A Latin mnemonic verse or mnemonic rhyme is a mnemonic device for teaching and remembering Latin grammar. Such mnemonics have been considered by teachers to be an effective technique for schoolchildren to learn the complex rules of Latin accidence and syntax. One of their earliest uses was in the ''Doctrinale'' by Alexander of Villedieu written in 1199 as an entire grammar of the language comprising 2,000 lines of doggerel verse. Various Latin mnemonic verses continued to be used in English schools until the 1950s and 1960s.
Authors who have borrowed Latin mnemonics from Latin textbooks for their own works include Thomas Middleton and Benjamin Britten. For example, in Britten's opera ''The Turn of the Screw'', he used the words of a Latin mnemonic that he had found in a Latin grammar book belonging to Myfanwy Piper's aunt for Miles' "malo" song.
Jacques Brel wrote a song in 1962 about a Latin mnemonic verse. Schoolchildren have had varying opinions of them in later life. Some mnemonics have been recited to hymn tunes.
== History ==
Mnemonic rhymes have been considered by teachers to be an effective technique for schoolchildren to learn the complex rules of Latin accidence and syntax.
One of the earliest uses of mnemonic verse to teach Latin was the ''Doctrinale'' by Alexander of Villedieu, which was an entire grammar of the language comprising 2,000 lines of doggerel verse produced in 1199. It was used as a standard Latin grammar textbook across Europe for three centuries, and continued to be used in Italy and other places until relatively recently. Apart from Terentianus Maurus' ''De litteris syllabis et metris Horatii'', discovered at Bobbio in 1493, all ancient grammatical texts prior to the ''Doctrinale'' had been prose works, with the only verse therein being citations from Roman poets; although some, such as those by Petrus Helias and Paolo da Camaldoli, contain mnemonic verses. Critics of Alexander at the time considered it to be "a monstrous idea to squeeze an entire grammar into verses".
The verse form of ''Doctrinale'' in fact arose by accident. Alexander had been employed by the bishop of Dol-de-Bretagne to teach Latin to his nephews, using the grammar of Priscian. He had noticed that the boys could not remember Priscian as prose, so he translated its rules into verse form. When Alexander was away one day, the bishop asked his nephews a grammar question, and was surprised when they answered in verse. The bishop persuaded Alexander to compile and to publish an entire book of such verses, which became the ''Doctrinale''.〔
Many grammarians adopted Alexander's innovation soon afterwards, including John of Garland (incidentally Alexander's harshest critic) who wrote grammatical treatises in verse, Simon di Vercelli ("Maestro Sion") who wrote ''Novum Doctrinale'' somewhere between 1244 and 1268 (it only being transcribed by one of his pupils when he died in 1290), and Everard de Béthune who wrote ''Graecismus'' in 1212. From that point onwards, it was rare for a grammatical work to ''not'' at least contain the principal rules as mnemonic verses. Even the new humanistic grammars of the 15th century included mnemonic verses excerpted from ''Doctrinale'' or other versified grammars. This method of Latin grammar instruction was used by teachers well into the 20th century, it still being used in English schools in the 1950s and 1960s.〔〔
Thomas Sheridan wrote several mnemonic poems, with the intention of helping students to remember various parts of Latin grammar, prosody, and rhetoric, which were published as ''An Easy Introduction of Grammar in English for the Understanding of the Latin Tongue'' and ''A Method to Improve the Fancy''. One of the shorter ones is "Of Knowing the Gender of Nouns by Termination":
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