How to Remember Names? Collect Them (Part 2)

If you could remember names by collecting them, how would you organize your collection? How about animals, colors, birds, trades …

In part 1, we discovered a new approach to remembering names: collect them. Taking a selection from an old memory book, we follow “Mr. X” as he grows more and more interested in the world of names.

We last left him thumbing through a phone book, eagerly snapping up new names. What does he do with them? What any collector does. Organize.

Organizing Names

He found that some names were derived from animals, and put these into a class by themselves – the Lyons, Wolfs, Foxes, Lambs, Hares, etc.

Others were put into the color group – Blacks, Greens, Whites, Greys, Blues, etc.

Others belonged to the bird family – Crows, Hawks, Birds, Drakes, Cranes, Doves, Jays, etc.

Others belonged to trades – Millers, Smiths, Coopers, Maltsters, Carpenters, Bakers, Painters, etc.

Others were trees – Chestnuts, Oakleys, Walnuts, Cherrys, Pines, etc.

Then there were Hills and Dales; Fields and Mountains; Lanes and Brooks. Some were Strong; others were Gay; others were Savage; others Noble. And so on.

I love the feeling of all these names connecting to each other, each finding their place.

Of course, we don’t hear how he would sort name like, say, “Powell”. He might at least find out it was Welsh.

Ordered Knowedge Leads to Meaning

It would take a whole book to tell you what that man found out about names. He came near becoming a “crank” on the subject. But his hobby began to manifest excellent results, for his interest had been awakened to an unusual degree, and he was becoming very proficient in his recollection of names, for they now meant something to him.

He easily recalled all the regular customers at his bank – quite a number by the way, for the bank was a large one – and many occasional depositors were delighted to have themselves called by name by our friend.

Mastering a Difficult Name

Occasionally he would meet with a name that balked him, in which case he would repeat it over to himself, and write it a number of times until he had mastered it – after that it never escaped him.

Creating Associations

Mr. X. would always repeat a name when it was spoken, and would at the same time look intently at the person bearing it, thus seeming to fix the two together in his mind at the same time – when he wanted them they would be found in each other’s company.

He also acquired the habit of visualizing the name – that is, he would see its letters in his mind’s eye, as a picture. This he regarded as a most important point, and we thoroughly agree with him.

This choice fascinates me. Instead of visualizing a mnemonic, he visualizes the actual word. Would this work? Perhaps … if you were fascinated by names.

But he would also connect new names to his own experience:

He used the Law of Association in the direction of associating a new man with a well-remembered man of the same name. A new Mr. Schmidtzenberger would be associated with an old customer of the same name – when he would see the new man, he would think of the old one, and the name would flash into his mind.

Interest is the Key

To sum up the whole method, however, it may be said that the gist of the thing was in taking an interest in names in general. In this way an uninteresting subject was made interesting – and a man always has a good memory for the things in which he is interested.

The case of Mr. X. is an extreme one – and the results obtained were beyond the ordinary. But if you will take a leaf from his book, you may obtain the same results in the degree that you work for it.

Make a study of names – start a collection – and you will have no trouble in developing a memory for them. This is the whole thing in a nut-shell.

So. What do you think?

(A selection from: Memory: How to Develop, Train and Use It
William Walker Atkinson, 1912
Headers, paragraph breaks, and some emphasis added.
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