.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:23 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

(It took literally years before I could do the "Gonna get a set of better clubs, gotta find the kind with tiny nubs, just so my irons aren't always flying off the backswing" part at speed without getting tongue tied.)
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:29 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

My memory is for shit since my stroke, so am always pleasantly surprised when I remember anything at all.

Stuff that happened prior to the stroke is much more easily recalled for me and these days I find I'm much better with shorter things. I absolutely love Japanese poems and can often recall them word for translated word, though I can never recall their authors.


In the empty mountains
The leaves of the bamboo grass
Rustle in the wind,
I think of a girl
Who is not here.


Out in the marsh reeds
A bird cries out in sorrow,
As though it had recalled
Something better forgotten.


Others may forget you, but not I.
I am haunted by your beautiful ghost.


Although I hide it
My love shows in my face
So plainly that he asks me,
"Are you thinking of something?"


I wish I were close
To you as the wet skirt of
A salt girl to her body.
I think of you always.


In recent years, my own writing has suffered as each day trying to recall what came in days previous is difficult. As a result, I've embraced writing short things, inspired by the Japanese poems. I'm not great at it, but, again, am delighted when I can recall them word-for-word:


Between kisses,
We draw breaths --
And through the shy crowns
Above our picnic
I glimpse a curious universe.


If she's anywhere,
she's everywhere.
I wake and reach for her,
finding only darkness.

Does she sleep too, and dream that I surround her?

We are locked in a cycle,
turning to power this earth.
Gods wager on the consequence
of our inevitable union.


I always thought I would be fine should I ever lose an arm or a leg or sight or hearing. I was never prepared for the loss of memory. I'll be 51 next month and know that I can't happily do another lap without the hammock of recall.

I can't remember who said "Writing is trying to remember something that never happened," but I've always agreed with it. What I couldn't have known is that, for someone whose imagination always worked best when reminiscing, without recollection there is nothing imaginary.
posted by dobbs at 1:44 PM on April 6, 2019 [21 favorites]

Also, I still remember my boyfriend's phone number from 35 years ago.
posted by HotToddy at 2:11 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've never been very good at learning by rote. But during my son's first couple of years on the planet the only surefire way to put him to sleep was to sing to him, and even that could take an hour. During these two years I learned ten, fairly random songs, completely by heart. Half of them are Icelandic lullabies or other old songs, but the other half were just songs I had stuck in my head at some point. The one I'm a bit proud of having learned is Cole Porter's Anything Goes but for completeness sake I'll mention that the other, non-lullaby songs are Modern Girl by Sleater-Kinney, For What Is Chatteris by Half Man Half Biscuit, Androgynous by The Replacements. This is quite new in my life, as before this I don't think I knew the complete lyrics to any song that wasn't a children's song.
posted by Kattullus at 2:14 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Dammit Weeping_angel, I was coming to do Jabberwocky too!
Except, probably only about half.
posted by Glinn at 2:44 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

In high school I had a reputation as the guy who memorized everyone's social security number. I did not memorize everyone's SSN, just most of them.

This was back when our SSNs were both public identifiers and secret anonymizers, the problem was that my graduating class was only 32 people. There were a lot of electives that only had 5-8 students per class, some teachers were lazy and posted grades with the anonymized roster arranged alphabetically, that made it pretty easy to deduce what number belonged to what person. It was a fun puzzle to solve.

In the end I only memorized the SSNs for the kids that were in my classes, about twenty people. When I demonstrated to a few teachers that I could recite the number for anyone in the room was both a neat trick and it ended the school's policy of publicly posting grades like that.
posted by peeedro at 2:49 PM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]


My bank account number
My credit card numbers including expiration dates and CVV codes
My health insurance number

Me too!! You’re the first other person I’ve met who has told me they’ve done this. I also have my employee ID number and my grocery store member number. Don’t have the state capitals or my DL, though. The one I really wish I had was my library card number.
posted by eirias at 2:55 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Back when I worked at Bookland, the music was on a tape loop system. Over time, I kind of memorized a lot of it, knowing that Eine Kliene Nachtmusik would be followed by Vivaldi's Spring. But the holiday music was a much shorter tape, and for years, I would expect O Come All Ye Faithful to be followed by Angels We Have Heard On High and then O Christmas Tree. We had to key in the ISBN of books, and if you sell enough copies of a book, you memorize it. I still know the prefixes for publishers.

I still know the Employer Identification number I haven't needed in 30 years and my 1st passport number, but all that's left of my childhood phone number is FAirfax.

I remember lots of Jabberwocky, and some of Prufrock. Lots of show tunes.
posted by theora55 at 2:55 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh! When Little eirias was four she memorized Hamilton’s lines in “Aaron Burr, Sir.” She lost the memory after it lost some of its new-penny shine, but for a few weeks there she loved to sing it with me, and to tell people that she was Hamilton and I was Burr. (Didn’t have the heart to tell her how the story ends.)
posted by eirias at 3:09 PM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Oh, lots of poetry, in particular this verse, it was a favorite of Dad's and he quoted it a lot:

"She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott. "


I also have some Irish poems memorized, I used to read them over and over.

One of my favorites, from John Boyle O' Reilly:

The red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
O the red rose is a falcon,
And the white rose is a dove.

But I send you a cream-white rosebud
With a flush on its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips.

And my other-other favorite, a riddle poem:

We are little airy creatures;
All of different voice and features;
One of us in glass is set;
One of us you'll find in jet;
Another you may see in tin;
And the fourth a box within;
If the fifth you should pursue it can never fly from you.

Try figuring that out without Googling it. We couldn't do that, back in the day.

Also, we used to memorize phone numbers, including our own, I know, right?

I am super happy that the lake is starting to melt, the squirrels have moved out of my attic and onto the trees, and it was over 50 degrees today! I got a pedicure last weekend, and am wearing my flip-flops now (indoors). I'm making Moqueca tonight (moo-keh-kah), a Brazilian fish stew with red and yellow peppers and garlic, and coconut milk, it's going to be fantastic.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:14 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I can sing my Los Angeles library card number from high school as dialed on a touch-tone phone
posted by potrzebie at 3:16 PM on April 6, 2019 [15 favorites]

In 5th form, a kid from Detroit taught my first Rap but NSFMT.

My first play, I would just listen for the last
Two lines before mine, for timing and memory.

A chemist waiter from Midland, Mi. used to sing a song during work when I was a bartender.

97% of the Julio-Claudian family tree.
I use flashbulb mnemonic markers for work.
posted by clavdivs at 4:02 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]



I once played in the orchestra for The Threepenny Opera once for a local college. The orchestra was about ten pieces but except for the accordionist and I, they were all music students at the college (the squeezebox guy and I were bar band types). I came into the rehearsals late in the process (three bassists had quit before I arrived) and I was playing upright bass, an instrument I had first played maybe ten days before I got the call.

The music was pretty challenging (musicians: Kurt Weill wrote it all in C with a gazillion accidentals) and I was not a good enough sight reader to play it at the proper tempo straight off the page. During a break in one rehearsal, a trumpeter asked me why I was not turning my sheets. I replied truthfully that I had memorized my part as I was not a great sight reader so I had no choice. She replied with slack jaw, "You memorized an hour and half of this?!?"

As a child, I once accidentally memorized an entire novel.

As previously related on the grey, I can memorize startling amounts of vocabulary in foreign languages* and pertinent landmarks of lengthy road trips, as well as one address in Chicago. I flew a lot in my old job so I can do the entire safety briefings in English and French of my three most frequently used airlines. At one point in my late thirties/early forties, I aimed to memorize a new poem every day. In retrospect, this was too ambitious and left me with many many poems of which I recall about 60% of the text of any given one. One of my jobs these days -- and on and off for twenty years -- is being a walking tour guide, which involves having remarkable amounts of fairly useless trivia squirreled away, which can occasionally get you out of a jam.

I even have an idle woo-woo notion about the nature of memory. In short, while I am all too well aware of the gaps and shortcomings in my memory, there seems a decent chance that mine is at least serviceable.

*Except when it come to Spanish.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:10 PM on April 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

I learned this when I was 6
The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter
"Little prig."
Bun replied,
"You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I'm not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry:
I'll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track.
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,

posted by Ideefixe at 4:11 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh gosh, two kids have acted like carbolic acid on my once fairly prodigious memory. Somehow, I find myself even worse with dates, names, anything really connected to the actual logistics of my actual life (kids' birthdays, sure! Their birth years? Uh... let me work backwards on that).

I'm still able to dredge up mountains of inchoate ephemera, though less reliably than before. World capitals, lines of poetry, quotes, filmographies and other garbage.

In the days long before smart phones, I whiled away time spent waiting at bus stops for truculent buses by learning to walk a coin across my knuckles and reading from a small quote dictionary. Most of the quotes I could rattle off have disappeared into the ether now, but occasionally one will pop up, bastardised and crippled.
posted by smoke at 4:51 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Surely you're not saying we have the resources
To save the poor from their lot?
There will be poor always, pathetically struggling
Look at the good things you've got
Think while you still have me!
Move while you still see me!
You'll be lost, you'll be so, so sorry when I'm gone

Sleep and I shall soothe you, calm you and anoint you
Myrrh for your hot forehead
Then you'll feel
Everything's alright, yes, everything's fine
And it's cool and the ointment's sweet
For the fire in your head and feet
Close your eyes, close your eyes, and relax
Think of nothing tonight (Close your eyes, close your eyes, and relax)
(Think of nothing tonight)
Close your eyes, close your eyes, and relax (Everything's alright, yes, everything's alright, yes)
Think of nothing tonight (Close your eyes, close your eyes, and relax)
(Think of nothing tonight)

I know that whole libretto, backward and forwards, every part.

But I'd really like to tell you about a different memory palace I visited today.

Friends, I flipped through the pages of an actual Hypnerotomachia Poliphili printed and designed by Aldus Manutius this morning. It's this fucked up erotic fever dream about architecture that is a masterpiece of design, typography, and illustration. No shit. I can die now. I touched its velvety pages and marveled at its typography and the incredible illustrations.

I visited a rare book library and was given access to some of the most extraordinary architectural books, manuscripts, and portfolios I could ever imagine. And the only one I was not allowed to page through was an incredibly rare collection of architectural drawings and blueprints of Frank Lloyd Wright, published in Germany just before the fire Wright's maid started in his home that destroyed most of his original designs. So some of these represent the only surviving copy of that design. And it's the only surviving complete set. I wasn't allowed to touch that because many of the prints had an onion skin component that was as fragile as ash. That one the librarian had to flip.

And they had a two-volume set, three feet high by two feet wide, beautifully designed bound set of all of the designs that went into the creation of the Eifel Tower. From the mechanical drawings of every bolt, and beam, and lattice, and filigree. The designs for every element of the elevator down to the buttons, and the restaurant including the entire kitchen and every chair and table, all of it exploded and beautifully laid out in mind-blowing spread after spread. Like a mechanical version of Ernst Haeckel. It was one of the most beautiful things I ever laid eyes on.

I saw so many treasures. I flipped through the pages of a 1758 Napoli edition of the 10 Books by Vitruvius. I saw photographic catalogs of the buildings taken in Japanese villages and cites as part of an architectural census ordered by the Emperor before WWII that contained a wealth of information about Japan before the war. Places and buildings leveled by the war that were only recorded in this catalog. I saw the photographic archives of a developer in 1920's San Francisco that took photographs throughout the process of building some of the Bay city's most iconic early Twentieth century buildings.

But there were four books I simply could not ignore. They were all by the same architect, Iakov Chernikhov, published between 1930 and 1936 in the Soviet Union. The first book is a book of patterns attempting not to capture every conceivable pattern, but instead to create families of pattern types. Showing what the possible variations might be within that family, and noting their limitations. The book begins with instructions on drafting and precision drawing, using six illustrations per page on the tools and techniques of a draftsman, all loving rendered by Chernikhov generously revealing his every secret. The second book graduated to patterns in industrial design, not concerned with mechanics or engineering, instead trying to find patterns from functions and application.

Then came the first book of building designs, these were ambitious meditations on Modernism, almost appearing practical, but far more theoretical and speculative in truth. The final book never intends to represent anything that could actually be built. It's an exercise in unfettered imagination. It's filled with color plates of imaginary buildings, reminiscent of the popular representations of space and the future as depicted in the science fiction pulp of the Forties and Fifties which Chernihkov clearly influenced. I have never seen anything quite like those books.

The visit through that library and those materials was ethereal. I still feel like I'm dancing through that magnificent ballroom of a paper and velum memory palace.

I brought my 15-year-old son and he also loved it and was astonished they let him near, let alone read and page through these materials. He loved that he understood the French Eifel Tower book. He too was a bit catatonic when we left. On the drive home, he said to me, "Those books really filled me with hope. Like we're all going to make it after all. What we know and what we create can survive, like those books. Thanks for bringing me, Dad."

Thanks for coming, kid. I got a feeling that neither of us will ever forget this day.
posted by Stanczyk at 4:56 PM on April 6, 2019 [21 favorites]

Anne McCaffrey poetry

So I was about to say "very little," but I think the answer is actually "I don't know." Because apparently, for example, I haven't thought about it in years, but I still know:
Wheel and turn or bleed and burn
Fly between, blue and green
Soar, dive down, bronze and brown
Dragonmen must fly when Threads are in the sky
I didn't even know I still knew that. My brain is not so much a palace as this vortex I throw information into, and sometimes it spits out random bits back at me at the weirdest times. The information is there, but there's no index to the filing system. I just stumble across stuff now and then and kick it back into the pile afterwards, where I may or may not ever see it again.

I used to be able to put all the countries of the world on a map as a sort of party trick, but that's the kind of thing that I had to practice to be able to keep doing it, and I've forgotten most of it. I still can make a better guess than most people at where, like, Latvia and Guinea-Bissau are, at least.
posted by Sequence at 5:16 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

The elements song by Tom Lehrer -- I memorized it for extra credit in high school chemistry and it's been taking up valuable space in my brain ever since. Fun fact: Tom Lehrer is still alive!
posted by zeptoweasel at 5:23 PM on April 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

As a performing artist, memorizing things was a significant part of the job. So I guess I've memorized around 25 operatic tenor roles in around five different languages, and perhaps 50 songs and arias. There's definitely a science to efficient and effective memorization, and there are teachable/learnable skills and techniques depending on the person and the context in which the memorized material would be recalled. I never could understand why conservatory voice programs didn't teach memorization techniques.
posted by slkinsey at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would say "the NATO phonetic alphabet" but that's less "an item in my memory palace" and more one of my "aaaugh why don't you know this" howls-into-the-wind
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:30 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Fun fact: Tom Lehrer is still alive!

Spotify served me a song of his the other day, and I can't have heard it in twenty years, but I knew very well:

You enter a very dark room
And sitting there in the gloom
Is Dracula -- so how do you say goodbye?
Immediately -- immediately --

As a teen, I made myself memorize a piece of the ballad about Gil-galad because it was in a BBC Lord of the Rings radio adaptation, where it was put to haunting effect when Bill Nighy sang it. I would go about with this song in a sad cloud above my head.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:43 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I also remember the following things:




Props to anyone who knows either of these without googling.
posted by bondcliff at 5:44 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've never memorized any poetry and probably know the lyrics to three songs at the most. But I can still, in my 40's, recite extensive sections of what were my favorite children's books. Those imprinted early and are still fresh in my mind.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:49 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

My high school locker combination, but only in German (I can translate it to English but it's in my head in German: achtzehn, vier, zwei und zwanzig.) NB: I am American.

All of Shakeapeare's Sonnet 116. It struck me pretty so I learned it. It's come in handy during a few weddings.

More movie scripts than I care to think about. Just today someone asked what my favorite color is and I responded by asking about the airspeed of swallows. I recite the debrief scene from Aliens as a stress reliever.
posted by workerant at 6:20 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, sadly, the pharmacy's phone number.
posted by HotToddy at 6:25 PM on April 6, 2019

In my high school senior year English class--which you kids today would call AP English but we olds called "college English," and which in doing the math just now I have realized that only 10% of my graduating class were considered worthy of "college English" wtf?--we memorized the first stanza to the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. Which I can still recite to this day, but that's not the story-worthy part. See, my BFF's name was Miranda, and but dad still called her Miraaanda-Waaaanda despite the fact that she was nearly a grown-ass adult. Now when you write that out, it looks like Miranda Wanda, and so we in her inner friend circle started calling her Wanda. And the first line to the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales starts off "Whan that Aprille...." So we moved on to calling her Wanda Aprille. And so when my BFF went off to college, I missed her sorely and wrote her letters, which for a while did not get delivered to her because her dorm was overbooked and she slept in the lounge with a bunch of other people for a few weeks and didn't have an assigned dorm room number, and the mail clerks could never figure out who all these letters addressed to Wanda Aprille were for.
posted by drlith at 6:26 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I memorized and performed a Dr. Seuss poem, Too Many Daves, for an elementary school poetry recital around 1978. I still remember the beginning,

"Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Well, she did. And that wasn't a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one and calls out, 'Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!' she doesn't get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!
This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves'
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.
And often she wishes that, when they were born,
She had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn
And one of them..."

And that's where the memorizing of all the weird rhyming names comes in, the part that gave me the most trouble. I copied the poem from the library book onto a sheet of notebook paper, folded it up and carried it around with me for weeks. I'd practice the poem from the beginning and see how far I could get, then pull it out when I got stuck. I was one of only two representatives from my grade, so I was proud to get up in front of all the students and parents and recite it. Whew! A rare positive memory from 6th grade.
posted by mefireader at 6:28 PM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

Sometime in the mid-90s, before streaming and Youtube and iPods meant that you could hear any song whenever you wanted to hear it, my now-husband and I discovered that we had both loved the Billy Joel album Glass Houses when we were kids, but neither of us had heard it in years, but we were able to get through the whole thing singing and playing acoustic guitar.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:41 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

The colors from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

The names in Allan Sherman’s “Shake Hands with your Uncle Max.”
posted by Melismata at 7:03 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Did you say or did you not say
what I said you said?
For it is said that you said that I did not say
what I said you said.
So, if you did not say what I said you said,
then what did you say?

Thanks Dad.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 7:04 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

My spouse and I have developed a passion for a series of trivia books from the 1920s and '30s: Ask Me Another and the subsequent books. That they're entirely out of time makes the game a lot more forgiving and an excuse for humor and conversation than I find happens with contemporary trivia. Nobody feels bad that they can't name the US ambassador to France at the start of the World War. (Well, nobody I hang out with.)

In the books, around one question in thirty is of the form, "give the next line after. . ." followed by a line of pre-20th century English poetry, or a famous speech, or something from Shakespeare.

I'm always amazed both by the ones I know without knowing why ("The boy stood upon the burning deck. . . ") and more so by nearly even distribution of ones that only one of us knows. Half of them are instantly familiar despite not having any context, but the other half seem entirely new, even after playing through all the books many times. Many of those make me say, "this must be what Lewis Carroll was referencing" every time they appear. We both have the same experience, and we're evenly matched, but the overlap in which ones we happen to recognize appears to be entirely random.

I've also memorized a lot of tiny facts about 1920s stage actors, industrialists, battleships, historical names and borders of countries, and race-horses. Most of it hasn't really been useful yet. But then, it is advertised as trivia.
posted by eotvos at 7:27 PM on April 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

At the far end of town where the grickle grass grows and the wind smells slow and sour when it blows and no birds ever sing excepting old crows is the street of the lifted Lorax. And deep in the grickle grass some people say if you look deep enough you can still see today where the Lorax once stood just as long as it could before somebody lifted the Lorax away. What was the Lorax and why was it there and why was it lifted and taken somewhere from the far end of town where the grickle grass grows? The old once-ler still lives here, ask him, he knows. You won’t see the once-ler don’t knock at his door. He lives in his workshop on top of his store. He works in his workshop cold under the roof where he makes his own clothes out of miff muffered moof. And on certain dank midnights in August he peeks out of the shutters and sometimes he speaks and tells how the Lorax was lifted away. He’ll tell you perhaps if you’re willing to pay. At the end of a rope he lets down a tin pail and you have to toss in fifteen cents and a nail and the shell of a great great great grandfather snail. He pulls up the pail and makes a most careful count to see that you’ve paid him the proper amount. Slup! Down slups the whisper-ma-phone to your ear but the old once-ler’s whispers are not very clear because they have to come down through a snurgley hose and he sounds as if he has smallish bees up his nose. It all started way back such a long long time back. Way back in the days when the grass was still green and the sky was still blue and the air was still clean......

That is about where parts start to fade in and out for me
posted by fancyoats at 7:59 PM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

"I could tell you how to write to Stick Stickly"

Write to me! Stick Stickly!
P.O. Box 963
New York City!
New York State!
1-0-1 ... 0-8!

(My sister and I sometimes text this to each other in a call and response, like when I want to let her know I'm thinking about her, but I don't have anything to actually say!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:59 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Another that will never leave me is how to write to PBS program ZOOM ...

That's ZOOM! Z O O M!
Box 350
Boston, Mass
Ohh two one three fourrrrrrr ....
posted by jazon at 8:41 PM on April 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

In 1965 I memorized the following from an old book and repeated it to my friends so many times that it is stuck in my brain forever.

Ladles and Jelly Spoons,
I come before you to stand behind you to tell you something I know nothing about.
Next Thursday, which is Good Friday, there will be a Mothers’ meeting for fathers only.
Wear your good clothes if you haven’t any, and if you can come, please stay at home.
It makes no difference where you sit, the man in the gallery is sure to spit.
I thank you for your unkind attention.
The next number will be the Four Corners of the Round Table.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:53 PM on April 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

I still remember a lot of the Scripture I had to memorize in Baptist primary school. And I never even got called on to receive.

I wish I could clean out all the decades-old TV commercial jingles cluttering up my mental hard drive. Maybe then I could remember those little details like doctors' appointments and when the electricity bill is due.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:19 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

kimberussell: x equals the opposite of b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac over 2 a

mochapickle: We learned that to the tune of Pop Goes The Weasel!

Kattullus: I've never been very good at learning by rote. But during my son's first couple of years on the planet the only surefire way to put him to sleep was to sing to him, and even that could take an hour. During these two years I learned ten, fairly random songs, completely by heart. Half of them are Icelandic lullabies or other old songs, but the other half were just songs I had stuck in my head at some point.

My wife is a high school math teacher, and knows a number math songs like this (in addition to a lot of Golden Oldies, and Beatles). She sang so many songs to our boys when they were babies, and when they've been bigger but sick or had trouble sleeping, including math songs. So now they know more math than some of the high schoolers she teaches now, but they don't know how to apply it :)

They have also taken to singing some Animaniacs songs, which warms my heart so. And every now and again they break into the 50 Nifty United States, because. (And they sing to the random music we subject them to. Hearing my four year old say "do you fear for your child?" made me unreasonably happy :) Hopefully he doesn't sing it daycare.)

Me, I like music without words, because I'm more drawn to the sounds and rhythm, so my memory for lyrics is shiite. So when I sang to our boys, I'd sing the same nursery rhymes on repeat. I can sing along with prompting, but not from memory. I also lost all those scientific plant names that I learned in college, most of the Spanish I learned, as well as dates and details for notable events in the history of urban planning. But it can come back, as I've seen with studying for AICP, or I was until I got my application denial letter. I'll be trying again in a few months, but I really enjoyed studying again.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:22 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

My fourth grade teacher had the multiplication tables set to music on a set of 45's. He played them in the background whenever we were doing quiet work, and we sort of learned them subliminally. I remember the fives record skipped at the end, so to this day, whenever I have to multiply 5 by 12 in my head I hear, "Five times twelve is sixty, five times twelve is sixty, five times twelve is sixty..."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:49 PM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

I recently had a root canal and as usual insisted on no novocaine, nitrous oxide only. The dentist was worried that I would jerk or scream from the pain and I promised her that if I moved she could give me the shot anytime in the procedure. It was more painful than having a cavity filled and when the pain became intense, I did not move but began to mentally intone "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

Now normally I can't recite the whole thing without prompts, but as I stilled myself to stand the pain, the litany smoothly rolled itself through my mind and by the end of the litany the worst of the pain was over. And only I remained.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:50 PM on April 6, 2019 [9 favorites]

My high school Japanese teacher taught us a song (with hand gestures, naturally, and sung to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star") to remember directions in Japanese, and I still remember it:
うえ した みぎ ひだり (x2)
まえ うしろ なか そと (x2)
となり となり あいだ (x2)

Ms. Nakamura I hope you're proud
posted by invokeuse at 10:31 PM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

Way too much Sandra Boynton.
posted by triage_lazarus at 10:33 PM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

When I was a kid, I actually made it a point to *not* bother remembering pointless ephemera. I tried to concentrate my attention on overarching / durable patterns. I thought memorizing the globe and all of its various countries was a good investment... in 1989.
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 10:58 PM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

Oh wow, I did not know other people memorized poems from fantasy novels. I can still do Anne McCaffrey
(Oh Tongue, give sound to joy and sing / of hope and promise on dragonwing)
and Diane Duane
(but past the fear lies life for all, / perhaps for me, and past my dread, / past loss of Mastery and life, / the Sea shall yet give up her dead!).

To some extent I had quite a few whole novels memorized--not so that I could transcribe them cold, but when I read them again in Japanese translation (for practice, and to be amused at the choice of pronouns), I could repeat most of the dialogue in English just from the prompts in the Japanese. I probably still can.

Also a bunch of musical lyrics--Candide and Guys and Dolls and lots of Gershwin, my father's (and my own) favorites, and also high-school pit orchestra stuff like Pajama Game and Bye Bye Birdie (Eyebrows, I feel you on what pit orchestra does to the fingertips, cello is almost as bad as bass). I sing them to myself on long walks or when I need distraction, such as at the dentist--lying there in the chair with dental tools in my mouth, singing internally "Life is happiness indeed...".

My mother used to work in a building which had once been an elementary school, and on the old library door was painted a quotation from (of all people) Amy Lowell:
"For books are more than books, they are the heart and soul of ages past, the reason why men lived and worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives."
I memorized it in a kind of fast-paced chant and I can still reel it off happily now.
posted by huimangm at 11:07 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Also Stanczyk, your comment above is the first one I have ever dared flag as fantastic.
posted by huimangm at 11:13 PM on April 6, 2019

The Winds of Fate
One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow
'Tis the set of the sails,
And Not the gales,
That tell us the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate;
As we voyage along through life,
'Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin
posted by dancestoblue at 11:30 PM on April 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

The only thing I can come up with right now is a pi mnemonic:
Sir I send a verse excelling
in sacred truth and rigid spelling.
Numerical sprites elucidate
for me the lexicon's dull weight.
The length of each word (letters only) is the value of pi at that position (starting with "Sir I send"/3.14). Of course, when I looked it up to confirm I had it right it turns out that the original is "Sir I send a rhyme excelling [...]". Luckily I have the first couple of lines worth of digits memorized anyway so the incorrect word is the same length.

When I was younger I came across the Doomsday algorithm written up on Everything2 and had it memorized for a couple of years. (Wow, it's been a long time since I've visited e2.)

I think the most pragmatic but not actually necessary memorization I do these days is in learning where to get on a given subway train in order to end up where I want to be on the platform when I disembark.
posted by jdherg at 12:02 AM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just had a reunion in Law Vegas with my besties from high school. We went to Cirque Du Soleil Love (Beatles). I remember *all* the words.
posted by theora55 at 12:06 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Very few intentionally memorised things, some accrued ones that come to mind are (plz dnt doxxx me):

90+% of the lyrics to every rock/metal/industrial song I listened to in the mid-'90s, plus a bunch of Bowie and Steven Universe ones;
Random lines or stanzas from Shakespeare/Coleridge/Carroll/JRRT/Usual Suspects;
The odd first or last line of a novel;
So many partial exchanges from '80s and '90s sitcoms ("Two things must ye know of the Wyrd Woman...");
And some things I had to memorise for middle school, plus everything my sister had to recite aloud for drama lessons.

e.g. (~95% accurate, source unknown, intentionally haven't googled it, dialect as performed by a 10-yr-old/heard by an 11-yr-old, CW for child loss literal and implied)

Our baby has gone down the plug-hole,
Oh our baby has gone down the plug,
The poor little fing was so skinny and thin,
'E should 'ave been washed in a jug,

Oh our baby is perfectly 'appy,
'E won't need a bath anymore,
'E's a-larkin' about wiv those angels above,
Not lorst, but gorn before.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 12:11 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Crossing The Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

This is a poem that refuses to be committed to my memory, I've tried often over the years and it just doesn't stick. Bits of it stick but never (yet) the whole.

My father would talk about "crossing the bar" and one night in our kitchen I asked him about it, what does crossing the bar mean, what is is he was referencing? He knew this poem by heart, got out the encyclopedia (anybody remember those?) to show me what they had on Tennyson.

I see it like yesterday, fifty years ago or forty-five at least, my father in his heavy, worn work shoes, a short-sleeve work shirt, his huge, work-worn hands on that encyclopedia.

Perhaps I'll get hold of this poem before I cross the bar...

Or maybe it's enough that I have so strongly that memory of my father and I in our kitchen on a summer night, maybe that's the poem that's in it for me.
I love the word "crost" and I think that I'm going to have to start using it...
posted by dancestoblue at 12:16 AM on April 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

At the international conference where I met the future Mrs. Fregoli, a mutual acquaintance taught us the first verse of a Danish children's song about a ladybug:

Mariehønen Evigglad,
gik tur på et rabarberblad
og mødte Søren snegl der lå
og sov med sneglehuset på.

I can still sing it phonetically, but that is as far as my knowledge of Danish goes. In the song the ladybug Evigglad finds shelter in the house of Søren the snail during bad weather, and apparently it ends with the two getting married. Who knew it would turn out to be prophetic?
posted by fregoli at 12:58 AM on April 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise: its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before. Long ago, the four nations lived in harmony. And then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the avatar - master of the four elements - could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. Earth. Fire. Air. Water. Only the avatar can master all four elements and bring balance to the world. By the way, my name is Max. I take care of both of them, which ain't easy. Because when they met, it was *murder*.

(The question asked what have I memorized -- not what have I memorized completely or accurately! Seriously though, every time I think of the beginning of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (the original TV show, of course -- water/earth/fire/air) or "The Legend of Korra" (earth/fire/air/water), I always then think "Space...the final frontier." And before anyone points it out, the mashup of "five-year" mission and "no one" is intentional.

As for the Max thing -- it's from the opening credits of an old series called "Hart to Hart." I have no idea why I still know that part, because it wasn't like I watched it regularly and couldn't even tell you any of the episode plots -- haven't seen it since the '80s. But as I was typing out the parts from the other TV shows, suddenly that one popped into my head. Every so often, something will remind me of that show, like when a friend visited me and turned up in an old yellow Mercedes-Benz convertible. She had no idea what I was talking about when I said it was like the Hart to Hart car.

Aside from random stuff like that, I'm usually pretty good with recalling music once I've learned it by ear, even if it's been a while. (That is, singing or humming it.) It does help to read lyrics.)
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 1:15 AM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I waste SO much brain space on things I’ve memorized, including but not limited to lyrics from a high proportion of songs I’ve heard regularly since about age ten, the poems in the Dark is Rising books, facts about invertebrate classification a high school friend set to Christmas carols to memorize them, verbatim conversations I had as long as thirty years ago, phone numbers, patterns, snippets from novels, stories I made up in my head as a kid, and the entirety of the brilliant version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas that a friend and I wrote about George W. Bush. I wish I could free up that part of my brain for other activities, but for now, if you want to know what that one kid said to me in seventh grade or the lyrics to what was on the radio when I was in grad school, I’ve got you. Sigh.
posted by centrifugal at 1:29 AM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've got Rizzo's song from 'Grease' memorised, and Puck's last speech from 'A Midsummer Nights Dream'. Never performed either of them in public. I remember my dad's office phone number and my home phone number from when I was a kid. I've got my Centrelink reference number and my tax file number memorised.

There was a large department store that was in the heart of the once thriving CBD of my town that burned down in 1986, but it was such a constant feature of my life from babyhood to teens that I could draw a floor plan of it with no problem at all.
posted by h00py at 2:58 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

The most useful thing I memorized was Chicago major street names and associated numbers, though I'm better at north south than east west and my downtown memorization is spotty because no low income housing is downtown).

This was great when I did field work and drove the city all day long, but now it's not very useful.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:27 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I can't really do memorising, which is a shame, as it would be useful. One thing I did memorise when I was about fifteen was a line from the liner of one of Robert Fripp's solo albums:
The future unit of organisation is the small, mobile, intelligent unit, whereby intelligent is defined as the ability to perceive change, mobile the ability to act on that perception and small the necessary condition to exist in an ever-changing world.
Or at least that's how I remember it. I suspect I messed up the punctuation, but who remembers punctuation? It doesn't have the pithiness of his later aphorisms (such as "Honour necessity" or "Music is the cup that holds the wine of silence"), but it does seem to be more and more true as time passes. So it has that going for it.
posted by Grangousier at 3:29 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

> I still have most of Harold Hill's songs from The Music Man memorized from my 8th grade leading performance.

That's cool! And thanks for an excuse to share one of my favorite things I've ever seen: Patti LuPone doing a spur-of-the-moment performance of "Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man for a radio interview with Seth Rudetsky (who joins in on piano) in front of a live audience of Broadway fans (who also join in).

(While the youtube link starts at 3:27 in -- just before the song -- the entire video clip is fun, so watch from the beginning if you can, especially if you like musicals.)
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 4:32 AM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

When I was about six, my grandfather put on a very serious tone and told me, “Always remember, inflation is too much money chasing too few goods.” It meant precisely nothing to me, and I’m sure he just thought it was an absurd thing to tell a six-year-old, played for the laughs of the other adults there. But I was an obedient child...
posted by daisyace at 5:22 AM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh! And it just now occurred to me that that would have been the ‘70’s. The inflation rate when I was 5-6 peaked over 11%! Suddenly that memory has a new layer of context.
posted by daisyace at 5:28 AM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm like the proverbial fan. Some shit sticks, and there's not much control. I mean, for Pete's sake, as non-great as I used to be in my high school years, why did I know every tram and bus in my part of the city by number, possible technical flaws, and the commercials that were painted on their respective sides?
Example: Of the bus here there was only a single specimen in Bremen, and it had a high single seat at the right in the front over which we kids fought battles. As it says on that site, this photo appears to have been taken 1972, 47 years ago. So I was 12 or 13 years old at the time. The bus was uncommonly noisy and bumpy. It took me three seconds to find it on the web because I remember the manufacturer and the number 250. That's what I mean.
posted by Namlit at 5:45 AM on April 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

...also, you can consign me to the heap of insufferable lit nerds who replaces "let's go now" with "Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherized upon a table"
posted by drlith at 5:45 AM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I don't know how this seed got planted but almost every year since I turned 40 on the morning of my birthday, the first thought that pops into my head is:

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

But then I never do because my birthday is in January and my ankles would get cold. So I just eat a canned peach instead. Not a fresh peach because, again, January. It's my little rage against age gesture.
posted by Stanczyk at 6:27 AM on April 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

I was born in the southwest Chicago suburbs and my mom and dad and I moved away when I was 6, but my dad's side of the family still lived there so we visited a lot. Just from visiting and occasionally watching TV with my cousins, I'll forever remember:

588-2 3 hundred, Empiiiiirrrrreeeee!
posted by cooker girl at 7:33 AM on April 7, 2019 [11 favorites]

Ha, cooker girl, I taught that to my roommates in Boston when I lived there. Now they're a national chain and I see their ads in California, but they've shoehorned an "800" before the "588" and the rhythm's all wrong.
posted by lazuli at 7:40 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

My memory sucks pus, so I find it extremely annoying how much space is taken up by the lyrics to pop songs I don't even like.
posted by pompomtom at 7:47 AM on April 7, 2019

Other things that forever reside in my Memory, uh, Attic:
Commercials and other TV snippets from when I was on a five-weeks exchange in (of all places) Wilkes-Barre in '77.

Just a few days or so ago, I was trying to knead and generally wield an uncommonly sticky batch of sourdough, and surprised myself by underpinning my fear of getting forever stuck in the bowl with both hands by humming the intro music of Mighty Mouse (it helped. I heroically extracted my hands just in time). Learning this was a matter of five Saturday mornings of cartoons, and then never again seeing that particular show...
posted by Namlit at 7:47 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm not word perfect on this anymore, but it is still pretty close, I think:

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the Western Spiral Arm of the galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly 92 million miles is an insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape descended life forms are so amazingly primitive they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has, or rather had, a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy most of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but they mostly revolved around the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd, because on the whole, it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained: lots of people were mean and most of them were unhappy. Even the ones with digital watches.

posted by jacquilynne at 7:49 AM on April 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

For some reason I can still remember the VINs of my first three cars. My fifth car I also remember, but that's because I ordered it new from the factory in England and you could track its position crossing the Atlantic by VIN on the shipper's website.
posted by hwyengr at 7:59 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

We had to memorize the last stanza of "The Chambered Nautilus" in Grade 11 English. Mumble-mumble decades later, I still have to bite my tongue to keep from declaiming, "Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul," etc. every time I see a seashell.

(Somehow I can see a grave without reciting the last nine lines of "Thanatopsis," but maybe I just run into a lot more graves than seashells.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:13 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have Edna st Vincent Millay’s Fist Fig but nothing gonna else I can think of. Oh, Y=mx+b, which comes up in garment knitting more than you’d think.

Aaaaaand I’m in bed with another case of strep throat. Solidifying my plan to have my tonsils out on April 24, but no less annoying. Thankfully my doc office sees patients on weekends so I didn’t have to wait until Monday to get this looked at and get treatment started. Doc ordered an ASO to see if maybe I’m just constantly carrying strep around and getting flares of it. I don’t know how that might change our treatment plan. I’ve heard things about long term increased risk of COPD and other things.
posted by bilabial at 8:17 AM on April 7, 2019

I know that whole libretto, backward and forwards, every part.

Ah, but Stanczyk, I used to think this as well. Then I learned Tim Rice has rewritten a line for more recently staged versions. Nominally because the soft rhyme always bothered him, so he has fixed it. Unofficially I think he may have been embarrassed by the old line. In fact, I think the new line much inferior to the old.

In “This Jesus Must Die,” we have a backing chorus priest sing:
Miracle wonder man, hero of fools!
... which is now counterbalanced by another backing singer with:
Infantile sermons, the multitude drools!
Surely this is a step down from Caiaphas’ grudging admiration:
One thing I’ll say for him, Jesus is cool.

I mean, come on!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:40 AM on April 7, 2019 [8 favorites]

The books of the Bible, in order, despite not having been a churchgoer for decades now. It’s a fun trick to be able to quickly open to the right book and find a verse in front of someone who doesn’t expect me to know this.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:26 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Said Gardner to Carroll:
Come, let us not quarrel
'Bout Wonderland logic
and looking glass lore.

I'm a man without malice;
I'll annotate Alice
I'll wake up the Dormouse
and tell it the score.

Yes, I'll translate Jabberwock,
show why the turtles mock,
tame the Mad Hatter
and analyze chess.

I'll garnish and season
your rhyme with my reason
and we two'll give Alice
a new party dress.

I memorised this for no reason that's known even to me, off the back of The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:30 AM on April 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Things, of varying usefulness: The opening monologue from Romeo and Juliet, more or less. My bank account number and sort code. My national insurance number. Most of the tube map. Any number of songs and jingles. About 100 kanji (and actively working on more), and the hiragana and katakana. When I worked in a London ticket shop I could easily direct you to any theatre in the West End and once did so in Japanese.

I'm a little bit fuzzy now, having not really kept up in the era of stadium moves and naming rights, but I used to be able to tell you on demand the nickname and home ground of any English professional football club.

I loathe adverts that contain any sort of rhyming doggerel and have to purposefully look away when I spot them otherwise it'll embed itself in my brain and annoy me forever (looking at you, TFL travel etiquette adverts of the last few years).
posted by corvine at 9:43 AM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I loathe adverts that contain any sort of rhyming doggerel and have to purposefully look away when I spot them otherwise it'll embed itself in my brain and annoy me forever

Dublin, Berkeley, San Lorenzo, Cupertino, San Jose (Denevi camera?)
Seven two seven... One Oh, Six Oh... Bay Valley Tech!
posted by ctmf at 10:28 AM on April 7, 2019

I'm totally getting to the "use it or lose it," stage, and I get lost in wonderment at the amount of telephone numbers and addresses and unusual spellings and such that I once carried around in my brain because that was the only readily accessible storage mechanism available at the time. Nowadays the phone does all of that.

Trivia and crosswords are still good so far, and I can still light a match and recite the Greek alphabet 3 times before it goes out. US states and capitals are still hanging in there. I just wish that the lyrics from all the dad rock songs in the 70s and 80s would sort of drift away.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 10:38 AM on April 7, 2019

I’ve temporarily memorized loads of stuff in the past, but let it go. A few shreds of things from my childhood are our home phone number De3- 1102 (that’s Dexter exchange in Denver). Also the north-south streets east of Colorado Boulevard in Denver, which are double pairs alphabetically in order, with second always a plant, thus: Albion, Ash, Belair, Birch, etc.
Like others, much remains in memory, and can be called upon for crosswords and such, but not otherwise willed into existence.
posted by dbmcd at 12:03 PM on April 7, 2019

Things I've memorized over the course of my life (I cannot guarantee that I STILL remember all of them):

* The lyrics to several songs by Genesis, Sting, The Police, U2, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, and Van Morrison

* The lyrics to the Newfoundland song "Come And I Will Sing You"

* The lyrics to "Bruces' Philosopher's Song"

* The first verse of "Alexander Hamilton" ("How does a bastard orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman....")

* The "To Be Or Not To Be" soliloquy from Hamlet

* Two poems by Yeats

* The alto part to the Hallelujah Chorus

...The Monty Python reference reminds me of a fantastic story I heard from when the original Broadway cast for Spamalot was still in rehearsal. It was early on in the rehearsal process, and the director and Hank Azaria were sitting around when the rehearsal was on a break. While they were chatting, the director said "hey, incidentally, I need to commend you - we're only a week and a half into rehearsal and you have all your lines from the Knights of Ni section memorized already. That's impressive."

Hank Azaria just gave him a long incredulous look, and finally said, "Dude, this is Monty Python. I've had that memorized since I was twelve."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:35 PM on April 7, 2019 [10 favorites]

“Well Seymour, I made it… despite your directions.”
posted by Going To Maine at 1:54 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

11 year old signal 2* was on a serious Hamilton kick 2 years ago, and had I'd say 70-80% of the lyrics memorized.
*electric boogaloo
posted by signal at 2:00 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Gosh.... Song lyrics. Multiplication tables. Old phone numbers and addresses. Catch phrases in movies.
But am I the only one here who had a car that could do remote control before there was remote control?
By that I mean, after a random number of times travelling to a location (school, work, a relative's house) you just get into the car, turn on the ignition, back out of the driveway... and find yourself pulling into the parking area.
And that's fine, that's great, until the day you are headed that way to another destination... and find yourself about to pull into the same parking area!
Weird, right?
posted by TrishaU at 3:54 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

When I was young, my mom told me that antidisestablishmentarianism was the longest word she knew. So, I set out memorizing it. I can still rattle it off fast without thinking about it, which might not be that amazing, really, but it's a cool party trick (when all the attendees are related to me and under the age of 7).

When I was in seventh grade, we used to take spelling tests, and we were able to choose a word or two that we wanted on the upcoming text. My good friend and I were into big words at the time, and had just discovered pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Minds blown. So, we included that in our quiz and spent the next week memorizing it. I can still spell it, but I can't "rattle it off" without thinking about it. Antidisestablishmentarianism will be with me until I'm on my death bed.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:01 PM on April 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Lots of poems. And I think I still know Jesus Christ Superstar from the overture at least through most of the trial before Pilate. I’ve gotten through hour-long MRIs by going through it in my head. I listened to the album obsessively when it first came out (for those who don’t know, it was a concept album before it was anything else).

But sadly, what really springs to mind is a sign someone somewhere put above a toilet.

If you sprinkle
When you tinkle
Be a sweetie
And wipe the seaty.

I don’t remember what toilet or even what state it was in. Illinois? Missouri? Kansas? Could be any of those. I’d prefer to use that brain space for the two lines of the Canterbury Tales prologue I always, always leave out. (A professor had us memorize the prologue in Middle English in 1977, and most of it stuck.)
posted by FencingGal at 5:46 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

My high school library barcode: CL102B0105732D. I typed it in a lot reserving books, 25 years ago. Also my university student number and my first phone number (moved when I was 8). Numbers stick in my brain well, very useful for cramming before exams, and occasionally useful at work where as every sample gets a unique ID number.
posted by kjs4 at 5:58 PM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Quadratic equation.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:27 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

If a pig drinks a beer before he starts
runs a mile before he farts
if he clenches his ass and uses his wits
how far will he run before he shits?
posted by bondcliff at 6:33 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]



posted by Greg_Ace at 6:47 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am the very model of a modern major-general (et seq)
[why? I hate musical theatre!]

Io non piangëa, sì dentro impetrai: piangevan elli...
[Good mantra for bad days/weeks]

Listen! The choicest of visions I wish to tell,
which came as a dream in middle-night,
after voice-bearers lay at rest (et seq)

WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote (et seq)
[I particularly like to impose an excessive emphasis on "than" when I hit Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages...]

None of this has been even slightly useful. Ever.
posted by aramaic at 6:51 PM on April 7, 2019

Had to memorize Luke 2 from the Bible (the nativity) in second grade and it took me forever and I still remember it >25 years later and I'm not even Christian. Oy.
posted by ferret branca at 7:06 PM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, hi, fellow Mefites with Prufrock-quoting moms!
posted by ferret branca at 7:15 PM on April 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Thirding I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer… I use it the same way it's used in the books, to calm my mind in times of stress. There is a part of me that always wanted to be Bene Gesserit. Probably the part that didn't read the prequels.
posted by signal at 7:50 PM on April 7, 2019

I mean sure sure bible verses, poetry, bits of the periodic table, many many pieces of music, long-defunct phone numbers, inspirational phrases but mostly BACON! BACON BACON BACON! Where's the BACON? ONly one thing smells like BACON and that's BACON! There, from that bag! What's it say?? (hysterical panting) *I CAN'T REEEEAAD! PLEASE, PLEASE GIVE ME WHAT"S IN THE BAG!!!

...I don't have a dog, and yet still, at the right moments, my spouse and I look at each other and say "IT's BACONNNN!"
posted by daisystomper at 8:15 PM on April 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

It didn't really occur to me that most people don't just sort of get their minds stuck around song lyrics ALL THE TIME. There are few songs from my high school years that I didn't unintentionally memorize. The joy of getting older is that some of these (finally) fade as I (happily) ease into my "Not quite sure I know what I had for lunch yesterday" years. But yeah all the Schoolhouse Rock stuff and I really wish I could find something that would help me know all the Amendments.

This thread encouraged me to head over to Memrise again and train on some stuff. I am in both a (competitive, fierce) online trivia league and a (comfy, collegial) real life trivia league. I tend to do amazing in the IRL one, no matter who my teammates are but recently we tanked because there were two categories (baseball, presidents) that I should have known more of. So I'll try to work on that because I think training your memory is fun and because I'd like to do better at trivia. Jim and I worked on learning all the states and their capitols a few years back and that's been useful information.

It's a fine poem and loudly and proudly declaiming LISTEN CHILDREN AND YOU SHALL HEAR

To be honest, everything I learned about that poem I know from Gilligan's Island.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:29 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: mostly BACON! BACON BACON BACON!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:39 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

For whatever reason, I can immediately recall multiple mnemonics for the extended spectral classification of stars (O B A F G K M R N S):

Oh Be A Fine Guy Kiss Me Right Now Sweetheart
Old Brandy And Fine Gin Keep Midnight Revelers Nearly Sober

I only needed the mnemonic to pass one unit of astronomy over twenty years ago, but it's stuck. Still waiting to pull it out to impress someone at a party. Might be waiting a while.
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 9:57 PM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Things that I can recite from memory:

Converting Fahrenheit to Celsius and back: ((F-32)/9)*5 and (C/5)*9+32

_How The Grinch Stole Christmas_
All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot,
But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not
The Grinch HATED Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why, no one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May be that his heart was two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos.
_Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel_
Mike Mulligan had a steam shovel.
A beautiful red steam shovel.
Her name was Mary Anne.
Mike Mulligan was very proud of Mary Anne.
He always said that she could dig as much in a day
As a hundred men could dig in a week
But he had never been quite sure this was true
posted by hanov3r at 10:09 PM on April 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:51 PM on April 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

For reasons known only to my eight year old self, I memorised The Owl Critic by James Thomas Fields from some sketchy poetry book at my grandparents’ house. I would recite it frequently, to great annoyance, which was likely the point. I pay the price today, however, since I still know it by heart and it is on frequent rotation on my internal radio station:

"Who stuffed that white owl?"
No one spoke in the shop,
The barber was busy, and he couldn't stop;
The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading
The "Daily," the "Herald," the "Post," little heeding
The young man who blurted out such a blunt question;
Not one raised a head, or even made a suggestion;
And the barber kept on shaving.

"Don't you see, Mr. Brown,"
Cried the youth, with a frown,
"How wrong the whole thing is,
How preposterous each wing is,
How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck is --
In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck 't is!
I make no apology;
I've learned owl-eology.

I've passed days and nights in a hundred collections,
And cannot be blinded to any deflections
Arising from unskilful fingers that fail
To stuff a bird right, from his beak to his tail.
Mister Brown! Mr. Brown!
Do take that bird down,
Or you'll soon be the laughingstock all over town!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

"I've studied owls,
And other night-fowls,
And I tell you
What I know to be true;
An owl cannot roost
With his limbs so unloosed;
No owl in this world
Ever had his claws curled,
Ever had his legs slanted,
Ever had his bill canted,
Ever had his neck screwed
Into that attitude.
He cant do it, because
'Tis against all bird-laws.

Anatomy teaches,
Ornithology preaches,
An owl has a toe
That can't turn out so!
I've made the white owl my study for years,
And to see such a job almost moves me to tears!
Mr. Brown, I'm amazed
You should be so gone crazed
As to put up a bird
In that posture absurd!
To look at that owl really brings on a dizziness;
The man who stuffed him don't half know his business!"
And the barber kept shaving.

"Examine those eyes
I'm filled with surprise
Taxidermists should pass
Off on you such poor glass;
So unnatural they seem
They'd make Audubon scream,
And John Burroughs laugh
To encounter such chaff.
Do take that bird down;
Have him stuffed again, Brown!"
And the barber kept on shaving!

"With some sawdust and bark
I could stuff in the dark
An owl better than that.
I could make an old hat
Look more like an owl
Than that horrid fowl,
Stuck up there so stiff like a side of coarse leather.
In fact, about him there's not one natural feather."

Just then, with a wink and a sly normal lurch,
The owl, very gravely, got down from his perch,
Walked around, and regarded his fault-finding critic
(Who thought he was stuffed) with a glance analytic,
And then fairly hooted, as if he should say:
"Your learning's at fault this time, anyway:
Don't waste it again on a live bird, I pray.
I'm an owl; you're another. Sir Critic, good day!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

posted by frumiousb at 11:04 PM on April 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

I can't say it's memorized precisely, but if someone plays one of my two Dr. Demento CDs on shuffle rather then in their natural and orderly sequence as Nature and Demento intended, then I quietly twitch each time a given song is followed by the wrong song and not the right song, damn it.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:28 PM on April 7, 2019 [7 favorites]

I can often remember odd strings of random characters. When I first went for my car licence, I really didn't want to have a 'must wear glasses on my license', I knew the eyesight test room had the test card on the door but I didn't know the characters. So when it was time I walked in to the room, scanned the card and day in the chair.When asked I read the bottom line, that ticked their box.
posted by unearthed at 12:15 AM on April 8, 2019

"Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide."
posted by kaibutsu at 12:39 AM on April 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

Why not throw in a full exposition of the general theory of nonlinear automata while
you're at it?
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:47 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I learned this as a kid hoping some day to use it in a pinch:

Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha

It’s Merlin’s Charm of Making from John Boorman’s Excalibur. I’ve tried to invoke it a couple of times throughout my life but it never worked. I must be pronouncing it wrong.
posted by Stanczyk at 2:05 AM on April 8, 2019

in middle school, i memorized the first hundred digits of pi but some years later, i almost failed my math degree. ask me anything
posted by the list of suspects is just you at 3:01 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I used to have trouble memorizing digits of pi. The trick is chunking it:


looks impenetrable, but once you realize that's

3. 142857 142857 142857 142857 142857 ...

it's a much more straightforward process.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:02 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

The first (part?) of Kubla Kahn

Hah, I know the last part, starting with "A damsel with a dulcimer..."

All kinds of random stuff, a lot of it deliberately memorized for trivia purposes. States, state capitals, national capitals (did you known Astana, Kazakhstan, was renamed Nur-Sultana just a few weeks ago?), periodic table, all Best Picture/Actor/Actress Oscar winners, Best Supporting Actor/Actress back to ~1955 so far...
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:14 AM on April 8, 2019

In junior high, we took a school trip from Wisconsin to Chicago (can't remember if it was the Shedd Aquarium or the Art Institute ) but it was a day specifically designated for school field trips and thus, the parking lot was full of identical yellow buses.

Before we were allowed to get off the bus, the driver made us recite the bus number (8711) to when our day was done, we'd get on the right bus.

"Eighty-seven eleven!", he sang.
"Eighty-seven eleven!", we all chanted back.

Twenty five years later, I still look for school bus numbers when I'm out and about and the little sing-song pops into my head.
posted by Twicketface at 6:09 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Just now, after not having thought of it for years, something in the stillness of the morning brought the entirety of Wendy Cope’s By the Round Pond to mind. All but the punctuation returned to me.
posted by eirias at 6:12 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I quietly twitch each time a given song is followed by the wrong song and not the right song, damn it.

omigod this is me too.

...And I've also realized that I have several Schoolhouse Rock songs in my brain. The only way I know the Preamble to the Constitution is as a song.

And apparently parts of the song "A Noun Is A Person Place or Thing" have wormed their way into my brain so thoroughly that somehow that song ends up as a mashup with "Bare Necessities" from The Jungle Book. I have no idea how that happened.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I also know the powers of 2 up to 2^16, because that's how much RAM my C64 had.

For both of my sons the "computer numbers" were an early foundation, right around initial mastery of the times tables. They'll thank me later? Who knows.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:55 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I learned the letter-number substitutions (A-1, B-2, C-3...Z-26) as a kid because they were used as simple codes in so many mystery books for early readers. And then I never forgot them. I can read text in simple letter-number sub at about average reading speed, and 20 25 16 5 it about the same as my usual typing speed.
posted by Etrigan at 7:40 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

"Eighty-seven eleven!", he sang.
"Eighty-seven eleven!", we all chanted back.

Call Pizza Pizza
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:59 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

None of the song lyrics or poems or book fragments stuck in my head matter as much as the sounds that I know exist nowhere else anymore.

When I was a kid my cat would climb the ladder to my bunk bed - the ladder was made of 2x4s, our bunks were built into the wall. The particular resonance of her feet striking the wood, the number of rungs, the rhythm of her jump and clamber, the subsequent purr next to my ear as she kneaded in my hair, have otherwise vanished from this world. She was the best cat and lived to a ripe old age but she's long gone now.

Also the way my stepdad pronounced "Tiger," which was my nickname.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:06 AM on April 8, 2019 [6 favorites]

Song lyrics... let's talk about being pre-Internet and finally finding out that Steve Perry was not singing, "Oh, the shame of it, all alone, hold on, hold on...?"
posted by TrishaU at 8:07 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

TrishaU: weren't you always happier you bought whatever cassette when it had the lyrics in the liner notes? "Cinnamon guuuum! Knowing how I made you feel with the cinnamon gum!"
posted by wellred at 8:09 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I know someone who used to insist that "Daydream Believer" went, "The shaving razor's cold and it sings."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:33 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's singing to you right now
posted by wellred at 9:39 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

"Swing your razors high, Monkees, raise them to the skyyyyy...."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I still retain most of the lyrics to the Spice Girls' Stop.

Don't you know it's going too fast, racing so hard you know it won't last?
Don't you know, why can't you see?
Slow it down, read the sign so you know just where you're going
Stop right now, thank you very much, I need somebody with a human touch.
Hey you, always on the run, gotta slow it down baby, gotta have some fun.

12 year old me would be very impressed. 32 year old me is rather annoyed it's been there for twenty years.
posted by PearlRose at 11:33 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

From memory, learned when I was in a Christmas play many decades ago:

In comes I, old Father Christmas, welcome or welcome not
I hope old Father Christmas shall never be forgot
uhhh there's a line here I think
Room, room, ladies and gentlemen
Room I mumble obtain
For in this room there shall be soon
The most dreadful battle that ever there was
Between Saint George and Turkish Night
Come in, mumble, and boldly clear the way!
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:02 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, for some reason, I still have stored in memory how to get the Easter egg in Atari Adventure!, a game that is just about 40 years old right now.
posted by hanov3r at 2:02 PM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Invictus was part of a high school play and I will know it till I die.

Also large bits of the Dewey Decimal system, too many different versions of "Matty Groves", several other long murder ballads, the order of the nine choirs of angels, the whole libretto of Les Miserables, and how to do kitchener stitch. (I have tried and failed to memorize which is a m1r stitch and which is a m1l but that will not stick in my brain no matter what I do.)
posted by darchildre at 3:23 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I learned tonight at a Noname show that I know a few of her songs by heart, which was a surprise to me as I've been listening to her for only four or five months.
posted by Kattullus at 3:26 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

In seventh grade we needed to memorize prepositions for an oral quiz in English class. My 12 year old self took this very seriously and I got my portable tape recorder and recorded myself reading the list of prepositions from our grammar book for 30 minutes straight. Each night for a week I would then replay the recording as I was going to bed (I had read somewhere that this technique got the words into your subconscious or something.)

I think our English teacher probably wanted us to know a dozen or so, on the day of the quiz I stood up in front of the whole class and began reciting (it's been 37 years, but as the Lord is my witness I'm typing the following strictly from memory).

Aboard, about, above, across, against, along, amid, among, around, as, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides ,between, beyond, but, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, outside, over, past, per, plus, regarding, round, save, since, than, through, to, toward, towards, under, underneath, until, up, upon, versus, with, within, without.

Not only did I know them cold, but it was fast.

That was in 1982. Every 5 years or so it comes in handy as a parlor trick, but that's about it.
posted by jeremias at 3:41 PM on April 8, 2019 [13 favorites]

I also still remember my Grade 9 English teacher's example sentences for indirect and direct object, predicate adjective, and predicate nominative: "Randy tossed Elmer an apple. Randy is smart. Randy is my friend." Mr. Bellonte taught me grammar. Mr. Bellonte was smart. Mr. Bellonte was my teacher.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:15 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

like many people who lived in Toronto in the 90s I can still order from Pizza Nova or Pizza Pizza from their radio ads (439-oh oh oh oh and 967-eleven, eleven). If you know the tunes the way I've written the numbers makes sense...

Also the part of Ontario where I grew up had tv feeds from upper state New York so a bunch of us from my high school can still burst out with "Buffalo's got a spirit talking proud, talking proud"
posted by biggreenplant at 5:03 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a little memory palace, which is the pathway at work from the elevator to my office and has 17 "spots" which can each be used twice, there and back. I use it to memorize set lists at concerts I attend, and it works beautifully. Even if I'm drunk. If I know I'll be able to make notes soon after, I can increase the "stops" along the path to about 52, but it's harder. If I trained myself I don't doubt I could get up into the hundreds, but... I use it for set lists, and they don't often make it beyond 20-30 songs so there's no need.

I've also used it to memorize poems when I worked at a bookstore and had time to kill (and access to books of poetry), but that's a slightly different process. You need to have a good grasp of each line via "brute" memorization, the memory palace will only help you keep them in order (but of course, often the first couple of words in a line is enough to bring back the entire thing, and the palace will bring back the first couple of words).

I found out about the concept from reading Francis Yates' "The Art of Memory".
posted by lefty lucky cat at 6:37 PM on April 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

I can count to 100 in German, French and Hausa. I cannot speak a lick of German, French or Hausa!

Also, when I was a wee lass, about 36 years ago, I read this book, the title of which is lost to the sands of time, in which I encountered this masterpiece:
(sung to the tune of while shepherds watched their flocks by night)

While shepherds watched their turnip tops
All in a boiling pot,
The angel of the Lord came down
And scoffed the blinking lot.
posted by ramix at 7:14 PM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

One day just before summer break in 1978 (I must've been 14), Tracy, a girl I barely knew in another class, wrote out her phone number and showed it to me saying "mum's out all day on weekdays". I've never forgotten that number...
posted by unearthed at 3:47 AM on April 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

In college I memorized the slogan on the Budweiser label (This is the famous Budweiser beer. We know of no other beer which costs so much to brew and age...etc.) 25 years later I still remember it, even though I stopped drinking Bud long ago.
posted by lyssabee at 6:10 AM on April 9, 2019

For the second-grade play, a hard-hitting drama about tooth decay, I had to memorize a song with a chorus that went:

Lac-tobacillus acid-o-phil-i,
Beware of us! Beware!

Things have since turned around for L. acidophilus (as properly spelled). It's considered a probiotic now, and if it still gets the blame for cavities, it's not the only one. My teeth held up pretty well for a long time, all things considered, but it's probably more down to genetics than to the DARE-level-intense oral-care instruction we got in elementary school.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:12 AM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I was somewhere around the age of 10 I went to a Detroit Red Wings game at Joe Louis arena. At one point I noticed a large piece of what was probably duct tape hanging from one of the exposed beams above the rink, wondered why it was there and how it got there, and self-consciously decided to see how long I could remember this mundane detail. I'm 45 now.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:27 AM on April 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

I have all the "helper" verbs in English memorized. I might have had to do it for a test? Still got it, though (Am, is, are, was, were, do, did, have, has, had, shall, will, may, can, might, could, would, should, be, being, been, must)
posted by frecklefaerie at 9:00 AM on April 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Countess Elena, I wonder if that's the same tooth-related play I was in first grade, which is way more years ago than I want to remember.
posted by hanov3r at 9:48 AM on April 9, 2019

In middle school, 50 digits of pi because I was bored.

In college, Tatiana's letter from Onegin, but I have to hum to get through it because I partly learned it through the operatic setting.

Lately: all the verses to the very fast "Getting Married Today" and 1/3 of a canto of the Inferno. Also Ozymandias but I doubt it stuck because I moved right on to the Dante. These, minus the song, were a response to a deathly dull weekly two-hour thing at work.
posted by Smearcase at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2019

Matt, Mark, Luke, John
Ro Co Co
Gal Eph Phil
Col Thes Thes
Tim Tim Ti
Phil Heb
Ja Pe (2) Jo (3) Ju
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:20 AM on April 9, 2019

Not only do I have a great memory for LITERAL trivia but I also suffer from mild intrusive thoughts. So I have a number of exactly remembered phrases from the past that I remember because I guess they roll off the tongue? And they get stuck in my head like songs. They don't really cause me any problems! I am just amused at my ability to remember, and inability to forget, phrases like "enjoy your big giant boobs, Tim Tam!" and "He had a frog which, until it died, was nice to look at." (The last one was a very well-crafted sentence; the first one... I don't know! A poster on a message board was really into talking about her big boobs AND THEY WEREN'T EVEN THAT BIG!)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:57 PM on April 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

To be clear: I didn't say these things! I just read or heard them 20ish years ago and am unable to forget them.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2019

I don't have a good answer for this week's question, but it's been an eventful few weeks. I passed my written comps and my oral proposal defense, so once I sort through a few revisions and finish out this last class, I'll be a phd candidate. The defense was on the anniversary of my mother's death, which I thought would leave me a hot mess (and I was feeling all the feels), but worrying about my defense left my dwelling less on the day (and I had amazing friends who turned up at 8:30 in the morning to here me talk, one of who is now practicing all his new vocabulary, to much hilarity). I think mom would be happy with how I did, even if she'd have no idea what I was talking about.

This past week (immediately after my defense), I went to my discipline's annual meeting/conference. I got assaulted when I was drunk at the one last year, so I was a bit verklempt going into it, but I did my breathing and roomed with people who weren't sleezeballs looking to take advantage of me and went to a session on "alcohol and the academy" and didn't drink (it will be a year of sobriety on Sunday, y'all!) and did great at my poster presentation and had an amazing time with my friends (ice cream and vegetarian tacos our last night in town was so much a nicer end to this year's meeting), and my wonderful friends let me vent when I needed to and gave me lots of us hugs, and this was 1000000 times better than last year, and I'm feeling a lot better about everything right now, including my place in my academic field and my life.
posted by joycehealy at 3:31 PM on April 9, 2019 [13 favorites]

I came up with a great stupid joke today. It requires a small bit of knowledge about archaic Greek.

OK, so there was this new fraternity on campus, ΓΓΓ

But of course, they were opposed by their bitter rivals


Get it? ha! ha ha!
posted by duffell at 5:48 PM on April 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

I don't know! A poster on a message board was really into talking about her big boobs AND THEY WEREN'T EVEN THAT BIG!
--posted by chesty_a_arthur

posted by drlith at 6:07 PM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think I speak for most of us when I say that I'm rather more curious about the life and death of the frog.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:56 PM on April 9, 2019

Counterpoint: I don't like to get into frog deaths, you know, in any great detail.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:35 PM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Congratulations on all the above joycehealy!
posted by ellieBOA at 9:36 PM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


Impresses the heck out of carter jr., who finds the last few syllables to be hilarious.
posted by carter at 4:17 AM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ohhhh I think I can still sing the first verse of the Welsh national anthem. I don't speak Welsh nor know if I'm pronouncing it in a coherent dialect.

Bunch of hymns from school. Home phone number.

My therapist's suggested I learn some things to combat anxiety so I'm trying to do that, with a not-especially-wordy brain. I think this thread is full of wordy people but any method suggestions still appreciated!
posted by lokta at 10:49 AM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

lokta, I don't know how you'll feel about this, but my therapist had me do a sheet kind of like this one on values, because I was having trouble defining myself. I put my own spin on it, boiled it down to five things that I use to describe myself, and when I am anxious I remind myself of those five things. I wrote the initials of the five words on a tiny piece of paper which I taped to the edge of my monitor at work. It helps me!
posted by wellred at 11:02 AM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I never called it, but I still remember the 900 number to talk to Santa, from back when having a 900 number for Santa wasn't illegal but merely super unethical.
posted by ckape at 6:34 PM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, to be fair, the poor guy's got to have some source of income! Elf feed ain't exactly free, y'know.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:59 PM on April 10, 2019

Phone numbers are a curious aspect of all this: first of all, those of us above a certain age grew up without phones with programmable memories, so memorizing numbers was just a thing you did. I can instantly tell you the home numbers both parents and both sets of grandparents had in 1979, although both parents have moved at least twice and all my grandparents are long deceased.

As well, the marrying of numbers and letters on the keypad was a great boost to memorization. My boss in 1990 had a phone number that spelled out HEY-ERIC. It is a pity his name was Dean.

And I remarked once before on the site that years ago my friend Greg had the cell number 707-4734. I remarked idly one day that that spelled 707-GREG, which he had never noticed. A few months later he moved into a new apartment building and had one of those setups where when visitors pressed the buzzer in the lobby, it went not to an intercom on the wall in your apartment but to your phone. By chance, he wound up living in apartment 707. Yes, you could press a button marked 707, 707-GREG would ring, and Greg would answer. It had a neatness and unity of theme that appealed to me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:03 PM on April 10, 2019 [11 favorites]

Phone numbers are a curious aspect of all this: first of all, those of us above a certain age grew up without phones with programmable memories, so memorizing numbers was just a thing you did.

I realized recently that I haven't learned a new phone number in this century. Not for lack of needing to -- I just don't bother anymore because I carry all the phone numbers I need with me at all times anyway, and usually, "dialing" someone is tapping their name anyway.
posted by Etrigan at 6:12 AM on April 11, 2019

I don't know my home phone number.
posted by signal at 8:03 AM on April 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

A lot of Dorothy Parker poems from when I was in high school.

Song of Perfect Propriety

Oh, I would like to ride the seas
A roaring buccaneer.
A cutlass banging at my knees
A dirk behind my ear.
And when my captives' chains would clank
I'd howl with glee and drink
And then throw out the quivering plank
And watch the beggars sink.

Oh I would straddle gory decks
And dig in laden sands,
And know the feel of throbbing necks
Between my knotted hands.
Oh I would like to strut and curse
Among my blackguard crew
But I am writing little verse
As little ladies do.

Oh I would like to dance and laugh
And pose and preen and sway
And rip the hearts of men in half
And toss the bits away.
I'd stroll beyond the ancient bounds
And tap at shuttered gates
And hear the prettiest of sounds
The clink of shattered fates.

[Huh, I thought I still had the whole thing, but there's a half-stanza missing, I think]
Oh, I would bind my slaves with thongs
That cut, and burn, and chill.
But I am writing little songs,
As little ladies will.

And other poetry -- More Parker, a couple of Hopkins sonnets, a couple of Shakespeare, Jabberwocky, the first few verses of The Hunting of the Snark, little bits of Frost (Rose is a rose, and was always a rose, but the theory now goes that the apple's a rose, and the pear is, and so's the plum I suppose. And the dear only knows, what will next prove a rose. You, of course, are a rose, but were always a rose), the beginning of Kubla Khan, Ozymandius (which I come close to but rarely get perfect. Something about the enjambment makes me drop a line near the end); a silly thing from Robert Browning about a singer and a sculptor who might have fallen in love when they were young and poor but didn't.

Most of it I picked up half-accidentally and realized I was close enough to get it solid if I paid a little attention to it. And most of it isn't precise: I'm mostly remembering the rhyme words and interpolating at about 90% accuracy.

I'm 47 now, and this is almost all from right after college or earlier. I've thought about deliberately adding more, I like having poems in my head for when I'm bored. But it's hard to make things stick the same way now.
posted by LizardBreath at 9:42 AM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

A funny love song in Samoan. My Samoan was never good, and now it's basically gone, so I don't know if the version I remember is still accurate enough to be comprehensible to a Samoan speaker.

Rough English translation: Oh, my honey, my foremost honey, I compare you to a can of name-brand corned beef. Or high quality corned beef generally, or a biscuit cake from Fiji, or Chinese chop suey with tomatoes and peas.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:05 AM on April 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

"Comma, semicolon; comma, semicolon; comma, comma, comma, semicolon; comma, semicolon; semicolon; period."

This is the order of punctuation in John Donne's "Meditation XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions," also known as "No man is an island." In 7th grade, my English class had to memorize the piece and then be able to write the whole thing down. Why? Who the fuck knows. But this was the only way I was going to get all of the punctuation correct.
posted by tzikeh at 11:04 AM on April 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

I frankly admit that I love the work of John Donne, but not specifically for his punctuation.

I had to do the same think in my first year of high school English for the "quality of mercy is not strained" speech from The Merchant of Venice, which I now cannot recall beyond the first line.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:04 AM on April 19, 2019

I used to have trouble memorizing digits of pi. The trick is chunking it:


looks impenetrable, but once you realize that's

3. 142857 142857 142857 142857 142857 ...

it's a much more straightforward process.

Either I'm not getting the joke, or...?
posted by tzikeh at 8:08 AM on April 19, 2019

....Yeah, I had to go look up the digits of pi -

I used to have trouble memorizing digits of pi. The trick is chunking it:


That's not accurate, though: here's what pi actually is -

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on April 19, 2019

Either I'm not getting the joke, or...?

Pi is irrational, never ending and never settling into a repeating pattern.
posted by hanov3r at 8:40 AM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

22/7.0 =

3. 142857 142857 142857 ...
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:44 PM on April 19, 2019

22/7.0 =

3. 142857 142857 142857 ...

Yeah except that's not pi.
posted by tzikeh at 8:18 PM on April 19, 2019

Pi? What's pi?
posted by duffell at 8:37 PM on April 19, 2019

> Yeah except that's not pi.

That's the basis of the joke.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:44 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I note with some disappointment that user 23881 has not commented here in over a decade.
posted by duffell at 8:49 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

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