Key’s Cupboard : Pontiff Mnemonic

With the Pope’s visit to Blighty imminent, now is an opportune time to acquaint Dabbler readers with my enormously helpful Pontiff Mnemonic. The chances are that in the coming days you will be accosted in the street by one of those vexing persons who shouts “Oi, you! Name all the Popes in chronological order, beginning with St Peter and continuing through the centuries to the current incumbent!” It is easy enough to recall Peter himself, his successors Linus and Anacletus, and even Clement I and Evaristus, but many people, not just Roman Catholics, get a bit vague by the second century AD. That is why I devised a fantastically useful mnemonic – so useful, indeed, that Michael Meacher MP keeps an A3 copy of it pinned up on his office wall. [That is absolutely true. I have never met the man, but I have the information on unimpeachable authority.] So, having familiarised yourself with the list of Popes, all you need do is to recite this simple mnemonic, and the initial letters of each word will prompt your pea-sized yet pulsating brain to recall the names of the Pontiffs. And to make sure it lodges in your cranium, there are many exclamation marks, adding that frisson of excitement which makes learning fun!

Plastic lantern. Astounding canal! Enormous, ailing squirrel. Torn hessian phosphorescent armbands. Stampeding elks! Vain zombies. Curious, unlikely ponds. Asbestos flap. Custard! Laughable soup. Stinking Dennis felt extremely cantankerous. More moorhens. Extra moorhens! Several magnificent jamjars. Liquid dental sluicing agents. Improbable zoo! Budgerigar. Caustic soda. Limitless hooting. Salacious foreign gentlemen. Argumentative shibboleth. Horrible juxtapositions. Floozie’s birdbath. Jumbled antennae. Shoddy vellum packet. Jasper’s bandage paste. German sausage. Balconies. Bees. Dead bees! Hideous squashed jumping Thuringian moths. Exciting villages and dismal airfields. Larks behind Javanese crime syndicate. Jackets. Jumpers. Spillages. Clark Gable’s gazebo. Zither sounds. Suspected picnic situation alert. Lightning strikes! Peewit emergency! Violent goose scenario! Lapwings. Besmirched Norwegian, affable Jutlander. Maniac at Saint Fabrizio’s bedside. Stupendous rhubarb. Thrown javelin breaks locked shed accident. Little juggler’s little socks. Juggler’s little socks. Mustard, all jars labelled badly. Jim’s brontosaurus! Before Jim, Jack’s golden shampoo jar, just shampoo, but just black, sickening, baleful grease. Can beetles die? Lovely violet splendour. Nits and gnats. Vituperative uproar. Plangent grovelling. Check his impenetrable calculations! Let’s eat anchovies and asparagus! Let’s uproot gooseberries! Come, come, impudent hysterical git! Canned ink. Alternative ultraviolet canister gas. I always jinx neurasthenic moonstruck hobbledehoys, nor can but be clattering jubilantly by crapulent infidels. Unspeakable gruel, unless boiled indefatigably. Gather more ergot. No cups. Perfect pods. Startling, incandescent, amazing pods! Jewelled, luminous and crimson pods! Jellied messes. Partridges. Peewits. Press-ganged shabby urchins glorying in crime. Levers. Prongs. Great useless impenetrabilia. Aniseed chocolate cake. It aids ignorance, cake. I brought clairvoyant badgers, champion curlews, pigs, pigs, Latvian pigs, grotesque pigs, lamentable pigs, bad pigs, pale, jabbering pigs, jabbering pigs, jabbering pigs! Bilgewater.

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

6 thoughts on “Key’s Cupboard : Pontiff Mnemonic

  1. Brit
    September 3, 2010 at 08:41

    An extremely handy aide-memoire, Frank. I might well laminate this and follow the example of Michael Meacher MP.

    I brought clairvoyant badgers, champion curlews, pigs, pigs, Latvian pigs, grotesque pigs, lamentable pigs, bad pigs, pale, jabbering pigs, jabbering pigs, jabbering pigs! is a particularly powerful line.

  2. Worm
    September 3, 2010 at 09:47

    might start a band called ‘Violent goose scenario’

  3. Nige
    September 3, 2010 at 10:26


    ian russell
    September 3, 2010 at 10:41

    Shouldn’t it be in Latin? Thank God I’m atheist.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:48

    So, who’s going to set this as plainsong? Imagine chanting it really lugubriously … I’m almost converted.

    Banished To A Pompous Land
    September 3, 2010 at 15:21

    Ian, as much as the idea appeals, if it was in Latin how on earth could we poor souls without a Latin education be expected to remember it?

    What use is a mnemonic one can’t remember? Really!

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