Mnemonic Weekly Tip: # 38          June 15, 2003
Multi-Vitamins and Food Supplements


The Problem
Multi-Vitamins and Food Supplements

This week I had a request from a teacher for a clue to help students read, spell and define the words unanimous and anonymous.  Many children and adults who have learning differences find these two words confusing.  Remembering that there are varying degrees of ability, disability, background and skill, I have observed a number of problems with these words. 

1)                  I use the word unanimous in the vocabulary section of the Cooper Screening of Information Processing.  Individuals whose vocabulary is underdeveloped will not be able to define this word.  Others who have some idea about unanimous will say that, “it has something to do with voting”.  And those who have difficulty distinguishing between unanimous and anonymous will define either of these words as “no one agrees”. 

 2)                  Some mispronounce these words using variations of anaimous and unonymous. 

 3)                  Some students do not understand that these words are adjectives and some think that anonymous is a noun, as in “You can be anonymous.”  Thinking that anonymous is a person. 

 4)                  Those children and adults who have poor decoding skills or have difficulty identifying the sounds in words find these two words difficult to read.  Since both words contain nine letters, both begin with a vowel and the second letters in an n, both words end with mous, they are easily confused.  

5)              Individuals who have poor spelling skills will spell both of these words in unusual ways from being far off to coming close. 

The Mnemonic: 

The clues listed below are designed to meet different needs for different students.  This week are the clues for pronunciation and meaning; next week will be the clues for spelling.   Some will only need one clue others will need more.  

Students who do not understand the structure of language do not know that both words are adjectives.  The suffix ous does not help them understand how these words are used with other parts of speech.  To help distinguish the definitions, the words a non and you are found in anonymous.  It is the word that describes a person or thing that is not identified.  The meaning is conveyed by remembering the concept of “a negative you” (a non you).  By weighting anonymous then the other word is unanimous meaning agreement.

A clue for pronunciation and reading is to teach the person that the first letter is
 pronounced alone not combined with the second letter u not un and a not an.  

     A number of teachers and students have asked to have the Mnemonic Clue of the Week sent to them each week. If you would like to receive this service, send your e-mail address to  
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Richard Cooper