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Independents' Day

Trigger Likes French Nudes, and other useful mnemonics

One of the things that Jobbing Doctor used to do at medical school was to think up or learn ways to remember long lists of things like blood vessels, enzymes, nerves etc. from memory.

One of the things that Jobbing Doctor used to do at medical school was to think up or learn ways to remember long lists of things like blood vessels, enzymes, nerves etc. from memory.

This was the era where you had to regurgitate this information for a viva examination, and therefore having a way of remembering things was most helpful.

I am thinking of this because I have been teaching my second year students some basic knowledge in the last weeks, and we are moving on to the cranial nerves. Many doctors remember some of the ruder mnemonics, although I have to say that this was from a period before the feminisation of medical school. We cannot use the ones we used in previous times as they are, well, rather too ‘laddish'.

The cranial nerves. It is useful to be forced to teach them as an experienced doctor as I have to be up to speed with them in knowing where these things are, and what they do. I was forced to come up with an alternative that wouldn't offend my young charges, and wouldn't get me in trouble as a ‘dirty old man'. It also reminded me of my youth, where the local fish and chip shop used to serve Veal and Ham Pie (with chips).

So: Oh! Oh! Oh! Try To Ask For A Good Veal And Hampie.

That is quite clean, and trips off the tongue - unlike the impossible one which starts On Old Olympus Tower and Tops......

This is the one I have used in my teaching this term. Although I was rather taken by the parallel mnemonic about the function of these nerves (sensory, motor or both), that says Some Say Marry Money But My Brother Says Big Boobs Matter More. This is a little more risqué, to be sure, but quite memorable.

There are other mnemonics that we use to remember various things, and a couple that I can still remember what it stood for, and one or two where I can remember the mnemonic but not what it meant.

I mean, Trigger Likes French Nudes is one I remember after nearly 40 years (Trigger was the nickname for our anatomy lecturer, Dr Rogers), but I don't know what it is about. I am reminded of the classical Ten Zulus Bugger My Cat, which might offend at least three groups of people - gays, cat-lovers and, erm, Zulus. These are the branches of the facial nerve.

I wondered if there were any new ones, but the students didn't really have any rude ones at all. They did come up with Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can't Handle and even more benignly She Looks Too Pretty, Try To Catch Her. These are all the bones in the wrist.

I wondered if they had to name all the enzymes in the Krebs cycle or be able to draw the anatomy of the brachial plexus. Blank looks all around. When I remember the hours that I spent mugging up on these things so I could pass anatomy and biochemistry exams, I realise that this was all superficial learning, and quite appropriately dumped out of my cortex as soon as possible.

Heretically, I have told them that the immunology should be learnt parrot fashion and forgotten as soon as the exam is over, as the useful immunology I learnt could be put on one side of A4 paper. In a very large font.

One I do remember (and what it stood for) is Aunt Sally Likes Fornicating On Pete's Soft Mattress. Branches of external carotid artery.

Now, why did I remember that one?

Jobbing Doctor Jobbing Doctor

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