The gentleman, whom we shall call “Mr. X.,” decided that the first thing for him to do was to develop his faculty of receiving clear and distinct sound impressions. In doing this he followed the plan outlined by us in our chapter on “Training the Ear.” He persevered and practiced along these lines until his “hearing” became very acute. He made a study of voices, until he could classify them and analyze their characteristics. Then he found that he could _hear_ names in a manner before impossible to him. That is, instead of merely catching a vague sound of a name, he would hear it so clearly and distinctly that a firm registration would be obtained on the records of his memory. For the first time in his life names began to _mean something_ to him. He paid attention to every name he heard, just as he did to every note he handled. He would repeat a name to himself, after hearing it, and would thus strengthen the impression. If he came across an unusual name, he would write it down several times, at the first opportunity, thus obtaining the benefit of a double sense impression, adding eye impression to ear impression. All this, of course, aroused his interest in the subject of names in general, which led him to the next step in his progress.
Mr. X. then began to study names, their origin, their peculiarities, their differences, points of resemblances, etc. He made a hobby of names, and evinced all the joy of a collector when he was able to stick the pin of attention through the specimen of a new and unfamiliar species of name. He began to collect names, just as others collect beetles, stamps, coins, etc., and took quite a pride in his collection and in his knowledge of the subject. He read books on names, from the libraries, giving their origin, etc. He had the Dickens’ delight in “queer” names, and would amuse his friends by relating the funny names he had seen on signs, and otherwise. He took a small City Directory home with him, and would run over the pages in the evening, looking up new names, and classifying old ones into groups. He found that some names were derived from animals, and put these into a class by themselves–the Lyons, Wolfs, Foxes, Lambs, Hares, etc. Others were put into the color group–Blacks, Greens, Whites, Greys, Blues, etc. Others belonged to the bird family–Crows, Hawks, Birds, Drakes, Cranes, Doves, Jays, etc. Others belonged to trades–Millers, Smiths, Coopers, Maltsters, Carpenters, Bakers, Painters, etc. Others were trees–Chestnuts, Oakleys, Walnuts, Cherrys, Pines, etc. Then there were Hills and Dales; Fields and Mountains; Lanes and Brooks. Some were Strong; others were Gay; others were Savage; others Noble. And so on. It would take a whole book to tell you what that man found out about names. He came near becoming a “crank” on the subject. But his hobby began to manifest excellent results, for his _interest_ had been awakened to an unusual degree, and he was becoming very proficient in his recollection of names, for they now meant something to him. He easily recalled all the regular customers at his bank,–quite a number by the way for the bank was a large one–and many occasional depositors were delighted to have themselves called by name by our friend. Occasionally he would meet with a name that balked him, in which case he would repeat it over to himself, and write it a number of times until he had mastered it–after that it never escaped him.
Mr. X. would always repeat a name when it was spoken, and would at the same time look intently at the person bearing it, thus seeming to fix the two together in his mind at the same time–when he wanted them they would be found in each other’s company. He also acquired the habit of _visualizing_ the name–that is, he would see its letters in his mind’s eye, as a picture. This he regarded as a most important point, and we thoroughly agree with him. He used the Law of Association in the direction of associating a new man with a well-remembered man of the same name. A new Mr. Schmidtzenberger would be associated with an old customer of the same name–when he would see the new man, he would think of the old one, and the name would flash into his mind. To sum up the whole method, however, it may be said that the gist of the thing was in _taking an interest_ in names in general. In this way an uninteresting subject was made interesting–and a man always has a good memory for the things in which he is interested.
The case of Mr. X. is an extreme one–and the results obtained were beyond the ordinary. But if you will take a leaf from his book, you may obtain the same results in the degree that you work for it. Make a study of names–start a collection–and you will have no trouble in developing a memory for them. This is the whole thing in a nut-shell.