Familiarization Of Forms

LET me now apply the method of familiarization to learning and remembering forms.

We will consider first the forms of foreign alphabets. When learning these, do not try to remember them by simply staring at them. Look quietly at each form until you find in it a resemblance to some other form which is already familiar to you.

Sometimes you will say to yourself that the form has no comparison with anything that you know. But that is never the case, as the following conversation between Major Beniowski and one of his pupils will show. The pupil was about to commit to memory the Hebrew alphabet—

. baiss

. guimmel

" Beniowski. What name would you give to the first Hebrew letter ? or rather, What is the phantom that rises before your imagination, in consequence of your contemplating the first Hebrew letter ?

" Pupil. I think it is like an invalid's chair.

" B. Therefore call it an invalid's chair. What name would you give to the second letter ?

" P. It is exactly like the iron handle of a box.

" P. Nothing—it is like nothing—I can think of nothing.

" B. I cannot easily believe you—try. I infer from your looks that you think it would be useless to express your strange imaginings—they would laugh at you.

"P. All that this third letter reminds me of is a poor Spanish-legion man, whom I saw sitting on the pavement with swollen legs and no arms.

" B. And this you call nothing! this is valuable property of your own; you did not acquire it without a certain expenditure of life; you can turn it to good account; call this letter the Spanish-legion man. What of the fourth ?

" P. I understand you now—this fourth letter is evidently like the weathercock upon yon chimney opposite your window ; the fifth is like a stable with a small window near the roof, etc., etc."

As a second example (merely for illustration, as I do not expect the reader of this book to learn Sanskrit) I will take up some of the unaspirated consonants of the Devanagari alphabet, which is used in Sanskrit and some of its derivative languages. We may as well make use of the principle of sense-proximity, as well as that of association or mind-proximity. Therefore I first give a Devanagari letter, and then the Roman letter (which, I' assume, will be familiar to the reader) close beside it.

The gutturals are—

We have now to find familiar forms to name the forms which are strange to us. K looks to me rather like a knot, g like a gallows, and ng like a rearing snake. I find no great difficulty in associating these with ka, ga, and nga, respectively, for k and g are the first letters of the words knot and gallows, and a rearing cobra is a very picture of anger.

The palatals are—

Here ch looks like a pointing finger—chiding. J resembles a footballer kicking—scrimmage. N reminds me of a lobster's nipper.

The dentals are—

IT ta da na

In this case t appears to me like a fail, d like a hunchback sitting down—G^arf, and n like a nose. The labials are—

P is like a P turned round: b like a button; m is quite square—mathematical. I will conclude with the semi-vowels—

ya Tra la va

These will serve to illustrate the principle of comparison with the forms already learned, since y resembles p and v is much like b. R reminds me of an old-style razor, partially opened in use, and 1 seems like a pair of crab's legs. I have said enough to enable the student of Sanskrit or Hindi or Mahratti to learn the rest of the alphabet by himself within an hour or two—a process which usually takes days.

Next, as further illustration, let me give some items from the Russian alphabet— T g, very much like a little r—rag. Ji d, like a delta..

sfc zh, rather like a jumping jack with a string through the middle which when pulled causes the arms and legs to fly outwards—plaything—jeunesse.

Jf 1, something like a step-ladder.

0 i, an arrow going through a target—flight or fight. We can do the same with any other alphabet. The following are some suggestions for learning Pitman's shorthand outlines : | t is like a T without a to p;_k is like a coward, lying down: ^ m is like a little wound. Among the Greek letters gamma is like a catapult—game; pi is like an archway— pylon; lambda is leaning; phi is like an arrow piercing a target—battle—fight. The Persian characters require a little more imagination than most of our alphabets do, yet when I look at them I find boats, waves, commas, eyes, wings, snakes, and funny little men, standing, crouching, and running.

I will now give the Roman alphabet in a form in which it can be taught in English to young children in a very short time:

A stands for an arch; B for a bundle; C for a coiled caterpillar ; D for a drum; E for an elephant sitting up in a circus ; F for a finger-post; G for a goldfish curled round in the Japanese style; H for a hurdle; I for an icicle or a little imp standing stock-still; J for a juggler lying on his back, balancing a ball on his feet; K for a king, sitting on a throne and holding out his sceptre in a sloping direction; L for a leg; M for mountains; N for a napkin on the table; O for an orange; P for a parrot with a large head; Q for a queen, very fat and round, with a little tail of her gown sticking out near her feet; R for a rat climbing a wall, with its tail touching the floor; S for a snake; T for a small table, with one central leg; U for an urn; V for a valley; W for waves; X for Mr. X —a monkey stretching out its arms and legs to hold the -branches of a tree; Y for yarn, frayed at the end, or a yak's head, with large horns; Z for a zigzag—a flash of lightning.

For each of the objects the teacher should draw a picture bearing a strong resemblance to the letter that is to be taught (somewhat as in our illustrations) and the letters should at first be represented by the full words, arch, bundle, caterpillar, drum, etc.1

Turning now to geographical outlines, the best-known example of comparison is the outline of Italy, which every schoolboy remembers much better than he does that of any other country, for the simple reason that he has noticed that 1 This method of representing the alphabet is copyright.

it resembles a big boot kicking at an irregular ball, which we call the island of Sicily. Africa is like a ham; South America resembles a peg-top; Mexico is like a sleeve; Newfoundland resembles a distorted lobster; France appears like a shirt without sleeves; Norway and Sweden are like an elephant's trunk; India is like Shri Krishna dancing and playing his flute; the river Severn is like a smiling mouth.

The student of botany has to remember the general appearance of a large number of plants and flowers. We have already seen that the best plan to follow in remembering these is not to go into the garden or the field with textbook in hand, but to go among the flowers and plants and give them names of your own invention. When the forms are thus made familiar to the mind they can easily be recalled by remembering the new names, and afterwards the orthodox names can be learned, just as we should learn a number of foreign words.

The popular names of many plants are already based on simple comparisons. Among these one thinks at once of the sunflower, the buttercup and the bluebell, and the campanula is obviously a cluster of most exquisite bells. But when the student comes to narcissus, calceolaria, chrysanthemum and eschscholtzia and many other scientific names he must have recourse to his own familiarization for remembering their forms in the beginning.

In private life, living in the country, we often see and wish to remember flowers, without ever hearing what people have named them. Then it is well to give them our own names for the time being.

Near one of my dwellings there was a hedge full of jolly little old men with occasional purple-grey hair, and they seemed to bob their funny round heads in the breeze in response to my nod. I did not in the least know their names, but we were not worse friends on that account. The allegory of Narcissus is reflected in the flower of that name; the way in which the gentle flower bends its lovely head is remindful of the fall of the spirit enamoured of its image reflected in the waters of existence; yet for most of us it remains a beautiful star. The crinkled white champaka reminds me always of a swastika; and the clover, so like a fluffy ball, Is in India often called the rudraksha flower, because it is thought to resemble the crinkled berry beads which yogis wear, these in turn being held sacred because their markings are thought to be strange letters (aksha) written by the God Rudra or Shiva. We may think of the drooping bag-like lip of the calceolaria, of the large velvet face of the pansy, of the curious lips and curly strings of the sweet pea, and of the exfoliated heart of the rose, and we may know these little ones much better by these happy names than if our brains are fagged beforehand by the crabbed terminology of the books.

Major Beniowski's experience has already suggested to us the way to remember persons—a method which, in fact, led him to his system of familiarization of the forms of plants. I may relate in this connexion one experience of my own. Once, when I was travelling on a boat, I made the acquaintance of a studious and learned university professor who won my esteem. His name was Dittmer. Now, I was very familiar in India with the various kinds of oil lamps which were imported in large quantity from a manufacturing firm named Dittmar. I had seen the name on lamps in many places, so the connexion of Dittmar and lamps was strong in my mind. Well, when I first met Prof. Dittmer he was wearing a huge pair of round tortoise-shell reading glasses. They reminded me irresistibly of a pair of motor-car lamps. Hence I had no difficulty in remembering his name. Another reminder also occurred to me. He looked somewhat like the immortal Mr. Pickwick—wick—lamp- -Dittmer. I am sure that, if this happens to catch the eye of the professor, he will not be offended at the liberty with his person which I have taken, for it is in the interests of science.

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