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String-on-Finger Reminder

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He finally remembered that he had a trope to illustrate.

If someone wants to remember to do something, they'll tie some string around a finger and keep it there until after they've done it. The string can work because seeing the string will make them remember why they put it there. However, one way to play with this trope is for the person to forget anyway and then try to figure out what they tied the string on there for. Likely to be used by Forgetful Jones or an Absent-Minded Professor.

This trope was especially prevalent in the days before computers, but now that computers are portable and do a much better job of reminding you than this old method, this is a mostly Forgotten Trope.

This has nothing to do with Strangled by the Red String or Red String of Fate, which are both about relationships. See also Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!.


    open/close all folders 

  • A couple of 1960s Kellogg's Corn Flakes commercials has Yogi Bear tying a string on his finger, telling the viewer "Don't forget to get thumb!"

    Anime & Manga 
  • An episode of the Ranma ½ Animated Adaptation involves Akane helping Ryoga study so he can take a test and obtain his high school diploma (his absurd amounts of No Sense of Direction, obsession with getting Ranma (which made him wander the world) and being Book Dumb all conspired against him), but being so obsessed with clobbering Ranma and the fact Ranma is constantly pestering him because he's spending time with Akane, the poor girl forces him to promise not to fight and ties a neckerchief around his hand (a Japanese version of this trope) as a reminder. At the end of the episode in a moment that makes Ryoga burst out in Manly Tears, he decides he's too dumb and vengeance-obsessed to be able to keep his promise and follow through with what he wanted, takes off the kerchief, and wanders away.

    Comic Books 
  • Monica's Gang:
    • Used in a short Chuck Billy story, as pictured above. It starts with Chuck failing to remember why he tied a string around his finger in the first place, spending the whole day asking people if they had anything to do with it. He finally remembers what he had to do during bedtime, which was to save his best friend, who was in a Literal Cliffhanger the entire time.
    • A Penadinho storyline has Frank trying to remember why he tied a string around his index finger. When he finally gives up and undoes the knot, his finger falls to the ground, reminding him that the string was only there to keep the severed limb in place.

    Films — Live Action 

  • In the young children's book Arent You Forgetting Something Fiona, Fiona the elephant has a poor memory, unlike the rest of her elephant family. When she signs up for a new exercise class, she ties a string around her trunk to remember where she's going, but forgets anyway. Thinking the string is a festive ribbon for a party, she buys a gift for her best friend, whose birthday isn't for another month. When she finally gets to the exercise class, the string makes a useful headband.
  • The young children's series Gossie And Friends includes Peedie, a forgetful gosling. At the end of his book, after he's learned to be (somewhat) less forgetful, he has a string tied around his tail.
  • In House of Many Ways, Peter needs to tie different colours of string to his fingers because he can't remember left from right. Then he appears with several strings around almost all of his fingers in order to navigate the titular House.
  • In the Scaredy Squirrel book "Scaredy Squirrel at Night", it lists the symptoms of sleep deprivation. One of them is forgetfulness, which is illustrated with a picture of Scaredy with a string around a digit of his paw.
  • In Don't Forget the Oatmeal, a Sesame Street book, Ernie writes down a shopping list for his and Bert's trip to the supermarket, but since he forgets to write down "Oatmeal", Bert ties a string around his finger to help him remember. Cookie Monster goes to the supermarket around the same time as Ernie and Bert due it having a big sale on cookies. When Cookie reaches the cookie aisle, he eats every cookie in sight, making a huge mess of the store. Ernie and Bert help Cookie clean up and remind him to pay for the cookies he had broken and eaten, and when they arrive home, Bert still has the string around his finger, realizing that he and Ernie forgot to buy the oatmeal.
  • Referenced in Summer Knight, the fourth Dresden Files book. To protect Murphy from a magical fog that causes forgetfulness, Harry casts a protective charm using a string tied around her finger as the focus, because of its symbolic association with memory.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In "It's All In Your Head" from Bear in the Big Blue House, Bear has a bunch of strings on his paws. One is to remind him to tell the kids of the Big Blue House that they're going to the fair, another is to remember to pack snacks, another to get a basket to put them in, and one to remember to clean up the house before they leave.
  • In the The Book of Pooh episode, "Brain Drain", Eeyore has a string tied to his hoof to help him remember something, but he can't remember what it was. Eeyore's friends believe that Eeyore has a Brain Drain, and do everything in their grasp to jog his memory. At the end of the episode, Eeyore looks at the string, and remembers that he tied it to his hoof to help him remind Rabbit to pick his strawberries.
  • The Cheers episode where Cliff went into the hospital had the gang miss a chance to visit him. Sam was busy and Norm claimed to feel nauseous when he entered a hospital. Woody, on the other hand, tied a string around his finger to remember and forgot why he tied it. However, we never find out what he tied the other string for.
  • Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor uses this as a gag in "The Face of Evil", during a brief interim between Sarah Jane and Leela where he has no companion and talks to himself instead:
    The Doctor: (stepping out of the TARDIS and seeing a jungle planet) I think this is not Hyde Park. Could be a nexial discontinuity. Must remember to overhaul those tracers. Put a knot in my hanky...
    (pulls out his hanky, which already has a knot tied in it)
    The Doctor: Wonder what that was for! (mugs to camera)
  • In the Mork & Mindy episode "Mork Runs Down", Mork ties a string around his neck and says that it's his species' way of remembering things. Mindy says that humans tie it around their fingers.
    Mork: That's how we used to punish cattle rustlers.
  • There was an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where TV's Frank tries to remember who Merritt Stone is and he has strings all over his fingers.
  • A Bert and Ernie sketch on Sesame Street has Bert arriving home to find that Ernie has string tied around all ten of his fingers. Pointing at the first finger, Bert asks what the string on that finger is for. Ernie replies that it is to remind that he has a string on the next finger. Bert then asks him what that string is for, and Ernie says it is to remind him he has a string on the next finger. This proceeds through all of Ernie's fingers until they reach the last one. When a very exasperated Bert asks him what that string is for, Ernie says it is to remind him to buy more string.

  • In The Navy Lark Seaman "Fatso" Johnson once went around for an episode with a bit of string tied around his finger, unfortunately he couldn't remember tying it there so all it did was remind him he had forgotten something (at the end of the episode it was revealed: It was to remind him to buy string).

    Video Games 
  • Parodied in Kingdom of Loathing with the "invisible string" item — using it ties it around your character's finger, which the game admits "would probably remind you to do something if you could see it".

    Web Comics 
  • Jade Harley of Homestuck ties several colored strings around her fingers, each of which reminds her of a different thing. She removes most of them much later when the absurdity of SBURB makes them pointless.

    Web Original 
  • The Google Keep app's reminder feature has an icon of a finger with a string tied like a figure eight loop.
  • The mascot for the ReminderFox browser add-in for Mozilla Firefox is a fox with a string tied around its finger.

    Western Animation 
  • In the The Flintstones episode "Dino Disappears", Wilma made Fred wear a string on his finger to remember to get a present for Dino; however, he forgets who he was supposed to buy a present for, so he instead buys toys for Pebbles, causing Dino to run away.
  • In the Max and Ruby episode "Max Remembers", Ruby sees a string tied on Max's finger and assumes that he needs to remember something. She spends the episode trying to help him remember it, only to discover that the string was actually for his yo-yo.
  • In "Down Woodpecker's Memory Lane" from My Friends Tigger & Pooh, when Woodpecker calls the Super Sleuths, they discover that he has a pink ribbon tied around his foot. As it turns out, it's to help him remember that he has a problem for them to solve. Thing is, he says it's too hot for him to remember what the problem is, so they have to figure out what it is before they can help him solve it.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In the episode "Tip of the Day", Phineas has everyone tie a shoelace string onto their fingers to spread awareness that the word for the tip at the end of a shoelace is an aglet.
  • Rugrats (1991): In "Bow Wow Wedding Vows", Tommy is feeling neglected because Spike is spending more time with Fifi than with him, so he tries to find a way to get Spike to remember him. Lil tells him that when Howard wants to remember things, he ties string around his fingers. Tommy decides to try that idea and covers Spike in string. When Spike shakes the string off, Tommy thinks the string didn't work because he and his friends didn't tie it down, to which Lil points out that they never learned how to tie string.
  • The Simpsons:
    • At the beginning of "Moe'N'a Lisa", Homer wakes up to find a string around his finger, among other reminders that he has to remember something. To his annoyance, Marge tells the family that they're going to see Grampa compete in the Senior Olympics. But actually, Homer promised Moe he'd go fishing with him.
    • Subverted in the episode "Brother's Little Helper"; Homer is supposed to be looking for Bart (who's gone insane after taking an experimental ADD medication) but is instead at Moe's. When Marge confronts him, he tells Marge "I'm on top of it" and shows a string tied to his finger, thus implying that it's a reminder string. It's revealed as being a really long string with the other end attached to a Box-and-Stick Trap with a jar of Bart's medication underneath.
  • In the TaleSpin episode, "A Jolly Molly Christmas", when Molly breaks her last candy cane, Baloo tries to cheer her up by telling her about the Peppermint Fairy, who leaves new candy canes in place of old ones under childrens' pillows. He ties a string around his finger to help him remember to put a new candy cane under Molly's pillow, but the next morning, he sees the string and realizes he forgot. When he tries to put the new candy cane under Molly's pillow, Molly awakens and accuses Baloo of lying to her.
  • Timothy Goes to School:
    • In "Don't Lose It, Lilly," Forgetful Jones Lilly has one on her finger because Miss Jenkins, the teacher, says that it'll help her remember where she put her things. However, when Charles asks her if it works, she admits it hasn't yet. Later in the episode, as she and Charles are being drenched by a rainstorm, she remembers that it was to remind her to bring her umbrella.
      Charles: (ears dropping) Good remembering, Lilly.
    • In "Having a Wonderful Time," Lilly ties a red ribbon around her finger to remind her to bring an extra blanket and a snack for the school field trip to Hilltop Park. Grace tells her that she needs more than that, but not to worry because she'll bring enough for everyone. That evening, as she talks with her mama before bed, she has a red ribbon around one of her fingers too. That morning, Lilly has the blanket and extra snack before getting on the bus, so her mama takes the ribbon off, complimenting her on her good remembering.
  • In "Forget It" from Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot, Grizzle uses his "Forget Me Ray" invention to cause the Care Bears to forget who he is so that he can easily enact his evil scheme to take over Care-a-Lot. Unfortunately for him, it's rather too powerful and it causes them to forget practically everything. He tries this as a way to keep them focused on what he wants them to do. However, shortly after this, a couple of them overhear him talking about what he did to Wingnut and so Funshine uses his as a distraction ("What did you say this string was for again?"), while Tenderheart gets the Forget Me Ray and uses it to reverse the effects on himself and Funshine.


Video Example(s):


Good Remembering, Lilly

A sudden rainstorm causes Charle's friend Lilly to remember why she has a string tied around her finger, though the memory comes a bit too late to do either of them any good.

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Main / StringOnFingerReminder

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