Memorize lists via the peg system

From Rememberg.com, the free mnemonic search directory.

Introduction - the Mnemonic Peg system

The peg system is a very powerful mnemonic device to remember large lists. In contract to the place method, it allows you to easily and rapidly retrieve a the n-th element of the list without worrying about the previous n-1 elements.

This article will try to describe the mnemonic peg system step by step, using a specific, clear example.

Specific example of list to remember

For this example, we will try to memorize the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World in this order:

  1. Great Pyramid of Giza
  2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  4. Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  5. Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
  6. Colossus of Rhodes
  7. Lighthouse of Alexandria

Step 1 - the peg list

The peg list is a list of mappings between numbers and objects. It is not important how you make the mapping, as long as it is easy to memorize. I myself prefer to have a mapping based on the mnemonic major system, because it is easily extensible, but any method is OK. For our example, we will use the following peg list:

1. Tea
2. New
3. Me
4. Ear
5. Owl
6. Gay
7. Cow
8. UFO
9. Bee
10. Dash

If you need a larger peg list, please check this list of 1000 objects for the peg system. These pegs form the basis of our peg system and they need to be well-memorized. Sometimes these words are called pegwords.

Step 2 - combining the peg list with the list to remember

We now combine the peg list with the list we would like to remember.

  1. Tea - Great Pyramid of Giza
  2. New - Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. Me - Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  4. Ear - Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  5. Owl - Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
  6. Gay - Colossus of Rhodes
  7. Cow - Lighthouse of Alexandria

Step 3 - the power of association

Now we need to use association to associate the pegs with the elements in our list of wonders. Association is very powerful because it works very close to how our human brain works.

You can find here more help on how mnemonic associations works the best. For example, a good association is visual, absurd, unreal, ... Beware, the associations below are therefore all nonsense. It is all about easily remembering the list.

  1. Tea - Great Pyramid of Giza - imagine that the pyramid was not really meant to be a tomb, but actually it was a tea plant. But the ancient Egyptians weren't allowed to know this, so they also put a real tomb in it...
  2. New - Hanging Gardens of Babylon - did you know that they are rebuilding the gardens of Babylon? Brand new. Try to visually see that people are building these gardens.
  3. Me - Statue of Zeus at Olympia - no, it's no Zeus, it's me on that statue!
  4. Ear - Temple of Artemis at Ephesus - they used this temple to bring sacrifices to gods: they cut off the ears of people and then sacrifice these ears.
  5. Owl - Mausoleum of Halicarnassus - they had so much problems with this mausoleum: owls kept flying between all the pillars of the mausoleum, it was a real owl plague.
  6. Gay - Colossus of Rhodes - think of a story where apparently the colossus is gay. I wouldn't sail with my boat between the legs of someone who's gay...
  7. Cow - Lighthouse of Alexandria - memorizing the picture below should be sufficient: the island is full of cows.
    the mnemonic peg system

Step 4 - building it all together

We are now ready to show what we're capable of.

Question: What is the 4th wonder of the Ancient world? Answer: in the peg list, the peg corresponding to the number 4 is ear. Oooh, they were sacrificing ears in the Temple of Artemis!

Question: Which one of the 7 Wonder of the World comes last? Answer: the peg systems says that the 7th peg is Cow. We've visually memorized that the Lighthouse of Alexandria was built in the middle of field with cows on the island.

Congratulations, you have now mastered the mnemonic peg system.

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