Never Forget!




Remember Numbers, dates and endless llists
In this post I am going to expand on the Hook System that I described earlier.

Learning lists of items is useful but what if we need to learn a long list? If the number of items go beyond ten it gets more and more difficult making up and remembering hooks for them.

That’s where the Major System comes in. The Major System is also known by such names as The Phonetic Number System, the Phonetic Mnemonic System and Herigone’s Mnemonic System but it’s a lot more straightforward than it sounds.

It still calls for you to use your imagination but it provides you with a framework for building the hooks. It’s quite a simple, yet elegant idea. Every number from zero to nine is represented by a sound and the corresponding letters that approximate this sound.

  1. is represented by the letters td and th from this/that
  2. is represented by the letter n
  3. is represented by the letter m
  4. is represented by the letter r
  5. is represented by the letter l
  6. is represented by the sounds sh, j and ch (letter combinations that rhyme with Shh)
  7. is represented by the letters k, c (hard) and g
  8. is represented by the letters f, ph and v
  9. is represented by the letters p and b

Zero is represented by the letters c (soft), s and z.

All other letters like vowels, h, x and w are ignored.

To use the system you employ the phonetics (the sounds of words) rather than their spellings. For example, say I wanted to remember a random five digit number – 63850. Let’s say that it’s the pin for my new phone’s SIM card and I’m not going to change it. So first I’ll transcribe it into the phonetic sounds:

6 – sh|j|ch : 3 – m : 8 – f |ph : 5 – l : 0 – z|s

Now comes the tricky part, I have to think of a word or two that matches these sounds. Any vowel can be put between the phonetic sounds. So, after a little bit of experimenting I come up with “Jam Fleas“.

To remember my new PIN I imagine my phone covered in fleas that are struggling in a thick coating of sticky raspberry jam. I don’t like fleas or jam so this is not a particularly pleasant image for me!

Jam covered Flea

Get off my phone!

The more absurd, funny or unpleasant you make the image the easier it will be to recall.

With the phonetic framework we can remember lists of any length as long as we first work out the hooks for the numbers. To do so we assign images for each number determined by their phonetic pairings, which sounds a lot harder than it is.

So for example the first twenty could be:

  1. tea
  2. knee
  3. mow
  4. ray
  5. law
  6. jaw
  7. key
  8. fee
  9. pea
  10. toes
  11. tot
  12. tan
  13. tummy
  14. tar
  15. tail
  16. tissue (ss sounds like sh!)
  17. tick
  18. toffee
  19. tap
  20. nose

And so on. Have fun making a list up to one hundred! Or you could just search for lists that are already created. Not all the lists are the same so if you find a number’s word difficult to imagine then just come up with one of your own.

Obviously if the Major System can help you remember numbers it can also help you to remember dates. If you know someone with a birthday on the 25th of April, 2001 for example, you can convert it to 25, 4, 1, ( or 4, 25, 1 for American readers). This could give us  nail, ray and tea. So try to imagine that person nailing a Sting Ray to a Birthday Cake and instead of blood there’s Tea dripping from the ray’s wounds. Yes that’s weird and twisted but apparently that’s how my mind works. This memorable if somewhat disturbing image should stick in your mind. It certainly sticks in mine!

Tip:There’s a website that allows you to enter a number and it will give you a list of words.

Example 1: (Using the day-month-year sequence). Imagine Hitler drinking tea. He upturns his cup but instead of tea an oboe falls out of his cup and embeds itself into a map of Poland. Can you guess the date? Answer below.

Example 2: (Using month-day-year sequence). Imagine a toad hopping towards the Berlin Wall. Searchlights follow the toad to reveal that it is carrying a box. When it reaches the wall, it opens the lid of the box and hundreds of FBI agents jump out and tear down the wall! So what’s the date?

The key to these techniques is practice so don’t worry if you don’t get it the first few times. Keep working at it and you’ll develop a memory that an elephant would be proud of. Just don’t tell people what your imagined images are. It’ll make you sound weird…

Answers: 1. Tea, Oboe, Map become 1,9,’39 or 1st September 1939, the date Germany invaded Poland
2. Toad, Box, FBI become 11,9 (ignore the x!), ’89 or November 9th, 1989. The date the Berlin Wall started to come down.


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Photographs courtesy of jay mantra and Pixabay


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