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Mnemonic: "Try one, for I find ..." (3.1415).

"Truly, I (for wonderful finds)need to sit." (Pi = 3.1415926 ...)

I devised the above mnemonic to illustrate the Japanese method (called "goro-awase") of remembering numerical values. Goro-awase literally means word-matching or prosody-parody. The Japanese approach is so different from the typical approach by English-speakers, which involves counting the number of letters in a phrase such as "How I need a drink." or (3.1416) "May I draw a circle?" "Yes, I have a number." See for examples of such phrases. Then I learned about these puzzle-phrases.

By Scott Kim (Discover, Jan. 2007) How does each mnemonic stand for 3.14159?

1. We won your fun drive sign.

2. Circles and diameters are equally important.

3. The easy vowels echo mathematical magnitude.

4. Bring in your initial six questions.

(Quoted by permission. For answers, see or do a net-search.)

Here are some more English goro-awase samples. For me, coming up with these mnemonics is easier than solving crossword puzzles (no emphasis on unusual words like aga, Ens, lea, ...). And more satisfying because I end up with something that feels like my own creation. So I say to you:
"Try one, for I find: nice to sit'n find that fine, ace mnemonic
 3   1    4   1 5     9    2  6      5   3    5     8   9

serving numbers."
7       9

* The base of natural logarithm e = 2.7 1828 1828 "Steven 'irate' Tate" ('irate' Tate)

* Square root of 2 == 1.41421 "Eye for eye for two eye"

* Square root of 3 == 1.7 32 05 08 "I even tried to nullify za rate."

(The later digits are paired: tried to (32), nullify (05), za rate (08). And "za" means "the"--as in "T-Dog is in za house!") ('null' ('nil') = 0 ; other N-words = 9)

* Square root of 5 == 2.2 36 06 79 "Tutu throws, Ossie serving."

(The paired digits are remembered as: throws (three six), Ossie (06), serving (79).) Picture Desmond Tutu and Ossie Davis playing on a tennis court.

* (1863) "1, Abe, sign the" Emancipation Proclamation.

(It was announced by Lincoln in the previous year, and took effect on Jan 1, 1863, the date usually associated with the Emancipation Proclamation. The duration of the Civil War is just -2 and - 861-65)

* (1492) (Columbus lands on Caribbean islands.)

Columbus "is friend to" America. (FrieNd) "... is fiend to" America. (FieNd) "... is flown to" America. (FlowN)

What sounds best is: Columbus: "infernal to" America.--which the leftist historian Howard Zinn (author of People's History of America) would surely approve. (Read his chapter on Columbus.)

Some people might wonder about the practical merit of knowing detailed values of mathematical constants, but few would question the benefit of knowing the years of important events. It may be a great logo-numerical exercise for students and teenagers to try to come with" such mnemonic phrases for their phone numbers, birthdays, locker combinations, or historical dates.

In Japanese (with CV open syllables and isochronous moras), random syllable combinations are more likely to be real words. As a result, the iroha-uta, the classic Japanese pangram from the Heian era (794-1179), is a perfect poem, both in form and content. The four 7-5 syllable lines contain each character of the Japanese syllabary exactly once, and express lamentation on the transitory and ephemeral nature of the visible world, which is a typical theme of the period. The poem was used as an ordering for the syllabary, until it was gradually replaced by a more modern aiueo ordering in the 20th century.


Japanese phonology also makes it easy to remember numbers. For example, 3.1415 (Pi) is read as "san ten, i chi yon, ichi go" which contains two clusters recognizable as words. "San ten" can mean mountain-top, three points, three turns, sky-visit, ..., and "ichi go" can mean strawberry, one word, one time,.... (There are many homonyms in Japanese, sometimes distinguishable by High-Low tonal patterns.)

So, it is easy to remember numbers even without any tricks. As an 11-year-old living in Japan, curious how difficult it is to memorize the digits of Pi, I once tried and found that remembering 44 digits required little effort and no mnemonic aids. This was all thanks to the Japanese language, as my ability to memorize numbers is average. I moved to California when I was 13, and one day, my math teacher asked me to do an impromptu show-and-tell ("show and smile," actually). I can still remember my classmates' amazement when I wrote the digits on the blackboard. After not having done this for a decade, just now I wrote down the digits and found that my memory is spotty after the first 10 digits.

According to Wikipedia, the current world record for memorizing and reciting Pi (100,000 digits) was set in 2006 by Akira Haraguchi, who broke Hiroyuki Goto's record (42,195 decimal places) set in 1995. These feats were undoubtedly assisted by phonetic advantages of the Japanese language.

Various goro-awase punning methods are used in Japan to remember numbers and names. In English, the numeral 0 can be associated with zero, zip, zilch, O, oh, null, nil, nada, nothing, empty, void, etc. Goro-awase uses choosing from such multiple candidates to form often perfectly meaningful phrases and sentences for remembering mathematical values, phone numbers, historical dates, the periodic table, and anything else which might be memorized. See and the corresponding Japanese page.

NOW, after I wrote this article thus far, I realized that James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake (1939) contains examples of wordplay related to mine. This wasn't a complete surprise, because I had noticed that whatever I think of, or wherever I go in the land of wordplay, I find that James ("Kilroy") Joyce was there first.

TT's observation on wordplay: When playing with words, all Joys lead to Joyce ,

On FW, p. 10 we find: "'there's that gnarlybird ygathering, / a runalittle, doalittle, preealittle, / pouralittle, wipealittle, kicksalittle, severalittle, / eatalittle, whinealittle, kenalittle, helfalittle, / pelfalittle gnarlybird." (The slashes "/" are mine..)

Joyce's passage, which may be referring to just one bird, parodies the children's rhyme, "Ten little Indians": "One little, two little, three little Indians Four little, five little, six little Indians / Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians Ten little Indian boys." (This piece of source-hunting seems to be my discovery.)

Elsewhere in FW : Page 308 (line 02) "tea's set, see's eneugh" resembles French "dix-sept six et neuf' (number 1769).

"shank and Wheat" (501.08) resembles French "cinquante huit" (number 5008). "Carrot Cans" (501.09) resembles French "quarante quinze" (number 4015). These correspondences of English words to French numbers are noted in Roland McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake (1980).

James Joyce / Had an unusually loud voice; Knightly knock eternally wood he make / Finnegans Wake.

This "clerihew" poem (IYW, Feb. 2008, p. 5) reminded me of "GHOTI spells fish" and its Joyce version: "Gee each owe tea eye smells fish." (FW 299).

(See "Ghoti revisited" (W/F, May 2008, p. 90) and pronounce the mystery word "ghghgh"--for the answer, do a-net search with "ghghgh Ralph Boas".)

And this led me to write a paper (see citation at the end) in which I quote from Martin Gardner, Sherlock Holmes, and Father Brown (created by G. K, Chesterton).

FW begins as: "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."

It ends with "the" (no period), which continues to the beginning, making FW a circular book.


Joyce likely associated Trinity (triune 3=1) with Pi (3.14 ...), subtly encoded throughout. "Three in one, one and three." (526.13) encodes both Trinity and (because 1 and 3 is 4)"3 1 4".

Nigel Best noted that FW's Page 3 is the ist page of the book. Trinity is triply triggered by "riverrun" (003.01 ) on Page 3 (= 1st) and river-un (3= 1 ), combining river (Jp. and Chinese " |1| == three vertical lines) and French un (one).

"riverrun, past Eve and Adam's" begins (as just noted) with "3 1". "past" contains 4 letters. "Eve" has the vowel [i] associated with the number 1 in FW. "Adam's" contains 5 letters.

Pi (3.14159 ...) times 100 is about 314.16 and FW has 314 leaves and 16 lines on the last page. Joyce reminds us of 100 in "A hundred cares" (627.14) and of leaves in "My leaves have drifted from me." (628.06). (314 leaves was noted by Riverend Sterling, and 16 lines was noted by Neuendorffer.)

["past Eve and Adam's" hides embedded names as "insiders" (W/F, Aug. 2008, p. 173). Three generations of Joyces appear as "Pa--St eve an--dada". Father &.son noted by Hugh Kenner and grandfather (dada) noted by me. See my paper for citations. ]

Tomoyuki Tanaka, "Each womb T. 'eye smells fish' (FW299), sigla origins, Issy=Jesus, and Joyce's puzzle-field" Hypermedia Joyce Studies (Sept. 2008)

Tomoyuki TANAKA

California, USA
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Author:Tanaka, Tomoyuki
Publication:Word Ways
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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