The pegword method is a simple memory technique for remembering lists of information.
I’m talking about lists filled with:
- Study keywords
- Names (people, countries, foods)
- To-do list items
- Historical dates
- Medical or legal terminology
- Computer programming documentation
- … and anything that can be organized into a list
There are a few variations to this technique. We’ll discuss 4 of them on this page.
But first, this is important:
Each pegword system involves three easy stages:
1) Setting up and remembering the system
2) Encoding new information with the system
3) Recalling the information by triggering the system
In the first stage, people learn a standard set of peg words. These “pegs” can be number-rhyme pairs or letters of the alphabet.
The Many Types of Peg System
There are different types of peg systems you can choose from. All of them use the same method: the use of a concrete object to represent each number. What’s different is how you choose the object.
We can divide these approaches into the following categories:
- The rhyming method
- The meaning method
- The alphabet method
- The look-alike method
Let’s talk about the rhyming pegs first:
1. The Number Rhyme System
Some people call this approach “the One is a Gun” technique. Many people using this approach have a pre-memorized list like this:
- One is a gun
- Two is a shoe
- Three is a bee
- Four is a door
- Five is a hive
- Six is drum sticks
- Seven is Evan
- Eight is a gate
- Nine is wine
- Ten is a hen
As you can see, when using the rhyming method, you create pegs that rhyme with a number to create a pre-memorized list.
In the next stage, memorizers visualize the information they want to remember and mentally link it with the rhyming word.
A High Precision Tutorial On How To Make The Links
Ideally, you don’t make your associations in the void of your mind.
Instead, I suggest you create them in a well-formed Memory Palace.
For example, if you have previously committed “two is a shoe” to memory, you can set a rule that every Magnetic Station in a Memory Palace features that shoe.
Then, when you meet a group of people and the second person tells you her name is Rose, you can instantly see a rose growing out of the shoe.
Of course, Rose gets special treatment in your Memory Palace after you’ve shot Paul McCartney in the chest on the first station of your Memory Palace.
This will help you remember that someone new goes by the name Paul. On station three, you use the its peg to interact with an image for the next name, and so forth. This scenario is just one example, and very powerful when memorizing names at meetings or other events.
Powerful, isn‘t it?
It gets even better if you’re interested in number systems, but for now, let’s press on.
The Scientific Term For This Kind Of Mnemonic
Some researchers of memory and learning call the product of linking one word to another a composite image or picture.
In today’s example with Rose, I have brought together the peg, the given name and a part of a Memory Palace.
This process creates a singular, mental image that is easy to recall later – especially because I naturally made the image strange, vibrant and drew upon all the Magnetic Modes while creating it.
To put the process more simply, information like Rose‘s name gets ‘pegged’ to certain images. And as you‘ve seen, my preference is to also “peg” information to a Memory Palace at the same time. Everything is co-created in one fell swoop, as much as possible.
Why There’s No Need To Follow The Order
Here’s a very cool feature of this technique:
It is not dependent on retrieving the items you memorized in sequence.
For example, if you want Rose, you don’t have to start with the first piece of information and work your way through the whole sequence. You can access her name or any item on the list simply by thinking of the number rhyme.
To achieve this flexibility, initially, all you have to do is to prepare a list of peg words that can be easily retrieved and link them with other items.
How To Memorize Your Pegs
If you’re using the number-rhyme system, it‘s really quite easy. Rhyming does most of the work.
As a pro tip, always make each object specific.
For example, I don‘t use an abstract gun, but a very specific gun from the movie Videodrome.
For 2, I don’t use just any old shoe. I use my favorite shoes from when I was a kid. (They had velcro pockets for holding coins.)
In each case, try to make each rhyme you choose concrete and specific. For 3 is a bee, I use Jerry Seinfeld from The Bee Movie. For 7, I use my friend Evan instead of something abstract like heaven.
It might take you a few minutes, or even a few hours over a weekend to land on the most specific option possible. It will be worth the effort!
If you’re struggling, you can adopt the Mind Mapping examples here for creating your imagery too. There’s always a way!
How To Mix Your Pegs With The Major System
This method is useful for many things beyond remembering names, shopping lists and errands on your to-do list.
You can use it for remembering new concepts, foreign language vocabulary, ideas, dates, potentially for verse numbers and anything you organize in a linear manner, but that doesn’t necessarily require linear recall.
Then you would link the images to one of your pegs. If assigned to your sixth peg and you are using drum sticks, you might have Tucker Max (17) pounding on a viper (89) with the drum sticks.
Because I focus on specificity, it’s not just any drum sticks, but the sticks used by the Green Day drummer. It’s not just any viper, but Cobra Commander from GI Joe.
I‘m giving you my specific mnemonic examples for a simple reason:
Making the images concrete and based on real things that have been interesting or important to me in life is part of what helps the memory techniques work better and faster.
You might never have heard of Green Day or played with GI Joe toys. But surely there is a drummer you find interesting and an appropriate image you can use for each of the digits from 00 to 99.
It’s really not rocket science. It just takes a small amount of focus and time after completing a memory course.
2. The Meaning Method
In the meaning method, you create pegs that help you recall the sound and meaning of the words you want to recall later.
For example, to remember the word ‘exploration’ with the rhyming pair (one is a gun), you can visualize ex-cops with guns patrolling an area where oil exploration is taking place.
Take the word “quadrangle,” to give you an additional example.
The most immediate and obvious association is a quad bike. Since a quadrangle has four sides and a quad bike has four wheels, it generally works to cover both sound and meaning.
This approach becomes incredibly streamlined the more you practice. It’s great for language learning, medicine, law, philosophy and any learning area rich with semantic meaning. This method is best used with a Memory Palace.
There is another type of widely used peg system. It uses alphabet letters as pegs.
Let’s check it out:
3. The Alphabet Peg System
Although this technique is essentially a variation on the Number/Rhyme method, it gives you more pegs. You can use it to remember longer lists of items in a specific order.
True, it takes more time to learn than a number-based technique, but rest assured that some people love this approach so much, they have multiple alphabet lists. And having more than one list is one of the core teachings in M.A. Kohain’s underground memory improvement book, Mnemotechnics: The Art and Science of Memory Techniques.
How to Use the Alphabet Method
In this technique, you will associate objects or people based on each letter of the alphabet. Later, you will link these alphabet associations with information you want to memorize.
Please note how I am applying the rule of specificity to each of these examples:
A – Apple laptop (the one I‘m typing this article on)
B – Batman (Michael Keaton version)
C – Chocolate (My favorite kind)
D – Dracula (As played by Bela Lugosi)
E – Elephant (Edgar, who you may have seen on my YouTube channel)
F – Fish (I use Kami the fish)
G – Goat (I think of The Jesus Lizard album by this name)
H – House (The movie by this name and its poster)
I – Igloo (specifically the one Pingu built)
J – Jelly (as in the band, Green Jelly)
K – Kangaroo (Hippety Hopper from the Warner Bros. cartoons)
L – Lantern (from Green Lantern)
M – Mouse (Mickey Mouse)
N – Nose (as seen on Michelangelo‘s David)
O – Orange (A Clockwork Orange)
P – Pan (Peter Pan)
Q – Queen (The rock band)
R – Rat (Splinter from Ninja Turtles)
S – Shore (as in Pauley Shore)
T – Turkey (the country on a map)
U – Umbrella (in the hands of Chauncey Gardiner)
V – Van (the one from A-Team)
W – Wagon (Stagecoach, starring John Wayne)
X – Xylophone (I loved the one I had as a kid)
Y – Yarn (my mom knits)
Z – Zed (from Pulp Fiction)
Once you have associated your images with the letters, you will then peg them to the items you wish to remember. Suppose you have to remember the following list of 10 gift items.
- A watch
- A DVD of the TV show “Friends”
- A shoulder bag
- A scarf
- A tennis racket
- A pen
- A tea set
- A dress
Next, you will mentally link these items with the images that represent the letters of the alphabet. I suggest you follow the order of letters. For example, the numeric equivalent of the alphabet, a, is 1; b is 2; c is 3, and so on.
Read the list and link them with the images described above, ideally in a Memory Palace. Notice how I am making each example dramatic, dynamic and either exaggerate through action or strange.
10 Mnemonic Examples For The Alphabet System
- A – Apple laptop: A watch: Think of Steve Jobs smashing your favorite watch (or a very expensive one) with a laptop.
- B – Batman: Imagine this iconic superhero using A DVD of the TV show “Friends” as a replacement weapon to his Batarang.
- C – Chocolate: Camera: Human-shaped chocolates are dancing seductively during a photo shoot. The camera nearly melts because it‘s so shy.
- D – Dracula: A shoulder bag: Dracula tries to suck blood from a shoulder bag.
- E – Elephant: A scarf: An elephant chewing on a scarf as if it were hay.
- F – Fish: Perfume: The fish is using the perfume like pepper spray to keep a shark away.
- G – Goat: A tennis racket: The Jesus Lizard album “Goat” enters a tennis court and interrupts the game. The tennis racket tries to scare it away by blasting it with music.
- H – House: A pen: You use a pen to sign the lease to your dream house… Except it‘s a haunted hose and eats the pen!
- I – Igloo: A tea set: You are enjoying a cup of warm tea with your family inside an igloo as Pingu crashes into it.
- J – (Green Jelly): A dress: The singer of this band spoils a dress you are about to buy by spreading it with a huge jelly stain.
Recalling the items is easy.
Just bring back the image you associated with each letter. With a bit of practice, you will become a pro.
Remember: You always have multiple chances to recall the target information:
1) You have both image you associated with the letter of the alphabet
2) You have the image for the letter of the alphabet
3) You have the interaction between the two taking place in a Memory Palace
4. The Look-Alike Method
Now, before we conclude, you might be wondering…
Where the heck does this clever memory technique come from?
The Number Shape Peg System
(Origins of the Pegword Method?)
Some people attribute the first peg system to Henry Herdson. He wrote instructions on mnemonics and memory back in the mid-1600s. In Ars Memoriae (1651), Herdson suggested linking each digit from 0-9 with an object that resembles the number.
Examples Of The Number Shape Peg System
1 = candle
2 = duck
3 = mustache
4 = sailboat, and so on.
Herdson’s images don’t sound very specific.
But even if Herdson didn’t use the Magnetic Memory Method, I suggest that you do.
For example, I think of a candle I had burning when I nearly accidentally burned down the house. This specificity makes everything stronger when I use the candle to memorize numbers.
You can find more number image examples in the Magnetic Memory Method Course How to Memorize Math, Numbers, Simple Arithmetic and Equations.
And if you feel like you don’t remember enough of your life to make each image specific enough, try these autobiographical memory exercises:
How Will You Use The Pegword Method?
As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can make pegs. You could use your favorite superheroes and then turn their bodies into Memory Palaces.
For example, Batman could be segmented into his head, shoulders, arms and legs.
There’s no end to the pegs you can create. And never forget:
Every peg can be combined with a Memory Palace for maximum effect.
So what do you say? Are you ready to create some pegs and memorize information?