Second Major Peg = “Noah”
Let’s say the second item on your after-work shopping list is coffee. I’m sure you recall the first item: vitamin pills overflowing the giant Disneyland teacup. Now, for the second peg:
mental picture: imagine the animals going up the ramp into Noah’s ark laden with huge quantities of coffee cans in caravan bags slung over their backs, baskets around their necks, carts pulled behind them, whatever. Coffee in cans in Noah’s time is absurd, and absurdity is good for the memory! Taking just coffee and no food and water is silly, and that’s good for the memory! The quantities are huge, so the mental picture is exaggerated, and that’s good for the memory!
number: 2, of course. The animals go into the ark two-by-two. Also, the lower-case ‘n’, the first letter of Noah’s name, has two “feet on the ground.”
consonant sound: N, just by itself. The first peg, tea, has a cluster of related consonant sounds – T, D, Th – but the sound for Noah is a singleton, just N.
Lock this in. Henceforth and forever, whenever you encounter the number 2, a vivid mental picture of Noah and his ark with all the animals 2-by-2 will fill your mind, ready to be adorned with whatever you need to memorize. Practice with 1 and 2 back and forth. Think of the number 1 and immediately visualize the Disneyland teacup ride. Now think of 2 and visualize Noah and the ark and the animals. Make this automatic, the way whole songs automatically come to mind when you hear just a few notes of melody.
Now that we have two pegs, you will no difficulty recalling the items in any order. The second item? Coffee. The first item? Vitamins. This works all the way through the full, 1,000-item, 3-layer system, and is unlike chain-memory systems, which only yield the items in order. I love chain-memory systems, too, they’re just different in the yield-order aspect.
The peg system works by EXPLOITING the human visual system, which is immensely powerful, to aid memory. It’s folk wisdom that humans only use 10% of their brain power for thinking, so what’s the other 90% doing? Sleeping? Rotting away? No! VISION, I say. This is an immensely complex task and takes a lot of brain power. That’s why I think cats and dogs seem so smart to us – they have highly developed vision systems for hunting and it just goes along with certain aspects of intellect. So, we’ll just “borrow” a little of that latent power and put it to work memorizing things that are not LOGICALLY connected, like vitamins and coffee – we’ll connect them visually.
Now let’s talk about the consonant sounds a little. We use these for finding secondary mental pictures for memorizing sequences of numbers. Suppose you needed to memorize ‘2112’ as part of a password, a PIN, or a safe combination. With our pegs, we immediately think ‘Noah Tea Tea Noah,’ but that’s not really helpful. Too much like Morse code or the Aviation Spelling Alphabet (‘Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta . . .’). No, let’s keep the major pegs for memorizing lists.
But suppose we thought ‘wiNe wiTh whiTe hoNey.’ The consonant sounds in that mental picture are N, Th, T, and N, which are 2, 1, 1, 2, because, when building up mental pictures from consonant sounds, we ALWAYS ignore weak h, w, wh, and y sounds. That means you can use them to build up new, temporary picture words. Noah is your permanent peg for the number 2. That’s the mental picture you reach for FIRST and automatically when you encounter 2. But ‘wine’ and ‘honey’ also correspond to the number 2, as do ‘gnu,’ ‘hen,’ ‘hyena,’ ‘inn,’ ‘ennui,’ ‘knee,’ and ‘ion.’ Any word with just the one strong consonant sound N in it will do.
‘WiNe wiTh WhiTe hoNey’ gives us a vivid mental picture (and that’s what we need) of a glass of wiN2e covered wiTh1 sticky whiT1e hoN2ey that gets all over our fingers while we’re trying to key-in the PIN 2112 or open the safe, getting all over everything and getting us cranky. Good, strong emotion makes it easier to recall the mental picture. By matching the consonant sounds to the numbers, we immediately recall the PIN: 2 1 1 2.
Alternately, we could think ‘kNighT DuNe’ and picture a knight in full armor on his massive armored horse sinking into the sands while furiously trying to key-in a password into his cell phone so he can call the emergency number. This hints at the second-layer peg system, which combines two consonant sounds at a time into picture words, but that’s for later. For now, just notice that ‘kNighT DuNe’ has just four consonant sounds, N T D N = 2 1 1 2 because the k and gh are silent. The spelling doesn’t matter, just the sounds.