Seventh Peg: “Key”– and a decision

We need to buy milk; it’s the seventh item on our list. Picture yourself opening one of those giant, oaken, castle doors with black iron hinges using a foot-long bronze skeleton key that must weigh ten pounds. The door flies open and liquid milk comes splashing out completely covering you, knocking you off your feet and spreading into the room.

Henceforth and forever, whenever encountering the number 7, you will immediately picture this huge, ancient, bronze key and associate it with a vivid mental image of the item-to-be-memorized.

The consonant sounds for 7 are a cluster: K, hard C, hard G (the soft G sound is for 6). These sounds are all made in the same place in the mouth: at the top of the throat with the back of the tongue. Some picture words we can make up are

17 – tack, dog, deck, tag, attack

27 – neck, ink, wink, honk, nag, knock

This last one brings up a question, and you will have to make a decision based on your personal preference, the way things sound and feel to you and the way your memory works.

The N sound in the word “ink” isn’t a pure N sound, it’s more like the NG in “wing,” a word that has that sound alone. Each of us needs to decide whether that sound is more like an N, which would make it a 2, or more like a G, which would make it a 7. Allan Krill, the geology professor who taught this system to his students, says the NG sound is always a 2, so “wing” is a 2, and that’s consistent with its appearance in words like “ink” for 27. Bruno Furst, my Dad, and my uncle’s mimeographed notes from the Navy point out that the pure N sound is made in the front of the mouth near the teeth, and that the NG sound is very different. They reckon it as a 7 because its made in the same place in the throat as K, hard C, and hard G. For them, “wing” is a 7 and they must compromise with words like “ink.”

Both sides agree that “ink” is 27.

If you go with the Krill camp, then you compromise on associating sounds that are made in the same place in the mouth: on associating NG with K, hard C, and hard G. Linguistically speaking, it’s better to associate consonant sounds made in the same place in the mouth, but Krill’s approach means you have no ambiguity with words like “ink” and “tank.” For Krill, “inning” and “awning” are 22.

If you go with the Furst camp, then you compromise on words like “ink” and “tank,” which really have the NG sound but you pretend it’s an N when it’s followed by a K or a hard C. For Furst, “inning” and “awning” are 27.

I’m going with the Furst camp because that’s the way I learned the system when I was a kid and it seems that more teachers of the system go with Furst, but Krill’s choice has merit and if I were starting from scratch I would go with it. But I’ve baked the system into my mind the Furst way, and it works just fine. You need to decide, lock it in, and never change!

One of the reasons this system works so well is that we lock in these associations amongst mental pictures, numbers, and consonant sounds forever, and change only under extreme circumstances (I will tell you about one change I made when we get to 99 in the second-layer system).

To help you decide, let me close with some more words that both camps would reckon as 27:

ankh, eunuch, hank, hankie
honk, hunk, Ionic, Inca, ink
knack, knock, nag, neck
nick, nock, nog, nook, nuke
oink, unhook, unique, wink, Yankee


~ by rebcabin on November 30, 2010.

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