Whoa, Dude! Don’t Strain the Brain


I posted the Web site Braingle on my online home page because, like the site says, you exercise your body to say physically fit, so why not exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? It suggests using the Phonetic mnemonic system as one exercise to boost memory. The system helps a person memorize facts. One sample exercise given is: “On the periodic table, iron (Fe) has an atomic number of 26 which has the phonetic word of ‘notch’ *(note following). Picture yourself trying to iron your clothes using an iron with a big notch cut into it.”
Baffled by this, but intrigued, I can connect ironing clothes with iron the element, but I wondered where “notch” came from and how this image of ironing helps me remember Fe 26? I looked into how it works.
The Phonetic mnemonic system uses words to represent numbers so that you can recall items non-sequentially. It is more difficult to learn than the Peg system (I’ll describe it first), but once mastered, it allows you to remember much longer lists (the Peg system has difficulty with numbers over 20).
The Peg system translates numbers into words by using rhymes. To use the system, you pre-memorize a set of nouns that you will use to make your associations. Think of the nursery rhyme “one, two, buckle my shoe; three, four, shut the door…”. For example, if you need to recall the eighth item, simply recall the word for eight (gate) and recall what word you associated with it.
Now if that doesn’t sound like enough trouble, in the Phonetic system, which associates sounds, each digit from 0-9 is represented by a unique sound: 0 — z, s; 1 — t, d, th; *2 –n; 6 — j, sh, ch, soft g and so on to 9 — p, b. Only consonant sounds are used. You translate numbers into words by combining these sounds. The number 29 might be represented by the word ‘nap’ (n=2 and 9=p). The number 99 could be represented by ‘puppy’, ‘papa,’ or ‘baby.’
Using these constructed keywords to make visual associations, you will be able to recall items in any order.

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