Some Say Marry Money

Why medical students love dirty jokes.

Posted November 3, 2014 | Reperceived by Abigail Fagan



Medical students need mnemonics offered the endmuch less lists of symptoms, diseases, body components, and functions for which they are responsible. Peter of Ravenna, a 15th-century mnemonist and also writer, suggested that students “excite” their memories by using imperiods of “beautiful virgins” to aid encode them. Perhaps it is not surprising then, that clinical mnemonics are scandalous and also sexist. Students’ mnemonics, many of which are passed on from one generation to the next, tell us something crucial about memory. They likewise tell us about the medical professionals who use them and also highlight the subversive nature of medicine.

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Soon after she has pulled on her initially double set of latex gloves and plunged them into the body cavity of a corpse, the clinical student is faced via the 12 cranial nerves. Emanating straight from the brain, the cranial nerves underlie the five senses, the muscles of facial expression, our blood pressure and pulse, our digestion and elimination, and our capacity to sheight and also to swallow—in other words, virtually whatever. So august are the cranial nerves that they are dedetailed by Roguy numerals and bear Greek and Latin names. Thus they are an obstacle to remember.



Cranial nerve mnemonics usage 12-word sentences, each word of which starts with the very same letter as the cranial nerve it represents. One old chestnut goes like this: “On Old Olympus’s Towering Top, A Finn and also A German Viewed A Hop”.

Decades after graduating from medical college, that rings a bell. But infinitely more memorable is the adhering to, rereferred to as by many kind of doctors old and young: "O, O, O, To Touch And Feel A Girl’s Vagina, Ah Heaven!”


A corollary explains whether each of the cranial nerves is a sensory nerve, a motor nerve, or both: “Some Say Marry Money; But My Brvarious other Says Big Boobs Matter Most”.

Used together, the mnemonics tell us that cranial nerve IV, the trochlear, is a motor nerve, while cranial nerve IX, the glossopharyngeal nerve, has both sensory and also motor features.


Before responding—as one must, because it’s true—that these mind-benders are degrading to women and contribute to a culture which permits male doctors to view women as sexual playthings, the reader can take into consideration what provides the “dirty joke” so helpful for student medical professionals. Most important, it functions. Even prior to the birth of Christ, a textbook of rhetoric created in Latin instructed students to memorize speeches via memory aids that were lewd, unbelievable, or hilarious.


When I started clinical institution, I was astonimelted at all the things I didn’t know. It struck me as starray that I had actually never before even wondered about many of the things I was learning around my body. The volume of indevelopment that is new to the clinical student is itself an indicator of exactly how alien our bodies deserve to be to us. Learning around the body is a subversive act in a society which shames us for wanting to know. For the clinical student, digging right into the body—both literally, in anatomy lab, and also figuratively, in the classroom—deserve to threaten the balance she has actually completed between intellectual curiosity and the culturally figured out need to remain ignorant. The product to be learned is large and psychologically complicated, and also as George Legman wrote in his evaluation of folk stories, The Rationale of the Dirty Joke, jokes assist us deny the import of unacceptable realities.


In the initially years of medical college, the student will discuss sex-related functions through guys old enough to be her grandfather, and also percreate digital rectal examicountries to feel their prostate glands, and also observe young woguys in childbirth and also sew their torn vaginas in its aftermath. For some students, the initially nude body they ever before see will belengthy to a cadaver. Medical school confronts the student through the living and also dead body and also its sexuality. The student provides humor to make this tolerable, as Legmale pointed out: “This is possibly the principal function of the creation of humor, and also definitely of the accepting of things as humorous, such as cuckoldry, seduction, impotence, homosexuality, castration, fatality, disease, and also the Devil, which are obviously not humorous at all.”


When Peter of Ravenna argued that mnemonists utilize images of young virgins in memory palaces, he included, “This precept is useless to those who dischoose women and they will uncover it extremely tough to gather the fruits of this art.” Fortunately, medicine is not as monolithic as it supplied to be, and new mnemonics have actually occurred which prove him wrong. The website Minddrills.com has built up dozens of cranial nerve mnemonics, among my favorites being: "On Occasion Oliver Tries To Anally Finger Various Guys. Vaginas Are History!”


Whether a vagina is heaven or history, its prestige to the medical student at this particular minute is that it represents the vagus nerve. The mnemonic ensures that she remembers otherwise random words. More significantly, it helps her accommoday to what she is seeing, smelling, and also emotional every day—bodies. The medical student deals with facts—many type of, many type of of them—and also defends herself via wit.

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Anne Skomorowsky is a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center and also Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.