Rhyming peg list

How’d you do memorizing the list of 10 items from my last post? Here’s the list again:

  1. Post-it note
  2. Hammer
  3. Apple
  4. Light bulb
  5. Led Zeppelin
  6. Maple syrup
  7. Book
  8. Porsche
  9. Crawfish
  10. Dog

One very easy way to remember this list is a mnemonic technique called “the rhyming peg list.”

I thought about writing a full dissertation on this, but then realized I could cheat and search youtube (probably more MEMORABLE than a bunch of text anyway):

You should customize your rhyming peg list. If you are having trouble remembering any of the pegs, come up with something else that resonates with you. Mine is slightly different than his:

  1. Sun
  2. Shoe
  3. Tree
  4. Door
  5. Hive
  6. Sticks
  7. Heaven
  8. Gate
  9. Wine
  10. Hen

Now, create a vivid scene mixing your peg list word with each item on the list to remember. Certainly create a rich, action-packed visual… but you might consider including sound, smell, or even taste.

1 – Post-it note

The sun is too bright and you are squinting because you forgot your sunglasses. All you have is a pad of post-it notes in your pocket. You rip one off, reach up, and stick it over the sun. That immediately blocks out the light (like an eclipse) and you are thrown into pitch blackness.

2 – Hammer

You have an aging deck with nail heads that have popped up. You put on giant “hammer” shoes. The handles are dug out to allow you to slip your feet in. Then you just walk around your deck.

3 – Apple

An “apple tree” ain’t going to cut it. Too forgettable. You have to come up with something disturbing, unusual, funny, sexual, or scary. Imagine that you drive home from work and see a giant (house sized) apple sitting on your lawn. It has already eaten two trees down to the stumps and is now chewing on a third.

4 – Light bulb

Picture a door with a bright light bulb for a knob. You reach out to turn the “knob” and burn your hand.

5 – Led Zeppelin

I picture a blimp in the sky that looks like a stretched out beehive. It catches fire and starts crashing towards earth. Bonus: you hear the guitar riffs from Black Dog like a movie soundtrack while the hive-blimp is crashing.

6 – Maple Syrup

It’s breakfast time, and you are eager to pour Mrs Butterworth all over your pancakes… but nothing is coming out. So, you shake the bottle hard- instead of syrup, a pile of sticks pours out onto your pancakes.

7 – Book

St. Peter checks the mailbox next to the pearly gates and finds a $1B fine from God’s library. He forgot to return the original Bible.

8 – Porsche

An orange Porsche 911 with the rebel flag painted on its roof breaks through a gate in a field trying to escape from Boss Hogg. Bits of the gate go flying through the air. Them Duke boys have moved up in the world!

9 – Crawfish

I’m sitting at a cafe on Bourbon Street drinking a huge glass of red wine. A crawfish was hiding in my wine, and I didn’t see it because they are both red. When I bring the wine to my lips, the crawfish reaches his claw up and rips off my lips. Blood gushes everywhere.

10 – Dog

A brown dog is chasing a white hen. He actually catches it and swallows it whole. He looks normal for a second and then you hear a “pop” as he suddenly sprouts brown wings.

Got it?

I promise, you will be unable to forget this list if you read each description, close your eyes, and create a rich mental image of the scene. Do it now.

What is the 4th item on your list? Well, four is door. Your mind should immediately throw up an image of an ouchy-hot light bulb door knob. Now you can go forwards, backwards, or randomly through your list. Just think of the number, convert it to your rhyming word, and see what pops in your mind.

If you just run through the list a few times, it will lock in tight. If this is information that you want to keep for a long time, you might only need to run through it in your head a couple days later, then a couple weeks later, then a few months later. You should actually be able to run through the list in a matter of seconds during that reinforcement stage.

More on the theory of how/why this works in future posts. Meantime, I’d love to hear your scores before and after in the comments below.

Image by Penningtron



  1. Lorraine McLaughlin · ·

    1-run; 2-zoo and 9-wine does it for me.    As we talked about this not too long ago, my brother taught me this trick years ago.  I should use it more.  Wish it worked for people’s names.


    1. Hi Mom! I’m betting he learned it from the classic Harry Lorayne books. Heh heh. There is a different technique for names. I’ll probably cover it in the future.

  2. I’ve noticed that all sources out there pretty much teach this technique the same way. One piece missing, though, is to link the overall theme of the list in your mind. In real life, you aren’t going to be memorizing random lists of words. There’s some reason you want to remember the list. 

    So, if it were the ten largest customers in your territory- you would immediately associate this string of rhyming images to “10 largest customers in my territory.” That fact will help a lot with recall. It adds a little binding to this particular list of 10… to help separate it from other lists of 10 you may also be memorizing.

    So, I refer to this list as “the 10 from my blog post.” And I remember the 10 I made up for my Mother-in-Law as “Nana’s list.”

    Just keep that in mind as you set out to memorize real things. It will help.

  3. […] are inherently abstract. In my previous post on The Rhyming Peg List, I covered one way to visualize the numbers 1 through 10. But, what about a number like 3212? Turns […]