Offbeat Memory Challenges

Published on Sunday, March 31, 2013 in , , , , ,

Natalie Roberts' magnetic poetry photoWhen you first learn memory techniques, you also tend to apply them to a small set of standard lists, such as presidents, monarchs, countries, states, capitals, and so on.

It's not uncommon to start wondering whether there's any other type of lists to memorize, beyond just school standards. In this post, you'll find enough resources to challenge your memory skills for the rest of your life!

mentalfloss.com, which has long billed itself as, “Where knowledge junkies get their fix,” is a natural starting point. They also have a free iPad app (iTunes Link) in which you can read full issues, and many of these issues are themselves free thanks to sponsorship from Boeing. Earlier this month, mental_floss also started their own YouTube channel, including fun subjects such as 45 Facts About U.S. Presidents:

Not surprisingly, reddit.com can also be a good source, but there is the problem of too much information there. How do you find good sets of information to memorize there? Fortunately, reddit has done much of the work for you, with this network of subreddits, which I'll refer to as SFWP (take a look at any individual subreddit in the network, and you'll see why). Through the SFWP Network, you can easily find lots of fascinating information to challenge your memory. For example, in the map part of the network, you can see things like a map of the most common surnames in European countries in 2011, or even the most common European male and female first names in 2012. Try exploring, and you'll be amazed at the endless ideas these sections inspire.

Another fun subreddit is r/wordplay, where you can run across all sorts of weird and bizarre uses for words. Here's some 4 by 9 word squares, in which every horizontal and vertical line makes a legitimate word in English, and here you can find a rather nasty tongue twister.

Wordplay is a rich source of memory challenges. You might amuse yourself with this list of heteronyms and antagonyms, as well as a wide array of other word oddities and trivia!

When I originally created my free app Verbatim 2, I designed it for memorizing things like standard speeches, lyrics, and poems. However, when combined with some wordplay, memorizing AND repeating can be quite a feat. Matthew Goldman's Goonerisms Spalore site is a perfect example. The spoonerisms there range from the short and simple, such as Drain Bamage, to fully spoonerized stories, such as the many versions of Rindercella.

Spoonerisms aren't the only type of wordplay out there, though. Many variations of the classic “Who's On First” skit are fun to try and memorize and repeat.

As some closing inspiration, here's a collection of general wordplay videos, many of which have become classics in their own right:

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