The Major System (also known as the phonetic memory system) is a mnemonic method for creating peg words for use with the Peg Memory System.
The origins of the Major Memory System can be traced back to The New Art of Memory by the German mnemonist Gregor von Feinaigle (1760-1819).
The modern reworking of Feinaigle's method works by associating the phonetic sound of particular consonants to each numeral. Memorable words or phrases can then be generated to represent any number by linking successive consonant sounds together using fillers based on vowel sounds.
Once the word or phrase to represent the number has been formed, it is then used as a peg word by linking it with the item you wish to associate with the number.
It is recommended that you learn the following standard set of numeral-sound associations. These have been well tested over the years and make it easy to generate words representing particular numbers.
Note how the different letters corresponding to each numeral make similar phonetic sounds and require similar positions of lips and tongue.
Numeral Consonant sounds Aid for Memory 0 s, z, soft c z is first letter of zero 1 d, t (th) The letters have ONE downstroke 2 n n has TWO downstrokes 3 m m has THREE downstrokes; also m looks like 3 on its side 4 r r is is last letter or FOUR. 5 l L is the Roman letter representing 50 6 sh, j, soft ch, soft g g is like 6 twisted round 7 k, hard g, q, hard c, hard ch k is made up of 7s 8 f, ph, v Script f is like 8 9 b, p b is like upside-down 9; p is mirror of 9 Null All vowels, plus w, wh, h, y Can be added anywhere to make words or phrases
To create peg words for any number, choose a word or phrase that is pronounced using a sequence of consonant sounds that corresponds to the sequence of numerals in the number. Vowels (and w, wh, h, y) can be freely used as fillers between consonants (or at the beginning or end of words).
There will often be several words or phrases that you could choose to represent a number. You should always choose the word or phrase that is most memorable. Generally, words and phrases that are easily visualised are best.
Number Consonant Sequences Some Possible Words / Phrases 0 (s, z) SEA, ZOO 1 (t, d) TEA, DAY 20 (n) (s, z) NOSE, NOOSE, NAZI 34 (m) (r) MARE, MOOR, 746 (k, q, hard c, hard g) (r) (sh, j, soft g) CARRIAGE, GARAGE, GARISH 2599 (n) (l) (b, p) (b, p) NAIL-POP, KNEEL-BABY 685342 (sh, j, soft g) (f, ph, v) (l) (m) (r) (n) SHOVEL-MORN, JIVE-LAMB-RUN
For long numbers, form a sequence of separate words that you can then connect using the Link System
You can learn the first 50 decimal digits of PI (following the initial 3) by committing the following passage to memory:
A MALE FAB CAB-MAN MOVER
CHINA-CHARM MUFF-MINK POLICE
ENOUGH FOR THE PICTISH BUMPY-BUM KELTS
PI = 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 ...
OK, let's break this down
TART-LIP NIGEL 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 Ta R T Li P Ni Ge L
A MALE FAB CAB-MAN MOVER - 3 5 8 9 7 9 3 2 3 8 4 a Ma Le Fa B Ca B Ma N Mo Ve R
CHINA-CHARM MUFF-MINK POLICE 6 2 6 4 3 3 8 CHi Na CHa R M Mu F 3 2 7 9 5 0 Mi N K Po Li Ce
ENOUGH FOR THE PICTISH BUMPY-BUM KELTS 2 8 8 4 1 9 7 1 6 eN ouGH Fo R THe Pi C Ti SH 9 3 9 9 3 7 5 1 0 Bu M Py Bu M Ke L T S
The Major System, when combined with the Peg System, is both powerful and versatile. You can use it, for example, to learn:
- Dates of historical events
For example, the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492 can become COLUMBUS-TURBAN (visualise Columbus wearing a turban).
- The Atomic Numbers of the Elements
For example, Silver (47) can become SILVER-ROCK; Uranium (92) can become URANIUM-BAN.
- Best Films at the Oscars
For example, The Silence of the Lambs (1991) can become LAMBS-PET, or PET-LAMBS if you want to recall the date of the award). Note that you don't always need to use the full year when you already know the century.
- Olympic Games venues
For example, Tokyo (1964) can become TOKYO-CHAIR (visualise an elaborately decorated Japenese chair).
- Phone numbers
For example, Alice (4384-25421) can become ALICE-ROOM-FOR-NIL-RENT.
- Your credit card PIN numbers
Note that you can often change your PIN number to one that will make an easy-to-remember word.
You will soon find that the small effort you put into learning the Major System will be richly rewarded.