Fourth Peg: “Ray”, a Phone Number, and Thanks

In the morning, you received your ‘honey-do’ list, verbally, of course. “Before you come home tonight, darling, would you mind picking up some vitamins, umm, let’s see, we need some coffee; oh some celery and green onions . . .”

In a panic, you scruffle around looking for a pen and paper before it all slips your mind, or kindly ask your honey to slow down and repeat the list (“oh, never mind, I’ll do it myself . . .”), or, more likely, you resigned yourself to the inevitable partial fulfillment – if that – at the end of the mentally exhausting work day of interruptions and multitasking, and to take your pain later rather than sooner,

or, you instantly pictured a giant Disneyland teacup overflowing with vitamin pills; then the animals going two-by-two up the ramp into Noah’s ark laden with caravan bags and carts overflowing with #10 coffee cans; then yourself in a fresh tuxedo standing in front of a mirror trying vainly to pull a stubborn, thick strand of celery fiber from your teeth; and, the fourth item:

mental picture: an intense ray of green laser light emerges from a green onion held in your hand and you furiously try to aim it away from any of the other people in the supermarket.

number: Four – the numeral ‘4’ resembles a little ‘r’, the first letter of the peg-word ‘ray’ backwards, and the word ‘four’ also ends in ‘r’. In practice, most people I have taught have the toughest time memorizing this peg word, so really pay attention to this one and lock it in.

consonant sound: another singleton, just the sound R.

Henceforth and forever, whenever encountering the number four, you will instantly form a mental picture of a RAY of intense light emerging from the object-to-be-memorized, or emerging from a flashlight or science-fiction ray gun and illuminating the object-to-be-memorized, or whatever makes the most absurd, exaggerated, colorful, emotive, etc. mental picture possible.

This memory system is a two-fer: the major pegs help you memorize lists of things in any order, the related consonant sounds help you build imaginary picture-stories for memorizing sequences of digits.

Remember ‘wiNe wiTh whiTe hoNey’, wi2e wi1 whi1e ho2ey, throwing away the vowels and the weak-sounding, not-really-consonants w, wh, and h, to get 2112? Or ‘kNighT DuNe’, k2igh1 1u2e, and ignoring the silent spelling-only consonants ‘k’ and ‘gh’, to get 2112?

(As an aside, it’s easy to see the Hebrew origins of the system, here – Hebrew writing does not include vowels and Hebrew consonant letters are always numerals!)

Now would be a good time to practice this secondary exercise: memorizing sequences of numerals with the consonant sounds of the pegs you know so far.

1: T, D, Th

2: N

3: M

4: R

Let’s try (212) 443-1214. That could be a New-York phone number. It will take you quite a lot of practice before you can memorize these in real time (but spies get trained to do this!). For now, write it down, and convert it into consonants:

2 1 2 4 4 3 1 2 1 4


I find it easier to pair them up and look for mental-picture stories that way

(N T) (N R) (R M) (T N) (T R)

let’s try

a NuT is too NeaR my RooM and his TwiN is also TheRe

this is easy to remember: think New York, which is full of crazy nuts who might follow you to your room (emotion: fear) and, lo and behold, there is his twin (absurdity).

It may not be the best we can do, but it’s what I came up with in a minute or so and I’ll bet you can remember it later today, or maybe even tomorrow, and convert it back to numbers with your eyes closed! As we go along, we’ll practice this a lot more. Remembering phone numbers on-the-fly is a very valuable and very learnable skill.

Finally, I want to thank the people from whom I learned this system.

My Dad, who passed away in 2008, was a well known TV and movie actor and got many, many jobs due to his fantastic and reliable memory. He taught me his tricks after I caught him using them!

My uncle, a WWII bomber navigator, used a similar system and showed me some mimeographed sheets about it he got in the Navy.

Amongst the many who have published books on this system are Dr. Bruno Furst, popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s; and Dr. Allan Krill, who taught the system to geologists for memorizing the eras and epochs and myriads of different kinds of rocks and their properties. I knew a kid at Caltech who had memorized the periodic table of elements, with atomic weights, specific heats, and other details. I’ll bet he used this system (but I don’t know that he did)!


~ by rebcabin on November 26, 2010.

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