A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 24, 2010
“A Rat In The House May/Might Eat The Ice Cream” ("arithmetic” spelling aid)

"A Rat In The House May/Might Eat The Ice Cream” is a mnemonic aid that some have used to spell the word “arithmetic.” The line “a rat in the house may eat the ice cream” has been cited in print since at least 1936.

Other spelling mnemonics using food include “Never Eat Chips, Eat Salad Sandwiches And Remain Young ("necessary") and “Betty Eats Cakes And Uncle Sells Eggs” ("because").


The Free Dictionary
Acronym Definition
ARITHMETIC A Rat in the House Might Eat the Ice Cream (spelling mnemonic)
ARITHMETIC A Rat in Tom’s House Might Eat Tom’s Ice Cream (spelling mnemonic)
ARITHMETIC A Red Indian Thought He Might Eat Tomatoes in Church (spelling mnemonic)

Google Books
Our Times:
The United States, 1900-1925

By Mark Sullivan
New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
1936
Pg. 130:
To give young minds a short cut to the spelling of polysyllabic words, there was an ingenious device with which one learned to spell the word “Arithmetic” by memorizing a sentence “A rat in the house may eat the ice cream.”

2 October 1938, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 9, col. 7:
New Way to Remember
Spelling of “Arithmetic”

EL PASO, Ill., Oct. 1 (AP).—Margaret Ann Williamson simply could not spell “arithmetic” until her teacher gave her this sentence to think about before trying: “a rat in the house may eat the ice cream.”

Now Margaret strings together the first letters of each word and gets it.

Google Books
Paul Laurence Dunbar and his song
By Virginia Cunningham
New York, NY: Biblo and Tannen
1969 [©1947]
Pg. 9:
There were all sorts of spelling tricks, like remembering how to spell arithmetic by the sentence A rat in the house may eat the ice cream.

Google News Archive
23 January 1956, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “By the Way with Charles House,” pt. 2, pg. 1, col. 1:
IF I MAY BE FORGIVEN for belaboring a single subject, it is my intent to persist in expounding on the subject of aids to memory. Sentinel readers have turned up many a bright technique for remembering odd and various facts. For example, Mrs. margaret Hecker of Fond du Lac learned how to spell “arithmetic” back in her school days by taking the first letter of each word in the following sentence: A Rat In The House Might Eat The Ice Cream. And, Mrs. Hecker adds, “How is that for remembering 50 years?”

Google Books
Educational Psychology
By Walter Bernard Kolesnik
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
1963
Pg. 241:
For example, some children who can’t remember how to spell “arithmetic” are aided by recalling the initial letters of the words in the sentence, “A rat in the house might eat the ice cream.”

26 June 1985, Orlando (FL) Sentinel, “Keeping tabs on thingamajigs” by Lisanne Renner, pg. E1:
Or to spell arithmetic combine the first letter of each word in this sentence: A rat in the house may eat the ice cream.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Wednesday, November 24, 2010 • Permalink