Washy Ad Jeffy

By JoCo June 13, 2008

When I was a wee lad my father taught me the greatest mnemonic device in the history of mnemonic devices. It’s called “Washy Ad Jeffy” and it’s a little jingle/rhyme thingie that helps you remember the order of all the US presidents and how many terms (or partial terms) they served – the number of syllables in the nickname is the number of terms. My father learned it from Mrs. Govan, his 8th grade history teacher at Memorial Junior High School in Ohio. He believes she made it up, but he’s not entirely sure. At the time he learned it, and of course when he taught it to me, it only went up to Eisenhower. I have added to it over the years, so really it’s a collaboration between Mrs. Govan (maybe?) and me.

I’ve always wanted to set this to music, and with the recent intense primary season, it came back into my mind again. I added the little B section in which I tell all the little children that they can be president too someday, a possibility that has already become that much more possible for many kids, regardless of what happens in November. So yeah, this one’s for the Democrats: both of them.

Below is the video of me recording it – there’s no multi-tracking, it’s all live (I’m playing a tambourine and an empty kitty litter jug with my feet). And to save you the trouble of extracting the audio, I’ve made an mp3 as well:

Washy Ad Jeffy

You can get it for free or else pay for it, your choice.


Laura says

i love a mnemonic device, especially in song form.

i just watched the daily show from wednesday, nice work.

Oliver says

Sounds beautiful.

Angelastic says

Neat... I just noticed this on the store after clicking a link from zefrank's page back here (after having finally figured out where those Ze Frank songs came from). What a nice surprise. Of course I already know all of the presidents thanks to The Presidents, and I have no need to know them, not being American. But it sounds good.

adventureran says

Love the new song. Thanks! Can't wait for the Cleveland show!

Marcy says

I like it! Don't ya' think you should stick Obama on the end, just in case? ha ha ha ha ha!!!! Would you put up a lyric sheet please?


Madame Maracas says

Thanks for the audio extraction, you rock me all the way to Skullcrusher Mountain and back again, every time!

IndigoMonkey says

Awesome, as always. :)

dezrah says

This is one of my favorite birthday presents ever, thanx!

(and I'll back Marcy with a lyric request)

Angelastic says

The lyrics are here: http://www.jonathancoulton.com/songdetails/Washy%20Ad%20Jeffy

(there's an advantage to discovering a new song on the store before finding it on the blog!)

Angelastic says

Oh yeah, and the chords and tabs, because he doesn't call himself suuupaa for nothing: http://www.jonathancoulton.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=752&page=1#Item_4

Sokkratez says

Love it, man.

Elaine says

When I was in junior high I must have been tested on all the presidents up to Lincoln, because for some reason I made up a mnemonic just for those 16:

Wash all jeans Monday morning, after jumping very high to pick the freshest peaches before lunch.

In the intervening 20+ years I've tried to expand it, but nothing has ever stuck.

Glenn Peters says

Oh no! I'd only just yesterday finally gotten all your music on my iPod! Now those minutes of work are ruined! RUINED!

You do realize this is a perfect weapon to control the fate of the nation by stating the name of the next president in the lyrics, don't you?

Jen says

Ah, peeps, the fate of the free world hangs in the balance -- so if you hear this song performed live, be sure to follow the "W" in this song with an immediate, definitive Standing O!

Jen says

P.S. More kitty litter jug!

CoderBlues says

Good tune.

Erin V says

Nice! :)

VonKraut says

Like the song, nice finger pickin!

Tindomiel says

Squee! That is adorable.

Demetrius says

"Jen Says:"

Yes! My car sports an "FW" sticker proclaiming me to be a proud citizen of the Free World.

Gitelson says

Cute, man. Now all you have to do is figure out how to indicate which were killed, died naturally, or resigned...

I learned a narrative mnemonic in grade school through Hayes, then wrote my own coda for the year I taught U.S. History, though it doesn't have the syllabic thing going on. Here it is, for your reading pleasure:

In Washington, Adam and Jeff made money for an adventure to Jacksonville. At the bureau, they put hairy tiles on the poker table to fill more holes left by a cannon when Lincoln jaunted through the grand haze. In a car field, Arthur split hairs to leave land to his next of kin, whose rows of taffy willows were hard and cool. However, only a rose in a true man's eyes can die jauntily; and only Nick's son could afford to cart ray guns or bus his clients to the butcher.

Jamie McCarthy says


So sad.

winegeek says

Thank you for such a sweet, sweet melody!
(you know you are going to have to make a children's album of songs, right???)

Dobblesworth says

Wow, very nice item JoCo. Now I just need to play The Presidents in synch with it so I know which ones you're referring to in places.

LilMarauder says

"I’m playing a tambourine and an empty kitty litter jug with my feet"
I was wondering what that was... not the tambourine...

Another great one! Looking forward to seeing you in Cleveland!

Grant says

I love the specifically because the vocals lay exactly in my shamefully limited vocal range, so I get to sing along without embarrassing myself.

Extremely catchy. Wonderful work.

selene says

happy dadys day!!!!!!!!!

Jen says

I put together "an historical remix" of the song, with some of the extra info Gitelson mentions woven in. Enjoy.

Andrea says

@marcy NOOOOO you'll jinx it! :O

Jim Boggia says

Hey - Mr. School House Rock, Bob Dorough called. He said it really doesn't help the kids much when your vocal is so low in the mix you can't hear the words. But YOU WOULDN'T CARE ABOUT ACTUALLY TEACHING THE KIDS SOMETHING, WOULD YOU. FREAKIN' LONG-HAIR!

I'd like to point out that *I* thought it was great but Bob doesn't have internet and I promised him I'd pass that along.

JoCo says

Jimbo: yep, Bob's absolutely right. Too late! Sounded great in my head though...

SevinPackage says

Sounds great, JoCo! I still prefer 'The Presidents', but hey, nothing wrong with expanding on the idea.

Len did a great job on the VTAW - and so fast, too!

Maybe next time, you could do a version where you sort them by how good they were at being the President. That would put the ol' forums in a frenzy!

Ryan Something says

exactly what part of Ohio was this "Memorial Junior High School" located?

there's a "Memorial" here in northern ohio where i live, but i'm sure there are many around....

awesome song by the way!

JoCo says

Ryan: Lyndhurst?

Wayne says

This is great and all, but shouldn't this be done with the list of famous people with dyslexia?

Ryan Something says

Joco: nope, nevermind than

snortingmarmots says

Wonderful song. Right up there with the mnemonic song for pi over at Songs to Wear Pants To:


Roman V says

@JoCO! Yes, Lyndhurst. I went to that Memorial Junior High.

CJ says

I just stubled on to the Washy Ad Jeffy song when doing a Goggle search for a rhyme about the US Presidents. Someone told me one years ago that started with "Washington and Jefferson..." and there was something about painting a fence. I could never find that rhyme, but I really loved your song. So much so that I played it over and over. I loved that your song teaches how many terms each President served.
Kind regards,

Len says

I, too went to South Euclid/Lyndhurst schools and learned this in grade school in the 50's. Must have been around 4th or 5th grade at Anderson school, because I distinctly remember having to change "Ike" to "Ikey," when he won his second election in 1956.

Len Blake

JGR says

Re: How to determine who died / was asassinated in office: All presidents up intil Reagan (Who was shot, but didn't die) elected in a year ending in zero (1940,1960,1980 etc) were either asassinated or died in office.

I don't remember if this goes back all the way to Washigton; but it seems to have stopped at Reagan.

Thanks for the song! Cool!

Nic says

I've been searching for this for 10 years. I wanted to teach it to my kids. I learned it in grade five, upson elementary school in Euclid Ohio in the 70's, and my teacher was miss bugeda. Thank you a million times!!