is copyright Michael Curtis 2010-2023. All Rights Reserved.

The AA to ZZ System


You can use the start of a word as a prompt - a bit like if you are doing a quiz and someone prompts you the first two letters of the answer. So, down the numbered list of items to memorise, you can have a two letter prompt at each place on the list.

For example, if 'Rome' is an item to remember as essay point number 10 in an essay then item 10 (imagined as a place that is place 10) can be imagined in a scene involving the image for 'RO' since 'Rome' begins with 'Ro..'.

Or if someone's initials are WC then you could use the WC image as a way to prompt you the person's name within an essay which you are writing.

You can make an AA to ZZ system (ie. all letter pairs like AA, AB, AC, ZY, ZZ) by finding 26 images for each of the 26 categories below:

Roles of Actors
A Comedy
B Horror
C Romance
D Detective
E Western

F Tennis
G Soccer
H Rugby and Boxing and Cricket
I Athletics (track and field)
J Weight lifting and Swimming

Comic Books
K Marvel hero characters
L DC Characters
M Newspaper cartoons
N Disney characters
O Marvel villains

P Sitcom
Q Models
R TV Presenters such as celebrity chefs
S Soap opera

T 1960s musicians
U 1970s musicians
V 1980s musicians
W 1990s musicians
X 2000s musicians

Y Mythological gods and man-like beasts from mythology (some from movies) - but you could just imagine someone famous or someone you know in mythological art form as a way to have a visual.
Z People in history (images of actors from historical genre films like the Sharpe tv series (or good resolution images of real people))

Sometimes, I can not think of a person whose name begins with a desired letter; so I then flexibly just pick someone whose face I know and rote learn that the person represents a letter pair.

Some letters are less frequent in names than others; I made a rule that, as a first approach:

if I can not find a name beginning with Q then seek a word beginning with B;

if I can not find a name beginning with K then seek a word beginning with C;

if I can not find a name beginning with X then seek a word beginning with Sh;

if I can not find a name beginning with Z then seek a word beginning with Ch;

If there is still no match then use any letter.

Since writing this article, I wrote an article about Music Spelling; and I listed some musicians in that article whose music I am familiar with. I do not want the musicians of the AA-ZZ system to overlap the ones I want in the Music Spelling article.

An example of a list of a 26 people category is below: T - 1960s musicians:

A Aretha Franklin
B The Byrds
C Creedence Clearwater Revival
D The Drifters
E Etta James / Eddie Floyd
F The Four Seasons / The Four Tops
G Gladys Knight and the Pips
H Herman's Hermits
I The Impressions
J James Brown
K (used C) The Crystals / Carla Thomas
L The Lovin' Spoonful / Lesley Gore
M Marvin Gaye
N (used B) Buffalo Springfield
O Otis Redding
P Percy Sledge
Q (used B) Ben E. King
R Ray Charles
S Sam Cooke
T The Turtles / Tommy James and the Shondells
U (hard!) The Chiffons
V Van Morrison
W Wilson Pickett
X (used Sh) The Shangri-Las
Y The Yardbirds
Z Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Note: You could also use as prompts the images for letters A to Z (just 1 letter rather than 2 letters) but that would be a significantly weaker prompt than the two letter approach:

For many years, I used images for:

A = Apple, B = Beer [or beverage instead], C = Cone, D = Dragon

E = Edge, F = Fence, G = Gas canister, H = Harp

I = Ink, J = Jump, K = Keg, L = Lens

M = Mug, N =Negligent, O = Ogre, P = Pain (a person who is a pain)

Q = Quick ('get rich quick' salesman, R = Rigid like a stuck window frame, S = Smoke, T = Togetherness outlook

U = Ungainly, V = Vagabond, W = Wag of a dog of its tail, X = eXtra successful (a trophy).

Y = yoga, Z = Zig zag expressed as a buzzing bee.

But then I wanted a set of alphabet images where each alphabet image is something a person could hold:

Letter Image
A Apple
B Beverage
C Cone
D Dust pan
E Eagle
F Flute
G Goblet
H Harp
I Ink dropper
J Jewel crown
K Keg
L Lantern
M Mop
N Nest
O Olive branch
P Paint brush
Q Quill
R Rocket firework
S Stool
T Tablet (clay)
U Unicorn (toy)
V Violin
W Wheel
X Fire extinguisher
Y Yoghurt bowl
Z Candle (Z was tricky!)

Here is an A to Z system based on the Morse code

This is a way to interpret a message arriving to you (and obtain a Morse Code chart to help you to study this): rote learn N A M E I T. Then interpret an incoming Morse message as if it is N / A / M / E / I / T and assign a person:

N = Noel, A = Alan, M = Mark, E = Eric, I = Ian, T = Tom. If theere is a break then that means that the intended message is one of those letters. If there is a further N, A, M, E, I or T then turn it into a standard memorised verb. Eg. Ian's verbs are Ignores / Escapes / Tells / Adds based on the next signal being I / E / T /A. The message always ends with the same final word. Eg. Ian Ignores Herring. Herring begins with H. The I signal followed immediately by an I signal means the overall signal is H (Herring). So my Morse alphabet should ideally use a Herring image for H. The following are some rushed sentences (hopefully no errors!):

Ian Ignores Herring.

Ian Escapes Spider

Ian Tells Uncle

Ian Adds Value

Ian Nudges Football

Noel Inflates Balloon

Noel Names Child

Noel Enjoys Drumming

Noel Tracks Kangaroo

Noel Admires Xylophone

Noel Muffles Yawn

Alan Makes Jam

Alan Injures Leg

Alan Nicks Purse

Alan Eats Rice

Tom Tugs Wig

Mark Examines Game

Mark Tastes Orange

Mark Invites Zoe

Mark Asks Question

Note:When it is time to send a message, you can still use a line like 'Mark Asks Question' to work out what dot / dash combination Q should be.

This is a link to the old AA-ZZ system which is still useful to me as an English speaker:

If you are holding a few letters in your head temporarily rather than storing them at mental peg locations then there is a risk that your persistence of spoken word memory will become inaccurate.

Part of the problem of turning your attention away from the letters and then back to the letters is that some letters sound very similar. Eg. M and N.

Instead of Bee (B) and Pee (P), consider saying Bowe rather than Bee.

Instead of Em (M) and En (N), consider saying Nowe rather than En.

Instead of Dee (D) and Tee (T), consider saying Towe rather than Tee.

Instead of the long-to-pronounce 'double U' (W), consider saying Wowe.

Also, since O followed by I sounds a bit like Y, consider using Ya for Y.

(This would be useful for mental puzzle solving where pieces of the scrambled puzzle are expressed as letters. Eg. The 3 x 3 Rubiks Cube blindfolded)

Images to use for punctuation:

Symbol Looks a bit like
$ dollar shape as a jewellery pendant
% unicyclist
& rounded Russian doll
' drawing pin
( (L)ava maggot
) hair grip
* prop star
+ car nut loosening tool
, rusty nail
- length of wood
. currant
/ (L)oft hatch door
: cuff link
; fang
< (L)oud speaker megaphone
= ladder
> bellows of a blacksmith
? coat hanger
@ paperclip
¿ wheelchair
! pogo stick
" clothes peg
# hash brown
£ pound coin
¢ hack saw
[ (L)ozenge sweet
\ slide of a playground
] fridge magnet
^ dunce's hat
_ scoreboard
` CCTV camera
{ (L)id of bin
¦ drain pipe
} bull-clip
~ drill bit

24 Pegs / Loci in a year

The use of people from categories could be used for a different purpose. Each category could represent a year's diary; and you could use 24 people from that category to represent 24 points in the year. If you imagine the person narrating about what happened at that time in that year then it is a way to remember the year's events. Each month could use two such people: one to represent 1st to 15th; and a second person to represent the rest of the month. In that case, I would stop using the system for representing AA-ZZ.