Numbers 1-20 as Memory Aids

It’s been long enough ago that I have forgotten who had a book or some TV special about memory tricks. What I do recall is that the gimmick had to do with a list of key images that served as “home base” for remembering other things. Somehow you were to associate some physical object (or objects) with numbers and then using those “presets” you could associate the item to be remembered with your “home base” numbers, in as exaggerated a manner as possible, so as to make the association really easier to visualize. You could then play back the list in any order required by way of the numbers.

Even if that’s not clear to you, please indulge in this little exercise by coming up with some objects that you can easily associate with the number 1 through 20. Don’t look at other posts until you’ve done yours.

A simple example of what I’m asking for would be using Hand for 5. That or a baseball glove or just a regular glove or maybe even a foot.

Try to have the objects be as quickly associated with the number as you can and try to select objects that only relate to that one number. For instance having Table as a key for 4 (because of the legs) might get fuzzy if you thought of a Table with fewer or greater number of legs.

I hope that’s clear enough.

One is tree and elephant? I hate to tell you, but if you’re thinking of the memory tapes my dad used to listen to in the car that can’t be pried out of my brain now (Purple pennies and the Statue of Liberty), that’s famous quack fraudster Kevin Trudeau.

1- finger
2- bicycle
3- tree
4- square
5- hand
6- honeycomb
7- slot machine
8- snowman
9- an angry nazi
10- Bo Derek
12- ruler
13- black cat
19- Viet Nam soldier

That’s all I got, and I’m sure some of mine are more complex than would be helpful.

Nope. It was some guy who used to show up on one of the late night shows (may have been the Carson show) and demonstrate his memory gimmicks by replaying the names of everybody in the audience! He met and greeted them on their way into the studio before the show and even remembered nicknames and hometowns of some of them. Might have been somebody with a name like Harry Loraine or something along those lines.

As a hint of what I’m hoping others will contribute to, it will be along the lines of:

1 = flagpole
2 = train tracks
3 = milking stool
4 = card table
5 = glove
6 = a die (one of a pair of dice)
7 = week’s worth of a calendar
8 = stop sign
9 = baseball team
10 =
11 = football team
12 = clock face

It’s the numbers 13-20 that get tricky. And I can’t seem to come up with a ready item for 10 even!

Years ago, when I used to display my skills with this gimmick, I had a list to 50, but damned if I can remember them. Twenty is plenty for now anyway.

“They” have shown that seven is about the maximum number of items most people can remember comfortably. (Nope, no cite.)

My mnemonic for remembering shopping lists or whatever is a set of seven items that rhyme with the numbers: One = bun, two = shoe, three = tree, four = door, five = hive, six = sticks, seven = heaven. (The last two are pretty lame, but if it’s more than five things I prefer to write them down anyway.)

So if I’m going to the store and need to remember to get milk, lettuce, catfood, and deodorant, I picture: A gallon jug of milk sitting in between the two halves of an enormous hamburger bun; a head of lettuce sticking out of a shoe; cans of catfood dangling on strings from the branches of a tree; and a dutch door (the kind where you can open each half independently) with a stick of deodorant sitting on the ledge of the closed bottom half. When I get to the store, I think, okay, “bun” – and the milk image comes to mind; “shoe,” and I picture the lettuce; etc.

Which totally doesn’t answer your question but I’m sharing it anyway, because it’s sufficiently mundane and pointless.

A little searching (which I might have done before posting the OP) shows that the guy I’m remembering is either Harry Lorayne or Jerry Lucas. I never did own that book so it must have come from TV or somebody else’s book.

How 'bout a list of numbers in which the sum of any group of them produces a unique number? Such as:

0 - Grapes
1 - Raspberries
2 - Black Raspberries
4 - Strawberry
8 - Kiwi
16 - Apricot
32 - Plum
64 - Peach
128 - Apple
256 - Pear
512 - Orange
1024 - Grapefruit
2048 - Banana

And then add 'em up. That is, 17 means you need apricots & red raspberries; 388 means you need pears, apples & strawberries; 4095 means you need 'em all.


Kevin Trudeau’s hucksterism aside, those mnemonics actually do work pretty well. I used to memorize forty or fifty-digit numbers as a party trick using mnemonics. The numbers would last up to the next day or longer. I’m out of practice, but if IIRC, the system was:

0 = z or s
1 = t or d
2 = n
3 = m
4 = r
5 = l
6 = j, sh, ch
7 = k or g
8 = f or v
9 = p or b
8 =

I confess absolute bafflement over this group. Any clues as to how to apply this system?

8 = snowman – for the shape of 8?
9 = an angry nazi – from “nein”?
19 – I just don’t get at all

13 – black cat – I think mine was a hangman’s noose – same concept, different image

10 – I like the Bo Derek image! :smiley:
7 - the slot beats my calendar for visualizing purposes, but I want an even more “obvious” 7 to use.

1 a nose
2- love birds
3- triange
4-square: 4th of July fireworks
5-one hand
6 the devil (666)
7-John Elway’s football jersey; the Magnificient Seven
9- bottles of beer ( the song 99 bottles of beer on the wall); baseball players
10 bowling pins
11 football team
12 a dozen eggs; months in a calendar
13 black cat
14 valentine’s day; 14 karat gold ring
15 IRS (April 15th)
16 a car (able to drive legally)
17 NC-17 rating
18 voting booth
19 Steely Dan song?
20 fingers and toes

For each number, you come up with an easily-vizualisable word that has those letters and no others, and create a mental image that matches that word up with what you’re trying to remember.

For instance, if you have a list where item 76 is a car, you can visualize a car with a couch dropped on it.


Say you have a number like 16435987. You con come up with this:

d sh(j ch) m l r p(b) f g(k)

So, what keywords can we see here? DISH, MAIL, ROPE, FOG

Now come up with some stupid story to link these keywords together. It can be as nonsensical as you’d like (in fact, the more nonsensical it is, the easier it is to remember, it seems).

Like, “The DISH came in the MAIL, which was connected to a ROPE that trailed off into a FOG.” I mean, however your brain works. You’re not trying to write a novel here. Just create and visualize images that you can connect with each other.

I used to play a killer game of Concentration using a set of images. Let’s see if I remember them all…

1 - a letter spike
2 - a teapot (tea for two)
3 - an altar (for the Trinity)
4 - four leaf clover
5 - golden rings
6 - dice (six sided)
7 - ship sailing on the sea/ocean (seven seas)
8 - octopus
9 - a bunch of girls dancing (the muses)
10 - big stone tablets (ten commandments)
11 - a bridge (for the towers on a suspension bridge)
12 - egg carton
13 - a broken mirror (both are bad luck)
14 - lying on a beach, tanning (preferred vacation, vacation generally two weeks)
15 - a camera (=paparazzi = ‘15 minutes of fame’)
16 - a birthday cake (sweet sixteen)
17 - the starship Enterprise
18 - bottle of booze (for the drinking age when I used this. Also 18th amendment = prohibition)
20 - a photocopier (XeroX = XX = 20)
21 - cannon (for 21 gun salute)
22 - Noah’s ark (the animals go in, two by two)
23 -
24 - an hour glass (hours in a day)
25 - a christmas tree

Damn. I do NOT remember 19 & 23. :mad:
Explanations included for the more obscure ones. yes, my mind works in strange ways.

Now if I could only remember 19 and 23.


First, the letters were based on a part of your body, starting from its lowest point to its highest (and then some):

  1. (t or d) toe
  2. (n) knee
  3. (m) I don’t remember.
  4. (r) rump
  5. (l) I don’t remember.
  6. (j or or ch or sh) shoulder
  7. (k) I don’t remember.
  8. (f or v) face
  9. (p or b) point (as in the top of your head, your highest point)
  10. (s or z) sky (above your head)

Then, you can develop words for every number from 1-100 (or to a 1000, or to 10,000 or as high as you want) if you can be clever enough. Example:

10 (1 + 0): toes (t + s)
11 (1 + 1): toad (t + d)
12 (1 + 2): town (t + n)
793: kaboom (k + b/p + m)

Notice all these words are based on similarly hard-sounding consonants, not vowels. Anyhow, you memorize your list and never substitute it. Those words are sort of your anchor for remembering items. (I believe Trudeau called it a peg list, as on which to hang the item of memory.) Oh, and yes, I am aware Trudeau did not create this set of mnemonics.

Okay, now lets say you have a shopping list of stuff to buy at the grocery store. Let’s say on that list – which you chose to not bring with you because you’re such a bad-ass with your memory – items #10 through #20 are:

… and so on.

For apples, imagine in your mind’s eye something non-sensical that includes apples and toes. Like the imagery of you picking up apples at the store with your toes instead of your hands.

For oranges, imagine a toad that is doing that “neck-swell” thingy, except that an entire orange swells out of his neck. (Hope that makes sense.)


So, when you get to the store and you’re trying to remember what item #10 is, think of “toes” and you will most likely think of toes grabbing those apples. And when you’re trying to remember what item #11 is, you’ll see that bizarre toad and remember oranges. And so on.

I’ve found it more useful to just write things down. :wink:

I bought Trudeau’s Mega-memory tapes a long time ago and found them to easy to apply, but pretty much never in scenarios that mattered (but I would be a bad-ass at parties). That said, I will not go so far as to call him a huckster. In fact, being a student of health, I found much of his info from his health book to be right on, (but that’s all for another thread, of course). As best as I can remember, here are his 1-20 items:

  1. tree trunk (shaped like a one)
  2. light switch (two positons: up and down)
  3. bar stool (three legs)
  4. car (four wheels, four doors, Ford Motor Corp.)
  5. glove (as in five fingers)
  6. gun (as in six shooter)
  7. dice (as in lucky number seven)
  8. ice skate (as in figure eight, also rhymes)
  9. cat (nine lives, cat o’ nine tails whip)
  10. bowling alley (10 pins, ten frames)
  11. field goal uprights (shaped like an 11, also 11 players to a side)
  12. eggs (12 in a carton, a “baker’s” dozen)
  13. witch (conjures bad luck, Friday the 13th)
  14. heart (14 karat ring, Valentines Day: Feb. 14)
  15. Memory fails me. Ha!
  16. Memory fails me. Ha!
  17. magazine (rhymes, and there is “17” magazine)
  18. Memory fails me. Something to do with voting, IIRC.
  19. golf course (19th hole)
  20. pack of cigarettes (20 to a pack)

I learned those same letter/number correlations out of one of the Lorayne (sp?)books, but he gave different ways to remember them. In case some people find these easier:

1 - t/d For the initial down stroke. (yes, weak)
2 - n An ‘n’ has two downstrokes
3 - m And the ‘m’ has three downstrokes.
4 - r The word ‘four’ ends with an ‘r’
5 - l If you hold up your left hand up with all fingers extended (but together) and your thumb jutting out, then the shape of an l appears tracing down your index finger and out your thumb. (Don’t blame me – that’s what it said.)
6 - sh/ch/j - hmm, don’t remember
7 - k You can make a somewhat recognizable k out of two sevens, the first one ‘backwards.’
8 - f A cursively written f has two loops, just like an 8.
9 - p/b A nine is a p written backwards
0 - z/s zero stars with Z.

Forgive me the hijack, but what exactly about his health claims do you like? He’s made a fortune selling Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About, but he’s generally regarded as an outright fraud for doing so. I think that that kind of hucksterism is particularly twisted, as taking money from the desperate and encouraging them to avoid real treatment is the sort of thing that can seriously hurt people.

All the way to 20? feels tired already

0 is an egg
1 is the one-legged lead soldier (Andersen)
2 is a yellow rubber ducky, with an orange beak
3 is a snake that’s been doing contorsionism, there’s a knot where the two curves meet
4 is a chair upside down (in Spain most people write 4 open at the top, we’d put our chairs upside down on the desks before leaving the classroom at the end of the day)
5 is the same snake as before, but she’s managed to untwist herself
6 is an elephant eating peanuts. I know it wasn’t this in my infancy but whatever it was mutated at some point.
7 is the lead soldier’s ballerina (in Spain, and I’m told generally in Europe, a 7 has a horizontal line in the middle, that’s the tutu)
8 is a bolt of wool, fresh from the store with the paper band still on. Or, if you still haven’t acquired the meme that “spiders are icky”, a big spider
9 is the same elephant, he’s turned around to drink
10 is either my fingers (and anybody else’s fingers, but not all at the same time) or the lead soldier and an egg
20 is when you use my fingers and somebody else’s fingers at the same time

Once we’d reached the point of “you can use two figures” and “fingers at the same time or not at the same time”, we started doing addition with colored wooden sticks of different lengths and didn’t quite get around to individual pictures for the intermediate numbers.

For one, the crux of his work is an alternative to prescription medication, which *is[ poison, which does tend to take the body out of balance in other areas (though not always). Hard to imagine somebody choosing this line of study for financial gain alone – there just doesn’t tend to be much money in it.

You write, Generally regarded. By whom? By people who seek wellness through holistic means? Not my mom, who has been an herbologist for 25 years (and is pain free and disease-free at 72). Or by people down the pipeline who have been fed this stuff, much of which probably did begin with the FDA & FTC as Trudeau claims.

I apologize. This isn’t the place for this (I am enjoying this mnemonic stuff!). But I ask you: have you read Natural Cures? Is it a crime to make money off a book or a memory program? I’ll grant you this: ethically speaking, Trudeau wasn’t always where he claims to be now and openly admits it, and Natural Cures is more of a thumbnail sketch, a shallow compilation for all things holistic, and not a bible by any means, but he’s the first (or one of the first) to come out with something digestable for the masses for alternative drugs (you can get it at Costco, FGS), and you can probably count a hundred people you know in deteriorating health with medicine cabinets full of pills that would benefit from it (and you probably consider the AMA and aforementioned governing/lobbying bodies, etc. as corrupt as I do) so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and his props as well for waking people who are in the dark about health. Even if his personality might be a little too Type A for me. YMMV.