(Before reading this page, please read about the ten pseudonumerals.)
The reason we cannot remember numbers easily, is not because our memories are poor, but because our numbers are poor! The Arabic numerals don't lead us to interesting or memorable images or ideas. The names of our numbers, "one", "two", "three". . . are no better. We have used these names for hundreds of years, and not been able to remember them easily. Now most of us have given up. (People are reasonable, after all.) But now it is time to try an alternative.
It is not unrealistic to introduce a new set of names for numbers. We have two sets of names for the notes of the musical scale: "A, B, C, D, E, F, G" and "Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti". This second set of musical names, formally called the solmization syllables (or Arentinian syllables), was introduced because these syllables are easier for singing. I am certain that my new names for numbers would make them easier for remembering.
Young children love numbers, sounds, and names, and are eager and quick to learn new ones. Bilingual children have no trouble learning and using numbers in two languages. Parents or teachers can introduce the pseudonumerals at a very young age:
1 is called "one". It is also called "it".
2 is called "two". It is also called "in".
3 is called "three". It is also called "im".
4 is called "four". It is also called "ir".
5 is called "five". It is also called "il".
6 is called "six". It is also called "ij".
7 is called "seven". It is also called "ik".
8 is called "eight". It is also called "if".
9 is called "nine". It is also called "ip".
0 is called "zero". It is also called "iss".
The standard English names for numbers are very clumsy. Some of the names have similar sounds, and some are one-syllable words, while others are two. These names just don't stick well in our minds. As we mentally hear a number such as 7530: "sev-en-five-three-ze-ro", the odd mixture of sounds is probably hard for our minds to handle. "Was that sev-un or five-one?" "Was that zee-ro or three-o or three-two?" The same number registered as "ik-il-im-is" may prove to be easier for most minds to deal with. If we had learned to use the pseudonumerals and their names, rather than the English names, our abilities for verbal and mental work with numbers might be increased.
There are two special rules about using pseudonumerals for numbers.
When written as numbers in a sentence, the pseudonumeral numbers usually begin with the letter i.
When written or pronounced as words, the pseudonumeral numbers begin and end with the letter y.
The ten pseudonumerals may either be written as S, T, N, M, R, L, J, K, F, P or as iS, iT, iN, iM, iR, iL, iJ, iK, iF, iP. The small i is used where needed to show that these capital letters are actually numbers, not letters. It also reminds us that the pseudonumerals are pronounced differently than the letters: S is pronounced "iss" not "ess", T is pronounced "it" not "tee", N is pronounced "in" not "en", R is pronounced "ir", J is pronounced "ij", etc.
Here is an example of writing numbers in a sentence:
There were 683 sheep in the flock.
There were iJFM sheep in the flock.
The small i should be written to show that the letters JFM are pseudonumerals, not letters. This sentence is read:
"There were yijifimy sheep in the flock."
Many new things seem strange at first, but seem natural after a little while.
Here is a list of some common numbers,
first written as Arabic numerals and complete words, then written as
pseudonumerals and complete words.
|0, zero, S, yisy
1, one, T, yity
2, two, N, yiny
3, three, M, yimy
4, four, R, yiry
5, five, L, yily
6, six, J, yijy
7, seven, K, yiky
8, eight, F, yify
9, nine, P, yipy
20, twenty, NS, yinisy
40, forty, RS, yirisy
60, sixty, JS, yijisy
80, eighty, FS, yifisy
| 10, ten, TS, yitisy
11, eleven, TT, yitity
12, twelve, TN, yitiny
13, thirteen, TM, yitimy
14, fourteen, TR, yitiry
15, fifteen, TL, yitily
16, sixteen, TJ, yitijy
17, seventeen, TK, yitiky
18, eighteen, TF, yitify
19, nineteen, TP, yitipy
30, thirty, MS, yimisy
50, fifty, LS, yilisy
70, seventy-KS, yikisy
90, ninety, PS, yipisy
|100, one hundred, TSS, yitisisy
101, one hundred and one, TST, yitisity
102, one hundred and two, TSN, yitisiny
103, one hundred and three, TSM, yitisimy
104, one hundred and four, TSR, yitisiry
105, one hundred and five, TSL, yitisily
106, one hundred and six, TSJ, yitisijy
107, one hundred and seven, TSK, yitisiky
108, one hundred and eight, TSF, yitisify
109, one hundred and nine, TSP, yitisipy
| 110, one hundred and ten, TTS, yititisy
111, one hundred and eleven, TTT, yititity
112, one hundred and twelve, TTN, yititiny
113, one hundred and thirteen, TTM, yititimy
114, one hundred and four, TTR, yititiry
115, one hundred and five, TTL, yititily
116, one hundred and six, TTJ, yititijy
117, one hundred and seven, TTK, yititiky
118, one hundred and eight, TTF, yititify
119, one hundred and nine, TTP, yititipy
For larger numbers, it is helpful to keep track of them by using the words "thousand", "million", etc. A number like the speed of light, which is 299,792,458 m/s, is read "two hundred ninety-nine million, seven hundred ninety-two thousand, four hundred and fifty-eight meters per second". Written as pseudonumerals, this number is iNPP,KPN,RLF m/s. Spoken or written out, this number is "yinipipy million, yikipiny thousand, yirilify meters per second", or simply "yinipip,ikipin,irilify meters per second".
"Pseudobabble" - another way to say really long-digit numbers!
Kids enjoy made-up words. Mastery of a made-up word like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is much easier for kids than for adults, and is a source of pride and pleasure.
Pseudobabble is a language of gibberish words based on pseudonumerals. The only vowel used is the letter i. An example is Pifik jilirmints, which is made from the pseudonumerals of the number 9876543210.
You can make pseudobabble instantly, if you know the pseudonumerals. Grown-ups can't remember pseudobabble easily, so it's not much use, but many kids can. I expect that some children will become so comfortable with pseudonumerals that they will choose to read any new numbers directly in that form. When given a new telephone number such as: 212 963-7713 they will not read it as "two one two, nine six three, seven seven one three" but rather as "Nitin pishim kickitim".
Teenagers and adults don't usually learn new languages, and when they
do, they learn them not by ear, but by seeing the new words written. Here
is this "grown up" way to make pseudobabble:
Start with a number, such as: 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0.
Write it as pseudonumerals: ip if ik ij il ir im in it is.
Remove some of the vowels to combine some of the consonants: p if ik j il ir m in t is.
Adjust and shorten it to make it more like English, something like: "P i f i k j i l i r m i n t s"
When adults try to pronounce this gibberish word, they may say it as something like "Beef-fig chiller-mints", because they won't be able to remember it any other way. (It's funny how most adults can't learn to speak a new language without a "foreign accent"... After speaking Norwegian for over twenty years in Norway, I still can't get away from my American accent.)
As another example of pseudobabble, consider the number pi: 3 1 4 1
5 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9 7 9 3 2 3 8 4 6 2.
These 20 digits can be read: three one four one five nine two six five three five eight nine seven nine three two three eight four six two
Or as pseudobabble: Mit rit, lipnish lim, lifpik piminim frishin (sung to the tune of Super cali, fragil istic, expiali docious....)