Words & Stuff

N: Crotchety Old Crocheters

(5 October 1997)

Various memory-related games involve reciting a list of items; each time you recite the list, you add a new item to it. The act of reciting the full list each time makes it much easier to remember the entire list as it grows.

Some years back, Ed Cook taught us a list of eleven items to memorize. I wasn't paying full attention, so never learned it, but others who were there learned it so well they could still recite most of it years later. The list started with "one duck" and then "two squawking geese"; each additional item grew longer and sillier, employing rhyme, consonance, assonance, alliteration, and other forms of echoing sounds. The ninth item on the list, for instance, was "nine apathetic, diabetic, diuretic old men on roller skates with a marked proclivity for procrastination and sloth."

We later learned that this list derived from a novelty song of some sort, written in the '50s or '60s, called something like "The Indian Memory Trick." Ed and Jim Moskowitz were so taken with the list that they came up with some additional items, and then took turns coming up with items for a new similar list. If you feel the urge to try to memorize it, speak the first item aloud (preferably in chorus with a group of other people), then the first two in order, then the first three, and so on. Alternatively, come up with your own list!

One confectionery.

Two obsidian frames.

Three stylized t-shirt logos.

Four fire hydrants (in use).

Five women on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Six pools of ichor of unknown depths.

Seven fleeting images of virgin days long past.

Eight Elvis impersonators inching along the Alaskan highway.

Nine illustrious, industrious leaders of the grand Capitalist Revolution.

Ten rickety, crotchety old crocheters with a secret scheme to sew a bridge across the English Channel.

Eleven bright, light, flightless nightingales crooning a sad song of their sorrowful plight.

Twelve tin tubs of rutabagas, radishes, and squash, soon to be squeezed into mush for Her Majesty.

Thirteen crazed and craven killers cantankerously carving crude cookie-cuttings from the cold and cloying corpse of a courageous Caped Crusader caught cautiously creeping through the corridors of crime.

Fourteen messianic, oceanic, titanic turtles in drag, who do dastardly deeds and terrify the townsfolk to pass the time while stranded in the bland panhandle of Oklahoma.

Fifteen thousand footprints of an ugly old curmudgeon as he plunges through the dungeons with a hundred bloody sponges, a pungent purple unguent, and a lunchbox full of fungus.


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Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>