I was practicing a paper to give to my Shakespeare Club titled, “Treatment of Women in Titus Andronicus.” Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, his first revenge tragedy, and in it are 14 killings, (nine of them on stage), six severed body parts, one rape, one live burial, one case of insanity and one of cannibalism — an average of 5.2 atrocities for each of the five acts, one atrocity for every 97 lines.
The play is dominated by male characters: emperors, soldiers, avengers. There are only three women, one of whom is a nurse with only 18 lines before she is whacked to death. That left only Lavinia and Tamora to write my paper about.
Lavinia is the only daughter of the Roman general, Titus Andronicus. Tamara, queen of the Goths, was captured by Titus Andronicus and then married to the emperor of Rome, Saturninus.
And it was the male characters whose names I was having trouble pronouncing. I was fine with Titus, Marcus and Aaron but the other names were not rolling off my tongue with the ease of Tom, Dick and Harry. I googled how to pronounce Saturninus, Bassianus, Chiron, Demetrius and Alarbus. But they were like broken concrete in a sidewalk — I kept stumbling over them.
I tried saying each name over and over. Then I realized unconsciously I was singing each one to the tune of “Boomer Sooner.”
“Sat-ur- NIGH-nus, Sat-ur-NIGH-nus,Sat-ur-NIGH-nus, Sat-ur- NIGH-nus...” Well, it was football season. I never got totally silver-tongued with the names — but it helped.
Boomer Sooner is one of my favorite songs. Which is a good thing, because it may be the only song the OU band knows as it is the only song I hear in the background of the football games on TV. It always sounds good to me.
After I’d practiced those names for awhile it occurred to me that, along with most of my friends, I am always complaining that I can’t remember things. Well, I thought, if Boomer Sooner works to help remember how to pronounce a Roman emperor’s name, why wouldn’t it work as a mnemonic device to remember other stuff?
I tried it out.
If I had to run to the grocery store for a few things without a list, I would chant,”bread and milk, bread and milk” on the way.
Next I tried it out on lists of things to do. “Pay the bills. Pay the bills.”
And errands to do. “Get some new socks. Get some new socks. Pick up cleaning. Pick up cleaning.”
And combinations I needed to remember. “Forty seven, fifty two. Forty seven, fifty two.”
As I was writing this, I googled to check the Boomer Sooner music. But as soon as it started to play, I automatically leaped to my feet and my heart started singing. It was hard to type while standing up so, reluctantly, I turned it off.
I hope by the time next year’s football season rolls around, “Boomer Sooner” is still my favorite song. And that I haven’t forgotten the words. Both of them.
Mary McClure lives in Lawton.