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Mnemonic major system

The major system (also called phonetic system or phonetic mnemonic system) is a famous mnemonic technique used to aid in memorizing numbers. It is over 300 years old and was introduced by Stanislaus Mink von Wennsshein[?] and later developed by Dr. Richard Grey[?]. It works by converting numbers into words. The words can then be remembered more easily, especially when using other techniques such as exaggerations of concepts involving multiple senses (vision, sound, smell).

Each digit is mapped onto a number of consonants. Vowels and the consonants W/H/Y are ignored and can be used as 'fillers' to make up sensible words from the resulting consonant sequences. The mapping is:

0: s,z
1: d,t,th
2: n,ing
3: m
4: r
5: l
6: j,sh,ch,zh (like the s in vision)
7: k,hard g
8: f,v
9: b,p

The mapping is phonetic, so it's the sounds that matter, not the spelling. Each digit maps to a set of sounds with similar mouth and tongue positions.

Example: to remember the year in which the National Portrait Gallery in London was opened (1856), we first perform the mapping:

  • 1 -> d,t,th
  • 8 -> f,v
  • 5 -> l
  • 6 -> j,sh,ch,zh

So we can make up 'DaFfy LoDGe', and we think of the Portrait Gallery as a lodge in which Daffy Duck resides (the more silly the image, the easier it is to recall).

Going the other way, we can reverse the mapping and get the year. This works also very well with phone numbers: here you would typically come up with multiple words which you need to memorise in a sequence.

For most people, it is easier to remember an image or story incorporating words than it is to remember strings of digits. For example, it may be easier to remember "moderately pendulum" than to directly memorize the first 10 digits of Pi (3.141592653). It's moderately difficult to make a pendulum out of an apple pie. A vivid image of that sentence might be remembered more easily than directly memorizing 3.141592653=Pi.

The major system isn't always the best way to remember a number. The first 16 digits of e are 2.718281828459045. If you invented a new way to fold a flag so that it would open up in the shape of an E, could you patent that? Negative: it isn't innovative to unfurl bizarrely as an E. That sentence could be used to memorize the first 16 digits of e. On the other hand, some people might find it easier to remember them directly by grouping them this way:

  2.7         the standard approximation of e
  1828        a year
  1828        the same year again
  45 90 45    cut a square in half to get a triangle with these angles
The "best" technique depends on the person and the situation, but the major system can be a helpful tool in many cases.

The major system is sometimes combined with a peg system for remembering lists.

External links and References

  • 010 Memorizer (http://www.sweetscape.com/010memorizer/) A powerful program for using the Major System. Contains many features.
  • MajorTeach (http://www.freesoftware.fsf.org/majorteach/) is free (and Free) portable software to help you learn the Major system
  • 2Know (http://mywebpages.comcast.net/2Know/) is free Windows software for converting numbers to words
  • Human Memory (http://memory.uva.nl/memory/memimprovement/eng/phon_peg.htm)
  • Memory Improvement and Learning Information (http://www.happychild.org.uk/acc/tpr/mem/0199majr.htm)
  • Memory Master (http://www.vlaardingen.net/~tom/Menu_G.htm)
  • Mind Tools (http://www.demon.co.uk/mindtool/majorsys)
  • Palace of the Mind (http://ns.otranto.waseda.ac.jp/memory/memory12.htm)
  • Pseudonumerology (http://www.pseudonumerology.com/)
  • World Wide Brain Club (http://www.silkwood.co.uk/cgi-bin/nav.pl?doc=Major_System.nav&uid=363703) describes SEM Cubed (Self Enhancing Memory Master System), which is an extension of the Major System
  • Expand your Peg list (http://www.psywww.com/mtsite/memxpand) by adding colors and smells, textures.
  • history of the major system (http://pseudonumerology.com/19.htm)
  • University of Amsterdam - Online Memory Improvement Course (http://memory.uva.nl/memimprovement/eng/phon_peg.htm) is an online step-by-step tutorial of the Phonetic Mnemonic System
  • Mnemisis (http://mnemisis.sourceforge.net) Another free (and Free) mnemonic program - runs on Linux, Mac OSX, and Windows

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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