A simple, 47-step method for remembering the names of everyone you meet

Do you forget people’s names within seconds of being introduced? Are you so bad at remembering names that you don’t even try? Are you routinely embarrassed by random strangers on the street who greet you by name, thus demonstrating that they are not random strangers after all, but people whose names you should probably know?

If you’re cringing, relax. You’re not the only one with this problem! And it’s something you can fix—with a little effort.

This simple 47-step memory trick will ensure you never forget a name again. Give it a try next time you’re at a conference or cocktail party, and you’ll never look back!

  1. If their name is David, simply remember the word “David”. Easy, right? If their name isn’t David, go to step 2.
  2. Count the number of letters in their name, and modulo that number by 12.
  3. You will now have a number between 0 and 11. Add one to this number.
  4. Convert your number into a month of the year (1 = January, 2 = February, and so on)
  5. Take the first letter of their name, and convert it into a number (A = 1, B = 2, and so on)
  6. Subtract that number from the number of days in the month specified in step 4.
  7. You now have a date in the year. For example, Alexandra, with nine letters and beginning with A, would yield September 29. Can you see where this is heading?
  8. To round out the date, we need the year of the person’s birth. You are unlikely to have the opportunity to ask for this information directly, so just use your best estimate.
  9. If you were alive on this date, go to step 10. If not, go to step 18
  10. Think about the day in question (eg, 29 September 1990) and note the first thing that comes into your mind. Maybe you went to the zoo? That’s great!
  11. Think of a famous person who you associate with that activity. Continuing the zoo example, you might choose Kevin James, star of the 2011 film Zookeeper.
  12. Now take the full initials of this famous person. Kevin James’s real name is Kevin George Knipfing, which gives you KGK.
  13. Think of a noun that uses those initials in that order. For KGK, your options are Kingmaker, or Walkingstick. We’ll pick Walkingstick, because of Kevin James’s multiple back injuries sustained in high school and college sports.
  14. Excuse yourself from the conversation, and purchase that item (walking stick) from your nearest pharmacy. (Psst, aren’t you glad you didn’t pick kingmaker?)
  15. Return to the conversation and give the item (walkingstick) to your new acquaintance. If you can still remember their name, you can repeat it now, but it’s okay if you’ve forgotten.
  16. Instruct them to keep the item (walkingstick) on their person at all times, but especially when they are near you.
  17. Now, whenever you meet this person again, it’s a simple exercise to go from walkingstick to KGK to Kevin James to Zookeeper to Zoo to 29 September 1990 to a nine- or 21-letter name beginning with A... and there aren’t many nine- or 21-letter names beginning with A, I assure you! This person’s appellation is practically carved into their forehead for ever more.
  18. (You weren’t alive on that particular day) Forget everything you did in steps 2 through 8. Now, if their name is found in the Old Testament, go to step 19. If their name is found in the New Testament, go to step 25. If their name is found in both Testaments, go to step 36. If ther name is found in neither Testament, go to step 37.
  19. (Old Testament name) List all parents of all people with this name in the Old Testament. For example, ‘Miriam’ would yield Amram and Jochebed, while ‘Zedekiah’ would yield Josiah and Hamutal.
  20. Rearrange the letters from the parents’ names to be in alphabetical order. Amram and Jochebed, for example, would become Aabcdeehjmmor.
  21. Count the number of repeated letters, then remove them. In our example, we would be left with Abcdehjmor, and the number 3.
  22. Take the number of duplicates, and convert it into the corresponding Old Testament book (1 = Genesis, 2 = Exodus, etc). Book three is Leviticus.
  23. Convert the alphabetically sorted string (without the duplicates) into a melody, where ‘H’ is the A above middle C, ‘O’ is the A above that, and so on. Use the Old Testament book as your lyrics. In our example you might produce something like this:
  24. Leviticus

  25. Now, instead of remembering the person’s name—which is hard—simply remember this melody. If you can do that (and you can, if you sing it casually throughout your conversation), computing their name is a snap!
  26. (New Testament name) Find the first mention of this name in the New Testament. “Andrew”, for example, is first mentioned in Matthew 4:18.
  27. Reading forward from that instance, what is the first animal mentioned that is also fit for human consumption according to Leviticus Chapter 11? In our example it’s easy, as Matthew 4:18 describes Andrew in the process of fishing, and fish have fins and scales.
  28. Where does this animal live? Eg, Oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, aquariums, and fishbowls.
  29. Think of a single word that describes those habitats. Here, you might choose “wet”.
  30. Now think of a pop song or band featuring that word in the title, eg “Wet Wet Wet - Love Is All Around”.
  31. Take the “hook” from this song, and convert it into a string of unique letters by reversing the process set out in step 23. For “Love Is All Around”, we get F, G, I, J, K. You can probably guess what we’re going to do next.
  32. That’s right, think of a movie beginning with each of those letters and starring a common actor. You might choose For A Few Dollars More, Gran Torino, In The Line of Fire, Joe Kidd, and Kelly’s Heroes, all starring Clint Eastwood.
  33. What is the average IMDB rating for all these films? In our example, it’s 7.58.
  34. Now, imagine that number of that actor standing in a line. You might be thinking of something like this:
  35. Clints

    Pretty memorable, right? We’re not even finished.

  36. Between one and ten, and to five significant figures, make a mental note of exactly how memorable this image is to you. I might say 6.2358, you might say something different, it’s not important. What is important is that you’re honest with yourself. Don’t say 8.1628 when you really mean 8.2149!
  37. Here’s the easy part. When you next see this person, simply remember your chosen number (eg, 6.2358), and their name should flow off your lips like clockwork.
  38. (Both testaments name) Congratulations! Names that are found in both testaments are the easiest to remember. Simply take the melody obtained from steps 19-24, and the number obtained from steps 25-35, and repeat the melody that many times. Can you see why this system is so easy once you get the hang of it?
  39. (Neither testament name) What does their name rhyme with? Eg, Helen rhymes with melon, Alice rhymes with malice.
  40. Imagine you are five years old, and bullying this person on the first day of school. Use that rhyme to craft an insult. Eg, Ugly Helen, face like a melon, pooped her pants and now she smellin’.
  41. Now imagine you’ve been dobbed in and sent to the principal’s office. Think of the excuse you would have used to get out of trouble. Eg ‘she enjoys it’.
  42. Imagine you are the victim of your bullying, watching from behind one-way glass as five-year-old you gives this ludicrous justification for their actions. How does it make you feel?
  43. What colour do you associate with this feeling? Eg, red might stand for anger.
  44. Convert this colour to its wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum. Red, for example, is around 650nm.
  45. Multiply this number by 109 to give a number in meters (such as 650m)
  46. Think of a man-made structure that is precisely this length, such as the Cao Lãnh Bridge in Vietnam.
  47. Now think of words that rhyme with that structure, such as Cow Pan Fridge.
  48. When you see this person again, think of Cow Pan Fridge and their name will come running.
  49. There is no step 47! The system is so simple it only requires 46 steps.