is copyright Michael Curtis 2010-2021. All Rights Reserved.

Taxi Driver


If I had to learn the addresses of a big city so that a customer in my [imaginary] cab could ask me to drive to an address then I would think about using mnemonics to learn the addresses.

Rote memory is the best memory but, if you have an exam coming up and you need to cram for it then it is good to have mnemonics. Let's imagine that I have to quickly learn 100s of street addresses.

Some memory experts might recommend visiting as many of the addresses as you can so that you have a visual memory of them; but to imagine a mnemonic of the road name happening in the street. Since 'Cavendish Avenue' sounds a bit like 'Cave' followed by 'Dish', one could imagine a small cave opening and a huge dish outside it - as if it is a big obstruction in the avenue.

When a passenger asks to be driven to Cavendish Avenue, what should happen is: Cavendish becomes Cave+Dish; and you have a chance of remembering the road(s) of the city where you pictured a cave and dish.

My approach of 'using mnemonic images for the spelling of the start of a word' would not fare well here. If I have imagined the image for CA at Cavendish Avenue or imagined an image for CAV or for CAVE then what happens when the customer asks to be driven to Cavendish Avenue? How can I turn that into CA and think of roads where the CA image was pictured? There would be so so many roads beginning with CA that the technique is very weak; although an image for a 4 letter prompt of CAVE has more hope.

So it looks like the Cave + Dish approach is best. I would say though that it can go wrong too...

Imagine a road is called Affleck Road and you think, "Affleck sounds like 'a flock'; and you imagine a flock of sheep in the road; then a customer one day asks you to drive to Affleck Road. What do you convert Affleck into? A flock of sheep or a flock of sea gulls? Or maybe Affleck reminds you of 'a flick'. The connection can be broken because there is no firm rule about how you will interpret Affleck in future.

That broken connection is one of the reasons why I would not tend to use that approach to memorise foreign language.

Having said that criticism, Cavendish as Cave and Dish was pretty good. So I would not reject the method completely; and, given several iterations of revision, the mental association would become strong.

Maybe there is no super mnemonic solution to the taxi driver question. Far better would be to know from a young age that I want to become a taxi driver; and then to learn loads of roads at my leisure rather than in a hurry.

I wonder if a combination of using a 3 letter image and a 2 letter image imagined in a street would work? Eg. Brooks Street might be thought of as BRO + OK (+ the S which we ignore). The problem with the 3 letter robots system or 3 letter musicians system is that the images are quite samey; they are fine for occasional use but, if 100s of roads are all expressed as robot images or as musicians playing a tune then the samey quality would creep in and make them less memorable, collectively.

If a three letter system is constrained to being just common three letter combinations then it is no longer a 26 x 26 x 26 letter exercise and maybe worth the time to develop - the images would hopefully not be samey. Maybe some of the 1000 male and 1000 women images could be used within it. Eg. a person meaning 'Well' could represent WEL. Any street name that does not fall into that system could be expressed as robot images, etc..

If the AA-ZZ system is made up of sketched cartoon-like objects then they could be imagined as different colours depending on which district of the city the road is in; or maybe colour could mean whether the road is a 'Road', 'Street', 'Hill', 'Avenue', etc..

And what if each AA-ZZ image has its own action? Then a story imagined at a street could be a 3 letter image from the 1000 people lists and that person would do an AA-ZZ action using a coloured AA-ZZ object; and that action could be performed on an AA-ZZ person. I could develop that action system by re-engineering the 1000 actions I already made (see the earlier article).

Another person I could be imagining could be one of the people from the 5000 peg system. So there are many ways to make a visualisation to represent a road name. (When I created the 5000 peg system, I deliberately used syllables that might be helpful in learning a foreign language that is consonant vowel consonant vowel in nature - but then it developed into a peg system rather than a spelling system.)

Since I wrote this article, I realised that the 5000 Person system can be interpreted as 3 letter words (but where the final letter is a gues from a range of 3 or 4 choices). This has tipped the balance, in my view, for arguing the case that a 5000 person system would be a core part of this memory system - and not a peripheral nice-to-have.

The following are words picked out from the Male 1000 and Woman 1000 lists. Remember that each word is intended to have a matching cartoon person image. Apart from representing actual frequently used words, their first 3 letters can be used to represent the first 3 letters of street names or other unusual words.

The 3 letter person can do a 2 letter action on an object that is an image representing a 1 or 2 or 3 letter combination.

Maybe one could use this list mainly but use the robot 3 letter approach if there is a 3 letter combination not covered by this list:

Word Prefix
ability abi
able abl
about abo
absorb abs
accelerate acc
achieve ach
acid aci
acquire acq
across acr
act act
add add
admit adm
adult adu
adverse adv
affect aff
after aft
again aga
age age
aggression agg
agree agr
aim aim
air air
alcohol alc
alert ale
alive ali
alkaline alk
all all
almost alm
alone alo
alphabet alp
already alr
also als
although alt
always alw
amaze ama
amends ame
among amo
ancient anc
angle ang
animal ani
ankle ank
annoy ann
anti- ant
anybody any
apart apa
ape ape
appear app
arch arc
are are
argument arg
arm arm
around aro
arrange arr
arts art
ascend asc
ask ask
asset ass
athlete ath
atom ato
attack att
aunt aun
authority aut
Autumn Aut
available ava
avoid avo
award awa
axe axe
baby bab
back bac
bad bad
bag bag
balance bal
bamboo bam
ban ban
be a be
bean bea
because of bec
bed bed
before bef
beg beg
behave beh
believe bel
bend ben
best bes
better bet
bias bia
big big
bill bil
biology bio
bird bir
bit bit
black bla
blind bli
blood blo
blue blu
board boa
body bod
boil boi
bolt bol
bone bon
book boo
border bor
boss bos
both bot
bounce bou
bow bow
box box
boy boy
branch bra
break bre
brick bri
brother bro
brush bru
budget bud
build bui
bulb bul
bump bum
bureaucracy bur
bus bus
but but
buy buy
calculate cal
can can
capable cap
car car
case cas
catch cat
cauldron cau
cave cav
ceiling cei
celebrate cel
censor cen
certain cer
chain cha
check che
child chi
choke cho
circle cir
city cit
civil civ
claim cla
clean cle
cliff cli
clock clo
clue clu
cold col
combination com
conceive con
cool coo
cope cop
corner cor
cost cos
cotton cot
cough cou
cover cov
cow cow
crack cra
create cre
crime cri
crop cro
crunch cru
cry cry
cube cub
culture cul
cup cup
curl cur
cut cut
cycle cyc
cylinder cyl
damage dam
dance dan
dare dar
data dat
daughter dau
day day
dead dea
debt deb
decay dec
dedicate ded
deep dee
defeat def
degree deg
deity dei
delay del
demand dem
denominator den
depend dep
derive der
descend des
detail det
develop dev
diagram dia
did did
die die
differ dif
dig dig
dim dim
dip dip
direct dir
disability dis
divide div
doctor doc
dog dog
domicile dom
don't don
door doo
dot dot
doubt dou
down dow
dozen doz
draft dra
drilldown dri
drop dro
drug dru
dry dry
due due
during dur
dusk dus
dye dye
each eac
ear ear
Earth Ear
east eas
eat eat
edge edg
effect eff
eg. eg.
egg egg
eight eig
either eit
eject eje
elbow elb
electric ele
else els
embarrass emb
emotion emo
empathy emp
enable ena
encourage enc
end end
enemy ene
enforce enf
enjoy enj
enough eno
enter ent
epidemic epi
equal equ
era era
error err
escape esc
especially esp
essential ess
etc. etc
ethic eth
evaluate eva
even eve
evidence evi
examine exa
exchange exc
exercise exe
exit exi
expect exp
extra ext
eye eye
fable fab
face fac
fail fai
fall fal
fame fam
fang fan
far far
fast fas
fat fat
fault fau
favour fav
fear fea
feel fee
female fem
ferment fer
fetus fet
fever fev
few few
field fie
fifty fif
fight fig
fill fil
find fin
fire fir
fish fis
fit fit
five fiv
fix fix
flame fla
flex fle
float flo
flu flu
fly fly
focus foc
fog fog
fold fol
food foo
force for
foundation fou
fraction fra
free fre
friction fri
frog fro
frustrate fru
fuel fue
fun fun
fur fur
fuss fus
future fut
fuzzy fuz
gap gap
gas gas
gate gat
gave gav
geek gee
gender gen
gesture ges
get get
ghost gho
girl gir
give giv
glass gla
glide gli
gold gol
gone gon
good goo
got got
govern gov
grab gra
great gre
grief gri
groan gro
guarantee gua
guess gue
guilt gui
gum gum
guts gut
habit hab
had had
hair hai
halberd hal
hand han
happen hap
hard har
hat hat
have hav
head hea
heel hee
help hel
hemp hem
here her
hesitate hes
hide hid
high hig
hill hil
him him
hip hip
hire (out) hir
history his
hit hit
hold hol
home hom
hone hon
hook hoo
hope hop
horizon hor
host hos
hot hot
hour hou
however how
hue hue
huge hug
hum hum
hundred hun
hurry hur
husband hus
hygiene hyg
hypothesise hyp
ice ice
idea ide
ignorant ign
image ima
imitate imi
immature imm
implicate imp
include inc
independent ind
infect inf
inhabitant inh
innocent inn
input inp
insect ins
intellectual int
invade inv
inward inw
irritate irr
isolate iso
its its
jade jad
jagged jag
jar jar
jerk jer
job job
join joi
joke jok
journey jou
judge jud
jump jum
junior jun
just jus
keen kee
key key
kick kic
kidney kid
kill kil
kind kin
knee kne
knife kni
knock kno
lack lac
ladle (spoon) lad
lame lam
land lan
large lar
last las
late lat
laugh lau
law law
layer lay
lead lea
leek lee
left lef
leg leg
leisure lei
lend len
less les
let let
level lev
lid lid
lie lie
life lif
light lig
like lik
limit lim
line lin
liquid liq
list lis
literal lit
live liv
load loa
location loc
logic log
lonely lon
look loo
lord lor
lose los
lot lot
loud lou
love lov
low low
loyal loy
luck luc
lust lus
machine mac
magnet mag
main mai
major maj
make mak
male mal
mammal mam
man man
march mar
master mas
match mat
maximum max
may may
meal mea
mechanism mec
media med
meet mee
melon mel
member mem
menstral men
mercy mer
met met
micro mic
midday mid
might mig
military mil
mind min
misbehave mis
mix mix
mock moc
mode mod
mold mol
moment mom
monastery mon
mood moo
more mor
most mos
mother mot
mound mou
move mov
much muc
multiply mul
muscle mus
mute mut
name nam
nation nat
near nea
neck nec
need nee
negative neg
neither nei
nephew nep
nerve ner
net net
neutral neu
never nev
new new
next nex
nice nic
niece nie
night nig
nine nin
nobody nob
nod nod
noise noi
non- non
nor nor
nose nos
not not
noun nou
now now
nullify nul
number num
obey obe
object obj
obscure obs
obvious obv
occur occ
odd odd
of a of
off off
oil oil
old old
once onc
one one
only onl
onto ont
open ope
opinion opi
opportunistic opp
orange ora
orbit orb
order ord
organ org
origin ori
out out
oval ova
over ove
owe owe
own own
oxygen oxy
page pag
pain pai
palm pal
pan pan
paper pap
pardon par
pass pas
pat pat
pause pau
pay pay
peace pea
pen pen
percussion per
phenomenon phe
philosophy phi
physics phy
pick up pic
piece pie
pig pig
pile pil
pin pin
pipe pip
pity pit
place pla
please ple
plough (plow) plo
plug plu
poem poe
point (1) poi
poke pok
polite pol
pool poo
popular pop
pork por
position pos
poultry pou
powder pow
practical pra
precede pre
prick pri
probability pro
psychology psy
puberty pub
puddle pud
pull pul
punctual pun
pure pur
push pus
put put
qualify qua
question que
quick qui
race rac
radio rad
rag rag
rail rai
random ran
rare rar
rash ras
rather rat
raw raw
re- re-
reach rea
rebel reb
receive rec
red red
refer ref
regard reg
reject rej
relapse rel
remain rem
rent ren
repay rep
request req
resemble res
retire ret
revenge rev
reward rew
rhyme rhy
rib rib
rice ric
ride rid
right [first set of meanings] rig
rise ris
ritual rit
river riv
road roa
rob rob
rock roc
rod rod
role rol
romantic rom
roof roo
rope rop
rough rou
row row
rub rub
rude rud
ruin rui
rule rul
rumour rum
run run
rural rur
sad sad
safe saf
salient sal
same sam
sand san
satisfy sat
save sav
say say
scab sca
science sci
scold sco
scrape scr
sea sea
second sec
see see
self sel
send sen
separate sep
serious ser
set set
seven sev
sew sew
sex sex
shadow sha
sheep she
shine shi
shock sho
shut shu
shy shy
sick sic
side sid
sight sig
silent sil
similar sim
since sin
sister sis
sit sit
six six
size siz
skeleton ske
skill ski
sky sky
slave sla
sleep sle
slice sli
slope slo
small sma
smell sme
smile smi
smoke smo
sneaky sne
so . so
sociable soc
soft sof
soil soi
soldier sol
some of som
son son
soon soo
sore sor
sound sou
space spa
spear spe
spiral spi
spot spo
sprain spr
spy spy
square squ
stable sta
steal ste
stick sti
stop sto
straight str
stubborn stu
style sty
subject sub
success suc
sudden sud
suffer suf
suggest sug
suit sui
sum sum
Summer Sum
sun sun
supply sup
sure sur
suspect sus
swap swa
swear swe
swing swi
symbol sym
synthetic syn
system sys
table tab
tackle tac
tail tai
take tak
talk tal
target tar
task tas
tax tax
tea tea
tell tel
temperature tem
ten ten
term ter
test tes
text tex
than tha
their the
thick thi
thoughtful tho
thread thr
thumb thu
tidy tid
tie tie
tiger tig
tile til
time tim
tingle tin
tip tip
tired tir
to a to
toe toe
together tog
tone ton
too many too
top top
torso tor
touch tou
town tow
toxin tox
track tra
treat tre
trick tri
trouble tro
try try
turn tur
twist twi
two two
type typ
ugly ugl
un- un-
uncle unc
under und
unfold unf
uniform uni
unknown unk
unless unl
until unt
unusual unu
update upd
upon upo
upset ups
urgent urg
urinate uri
use use
usual usu
vague vag
valid val
van van
variable var
vegetation veg
verb ver
vibration vib
video vid
view vie
village vil
violet vio
visible vis
vocabulary voc
voice voi
vote vot
vulgar vul
waist wai
wake wak
walk wal
wander wan
war war
was was
watch wat
wave wav
way way
weak wea
week wee
weigh wei
welcome wel
went wen
west wes
wet wet
wheat whe
which whi
who who
wide wid
wife wif
wild wil
win win
wire wir
wise wis
with wit
woman wom
won't won
wood woo
word wor
would wou
wrap wra
wriggle wri
wrong wro
yawn yaw
year yea
yellow yel
yes yes
yet yet
yield yie
your you
zero zer

If you are learning a paragraph of 30 words of text (using 30 visual peg locations to imagine the 30 words in) and you see in the paragraph the word 'Refute' or 'Refactor' then you could imagine the REF person at the peg location scene. Rather than mean 'Refer', it can mean 'a word beginning with 'Ref..'.

You could imagine the person facing left when he/she is a 3 letter prefix but imagine the person facing right if the intended meaning is 'refer'.

Musical Spellings

The Musical Spellings article can represent letter pairs AA to ZZ as 676 songs. Any mnemonic image of a person can have its spelling of letters augmented by imagining the person singing one of those songs. So, rather than use the 'palm' PAL person to represent a long word like 'Paleozoic', the EO after the PAL could be imagined as the PAL person singing the EO song. Or maybe an action can be performed by the person so that even more letters of the word are represented visually.

Animal People Spellings

The Shorthand Images article explores how the 520 animal images can be used as spelling prompts. It might be that you memorise the first 4 letters of a word at a peg location by imagining the Heroes system person [symbolises the first two letters] and to also picture at the location the Animal person who represents the next 2 letters.