The genesis of this memory test was during the 1940s, at Radio Central New York. Back then it wasn't for memory. It was a tongue twister of sorts, testing the terrific twisting tangling capabilities of prospective DJs. It was probably pretty effective. Try reading it cold, out loud, and you'll see what I mean.
The test's next major stop was apparently with one Del Moore, who took the DJ trial in 1941. Moore passed the test on to Jerry Lewis, who performed it on radio, TV, and so on for years.
So, the memory test travelled the world on radio waves and satellite, eventually coming to rest (among other places, I am sure), with my father. He had it from someone around a YMCA campfire, years ago. I discovered it many years after that, when my father gave it at a talent show, and was fascinated. By then he had known it for at least twenty-five years. I learned the test going home in the car that night.
The memory test is an excellent quick fix for unwanted obligation to perform. It is unembarassing, easy once you know it, and rather fun. It can be performed on stage by asking for an audience volunteer (preferably with a bad memory, so that your powers of recall are more impressive). It can also be recited all at once, like a poem. It is especially effective when spoken by two or more persons, in unison. Your ability to recall the entire piece without pausing will elicit reactions of shock and awe in most audiences. Unfortunately, this exercise in rote memorization isn't really indicative of one's normal long or short term memory skill. The memory test is a useless but amusing piece of random knowledge.
So, without further ado, the memory test.
The test is to be read by repeating from the beginning on every addition of a new item. For example: "One hen. One hen, two ducks. One hen, two ducks, three squawking geese." and so on.
*Sometimes "corpulent corpusles", more alliterative and harder for most testees to understand (and therefore recall)
**Also "corner of the quo of the quay of the quivery" -- but I am inclined to beleive those who say that "quay of the quivy" is a nautical term of some sort.