This question is from the TV game show, "Million Dollar Mind Game" on ABC:

What phrase is "Richard of York gave battle in vain"'s American counterpart?

The contestants gave the final guess: "Moving upstream without a paddle", but the correct answer was "Rainbow".

I still don't get it. Why is the counterpart "Rainbow"?

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    The correct answer shouldn't have been "rainbow". The phrase describes a rainbow and so does the American counterpart "Roy G. Biv" not "rainbow" – Jim Apr 24 '15 at 5:44
  • When exactly did "Roy G. Biv" become an American counterpart? I've been an American all my life, and this is the first time I've ever seen it. (Nor had I ever seen any mnemonic, American or British, for the colors of the rainbow.) – jamesqf Apr 24 '15 at 19:28
  • @jamesqf - I can't answer your "when exactly" question, but it's worth pointing out that Sir Roy gets his own Wikipedia page, so the reference can't be too obscure. Incidentally, the first time I saw the name Roy G. Biv was in a physics course, in a unit on spectrometry. The fellow to my left was half my age but surprised I had never seen or heard it before. – J.R. Apr 26 '15 at 11:37

The phrase creates an acronym (initial letters) and also a mnemonic (memory assist device) for the visible spectrum, and so the colours of a rainbow.

The initial letters of 'Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain' are ROYGBIV (pronounced roy-ge-biv), which correspond to the main colours of the visible spectrum as Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.

An example of another mnenomic is 'I wish I could determine Pi' - counting the letters gives 1,4,1,5,9,2, and Pi is 3.141592... .

  • 1
    Another mnemonic is Never Eat Shredded Wheat, which corresponds to North, East, South, West, the directions on a compass. It's also worth noting that the American counterpart is the name of a person, Mr. Roy G. Biv. – DJMcMayhem Apr 24 '15 at 2:16
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    Who the *&#@ has to use a mnemonic to remember North, South, East and West? Or North, East, South and West? @DJMcMayhem – user6951 Apr 24 '15 at 10:26
  • I came up with 'Only Turnips Truly Find Favor' but I got stuck. – JonMark Perry Apr 24 '15 at 10:32
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    @Araucaria - So I suppose you're saying that the mnemonic isn't just designed to jog the memory on the names of the four directions, but to start at the top of the compass and go in a clockwise direction, thus putting each of them in their proper positions. Ah, that makes more sense. As for the pi mnemonic, I always liked "See, I have a rhyme assisting my feeble brain..." (more samples found here). – J.R. Apr 26 '15 at 11:30
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    @pazzo One, it's about the clockwise order like J.R. and Aruacaria are saying, and two, I learned that mnemonic when I was 6. – DJMcMayhem Apr 26 '15 at 12:05

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