Making images out of tricky awkward words

Hey! I’ve been memorising a lot of science information using the method of loci (the entire periodic table, all the moons in the solar system, most abundant elements in the universe, periods of geological time, etc). Having a lot of fun!

However, I keep running into a recurring issue where I need to make images for really awkward words (praseodymium, olenekian, iapetus, etc etc…) and my progress grinds to a halt as I spend ages mulling over how to break such a word into a Frankenstein mess of syllables that can be converted into images and stored…

So… was wondering if anybody’s got any tips for working with really weird, difficult-to-remember words? Thanks in advance!! :slight_smile:


I think we’ve all had an experience similar to this at some point, the reassuring point is that your brain can help you out here, in that you will often to be able to remember a word exactly even if you haven’t turned every part of it into an image.

Let’s look at praseodymium.

While you might be tempted to break this into 3 or 4 parts, (maybe ‘prase’ ‘ody’ and ‘mium’) I personally would only code it into images for ‘praise’ and ‘odin’. As long as you pay attention to what the full word should be, you should be able to fill in each of the rest of the gaps naturally :slight_smile:

Working out what works best for you personally will take time (whether you need a variant on each syllable, what you think seems similar to what etc) but I hope this helps you in the right direction :slight_smile:


praseodymium, olenekian, iapetus,

With words I don’t find images for right away, I just place the first thing that comes to mind, and revisit that part of my Palace right away as well as more often and with every visit, if needed, I add an extra image.

For these, I Placed first a priest for praise with an Oreo cookie, that just gives me the praseo. Olé Spanish dancer with an extra long neck OLENEK, an iPhone in the shape of an ape iape. On the next immediate visits, I already forgot the first word so I added a dime in an aquarium (i m half awake, common!), I added my friend Ian for Olenekian, I remember iapetus perfectly.

Will revisit very soon and before I go to sleep and that will be it for now.

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As others have offered, we (mostly) all have had this experience.

One solution is simply to just practice more and more often – practice teaches our mind (or builds neural nets) to do any skill we care about.

This pretty much goes for all of the memory techniques. Anyone can learn almost any of the basic techniques and instantly impress themselves and a few friends but it takes real work to master any one of them.

What we really want at a minimum – and I don’t always meet this criteria – is to know the technique and call to mind the necessary mnemonic (palace, peg words, etc.) without effort as well or better than we can do simple arithmetic sums or multiplication tables.

At first, many people believe they have “learned” the technique when they can explain it and use it with explicit effort – the goal is to use it as naturally as walking or talking.

In the meantime, remember: Any which way you can! :slight_smile: including:

  • List item
  • Break it up as others have said
  • Find rhymes or puns for all or the parts of the word
  • Anchor it to SOMETHING else you can remember (many people forget this step when memorizing long lists of factoids like the geological ages, uh, which is an epoch, an era, a period, duh…I forget – no, I didn’t really learn that part.)

My best example is a medicine I take (prescribed) for cognitive enhancement:

Modafinil – I had a devil of a time getting the middle consonants in the right place until I (silently) started calling it “Mo-Daffodil” – this only worked because putting the N for NIL at the end wasn’t troubling me once I had the start and the rhythm of the word.

Long lists are HARD unless you anchor (i.e., link them to an anchor) them to other ideas or facts you know well OR unless you review them regularly.

So not just learning the words, but also the order, and also giving them some “life” that YOU find interesting and relatable.

I am pretty good at this stuff but no where near the level of people who compete and practice all of the time.

This is much like being a basic tournament chess player (e.g., C-level). You can beat most anyone that doesn’t play in tournaments (or equivalent) but there are B, A, Expert, Master, Senior Master, International Master and finally GrandMasters above you.

Keep practicing. Find what works. Work at or change what doesn’t.
And then work at what works until you improve it to the next level.

I love the term “Level Up” to describe this effect.

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@Tiffin Oh jeez - we have similar interests!

Iapetus is notable for being “the yin-yang moon” - half of it is very dark and half of it is very bright. That’s for me the defining feature of the moon. If you know that one fact, it’s hard to forget it.

For praseodymium, which is 59, I might link a lab (which in the Major system is 59), or really anything that makes you think of 59, with “praise”, so I imagine a priest praising God in a scientific lab, which of course ticks off the scientists there - conflict - emotion - memorable image.

If I need to recall - what’s 59? L-P, no L-B… lab! What was going on there? The scientists were angry at… hmm… ah yes, praise - praise-e-o… praseodymium!


B and P are phonetically very very close…in some dialects of English even the same. Sooo I’m seeing a tin of BRASSO with a " 10 Cent " price tag on (a ‘dime’).

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I was reading my way slowly down this excellent thread. I stopped at your quote in order to offer you my sympathies.

I hope your medication helps you to improve, and that everything goes well with you.

Praseodymium made me think of a dinosaur, but I did not know why, until I discovered that there is an animal called plesiosaurus (Greek: πλησιος/plesios, near to + σαυρος/sauros, lizard).
Praseodymium comes from the Greek prasinos (πράσινος), meaning “green”, and didymos (δίδυμος), “twin” (All this I discovered in Wikipedia).
After that I understand that the Neodymium means just New Twin.
Many other elements from the table come from the name of someone. Plutonium comes after Neptunium and after Uranium because of the order of the planets. Many interesting things here, but I need to go back to work.