Having memorized a list of items in sequence, using the Link method, how would you know, say, the 8th item instantly? You wouldn’t; you’d have to go over the Link and count, either mentally or on your fingers. There’s a much easier way, using Peg Words that are based on the phonetic alphabet. This is the Peg system of memory.

If you know the sounds of the phonetic alphabet, and you should by now, this won’t take much time or effort. We’ll start by giving you ten Peg Words, then we’ll show you how to use them.

Since the number 1 is always represented by the sound t or d, the Peg Word for 1 must contain only that sound. Many words could fit for any number, but the ones here are easy to picture and serve the purpose as well as any.

Memorizing Using Peg System

The word for 1 will always be tie. The word tie contains only one consonant sound, and that sound (t) can only represent 1. So, a mental picture of a man’s necktie will always represent 1.

The number 2 is also a single digit, so the Peg Word must contain only one consonant sound—but now, that sound must be the sound that represents 2, which is n. The word (name) that will always represent 2 is Noah. Picture whatever you like, probably a man with a long gray beard, or just the beard.

peg system for memory improvement

The Peg Word for 3 will always be Ma; picture your mother, or a little old lady.

4 : rye. That word could only represent 4 because it contains only one consonant sound, r. Picture a loaf of rye bread, or a bottle of rye whiskey.

5: law. Picture whatever law represents to you; we always picture a policeman.

6: shoe. Shoe contains only the sh consonant sound, which represents 6. Picture a shoe.

7: cow. Picture a cow, of course.

8: ivy. The v sound can only represent 8, therefore ivy can only represent 8. Picture ivy climbing on a wall.

9: bee. Picture the stinging insect.

The number 10 contains two digits, therefore the Peg Word for 10 must have the sound t (or d, for 1) and s (for 0) in that order. The word is toes; toes can only represent 10. Picture your toes.

Those are the first ten Peg Words. They are easy to remember because the phonetic sounds practically tell you what the words are. Look at them again; then see if you know them. You’ll know them out of order because you know the sounds out of order. And they will never change; once you know them, they’ll always be useful.

1. tie
2. Noah
3. Ma
4. rye
5. law
6. shoe
7. cow
8. ivy
9. bee
10. toes

Go over these a few times; you should be able to think of any number from 1 to 10 and know the Peg Word almost immediately. If you hear one of the Peg Words, you should, just as instantly, know the number it represents. When you know them fairly well, you’re ready to learn how to use these Pegs.

Let’s assume that you want to remember ten items in and out of order, by number. Let’s also assume that you handle these items in a haphazard order.

You must remember that number 8 is cracker. There would, ordinarily, be no problem picturing a cracker, but how would you picture the 8? Well, it’s easy if you learned the first ten Peg Words—the number 8 is … ivy. Simply associate cracker to ivy; see a ridiculous picture between those two items in your mind’s eye, perhaps millions of crackers instead of ivy growing all over a brick wall.

Now. You want to remember that number 3 will be scissors. Associate scissors to your Peg Word for number 3, which is Ma. You might see yourself cutting your Ma in half with a gigantic pair of scissors. (That picture may make you shudder, but you won’t forget it.) For each of these, be sure to see the picture you select; we won’t bother reminding you again.

Number 5 will be fish. Associate fish to your Peg Word for the number 5, law. Perhaps a policeman is arresting a gigantic fish, or a large fish is walking the beat like a cop.

peg words for brain training

Number 1 is pen. You might see yourself wearing a gigantic pen, instead of a tie (your Peg Word for the number 1), around your neck—see the ink dripping all over your shirt.

Number 10 is teeth. Associate teeth to your Peg Word, toes. Perhaps you want to picture large teeth on your feet instead of toes, or teeth are biting off your toes.

Number 4 is telephone. Your Peg Word is rye; you might see yourself talking into a loaf of rye bread instead of a telephone, or a large bottle of rye whiskey is making a phone call.

Number 7 is car. Associate car to your Peg Word for the number 7, cow. See a cow driving a car, or you’re milking a cow and cars come out instead of milk.

Number 2 is article. Your Peg Word for 2 is Noah; you must associate article to that.

This is being used here purposely. If you want to picture millions of articles falling out of a long gray beard, one. If you feel that article is too vague to picture, use a Substitute Word to remind you of it. You might use ah tickle, or a newspaper article. Use whatever you like, but be sure to associate it to beard, or whatever you’re using to represent Noah.

Number 9 is pillow. Associate that to bee, your Peg Word for 9. Perhaps pillows, instead of bees, are swarming all over you and stinging you; or you’re sleeping on a gigantic bee instead of a pillow.

Finally, you must remember that number 6 is balloon. The Peg Word for 6 is shoe. See yourself wearing balloons instead of shoes, or you’re blowing up a shoe instead of a balloon. Use one of these, or one you thought of yourself, and see it in your mind’s eye.

If you’ve made all the associations and visualized them clearly, there’s no doubt that you know the ten items. Try it. Think of the Peg Word for number 1: tie. What does tie remind you of? What were you wearing instead of a tie? A pen, of course.

Think of Noah (2). That reminds you of … article.
Think of Ma (3). That reminds you of … scissors.
Think of rye (4). That reminds you of … telephone.
Think of law (5). That reminds you of … fish.
Think of shoe (6). That reminds you of … balloon.
Think of cow (7). That reminds you of … car.
Think of ivy (8). That reminds you of … cracker.
Think of bee (9). That reminds you of … pillow.
Think of toes (10). That reminds you of … teeth.

Aside from the fact that the items were given to you in an out of-sequence order, you haven’t really accomplished too much more than you could have accomplished with the Link. But there is a difference. If you want to know what number 6 is, simply think of the Peg Word for 6 (shoe) and you’ll instantly know the 6th item! It’s … balloon, right? That’s not all. If you think of any item, you’ll instantly know its numerical position. Where was the telephone? Well, telephone makes you think rye, and rye is the Peg Word for the number 4, so telephone has to be 4.

If you’d like to test yourself, see how quickly you can fill in these blanks:

(cow) 7 = _____
(Ma) 3 = _____
(toes) 10 = _____
(bee) 9 = _____
(tie) 1 = _____
(law) 5 = _____
(shoe) 6 = _____
(Noah) 2 = _____
(ivy) 8 = _____
(rye) 4 = _____

And these:

scissors is _____
telephone is _____
fish is _____
article is _____
pillow is _____
balloon is _____
cracker is _____
car is _____
teeth is _____
pen is _____

And these:

10 is _____
3 is _____
1 is _____
8 is _____
4 is _____
car is _____
fish is _____
article is _____
pillow is _____
balloon is _____

Are you impressed with yourself? You should be. Having read them only once, you’ve remembered ten items forward, backward, and inside out.

The Peg Words are an extension of the places or “loci” idea mentioned in a previous article. You’ve arrived at them slowly, step by step. The simple memory aids helped you to remember the sounds of the phonetic alphabet, the sounds themselves helped you to remember the Peg Words, and the Peg Words made it easy to remember ten random items. Obviously, the better you know the Pegs, the faster you’ll be able to memorize a Peg list, as you just did.

But what if you have to remember eleven items, or twelve, or twenty? No problem. Knowing the phonetic alphabet enables you to make up Peg Words for any number. You can’t picture the number 11, but you can picture a tot, a young child. And the word tot can only represent the number 11, because it has the t and t sounds, 1 and 1.

The Peg Word for 12 is tin; picture a tin can, or see the item at that position made of tin.

Then come:

13. tomb; picture a gravestone.
14. tire
15. towel
16. dish
17. tack
18. dove
19. tub
20. nose

Go over these once or twice and you’ll know them. Now you can really show off. Have someone number a paper from 1 to 20 and let him call any number and any item, until each number has an item next to it. You make good strong associations, of course, of Peg Word to item. Next, call the items off from 1 to the last number. Then let your friend call any number—you tell him the item—followed by any item, whereupon you tell him the number!

Here is a list of 100 Peg Words. They really are easy to learn, and there’s no rote memory involved. Had the words been selected haphazardly, the idea would still work, but that would entail rote memory. As it is, the words all fit the pattern you’ve learned, and anything patternized is easier to remember. The sounds of the phonetic alphabet make it a fairly easy task.

We won’t tell you that it’s important for you to know them all thoroughly. You should know twenty or so perfectly however, and we do suggest that you at least become familiar with all of them. Go over them, with concentration, a few times and you will be familiar with them. And, it can’t hurt you in the least to really learn them all.

After you’ve gone over the words a few times, you can use this list as a drill. Put your hand or a piece of paper over the words, look at the numbers, and see if the word comes to you. If you like, you can make up flash cards, but that isn’t really necessary. If you’re stuck on a word, think of the consonant sounds, then stick vowels in there until the word comes to you. It will, sooner or later.