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Old 02-15-2011, 02:07 PM
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Default Your Name Tastes Like Purple

This post originally appeared on the blog Persephone Magazine on Feb. 3, 2011.

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Originally Posted by Teri Floyd

In my head, the letter "N" is green. The number 5 is blackish gray, and in his early 20s. The month of February is lavender colored and covered in ice.

So in case you havenít guessed, I have synesthesia.

Iíve had it all my life, I suppose. People who are experts on such things say that we are born with it, that it is a brain disorder. The wires in your brain get crossed, and you experience all five senses simultaneously. They overlap where they should be separate.

Everybody who has it has a different form of synesthesia with minor undertones of other kinds. Mine mainly exists with letters and numbers. I see numbers, letters, words, etc in color. All of my letters and numbers have different colors, personalities, textures, ages and gender. I literally see them as living beings. Colors themselves also have gender. When I was a child often Iíd play Ďhouseí with my crayons instead of dolls. Seriously, Iíd have red and blue get married or green and orange have a sordid affair. My grandma used to think it was so funny. It was just normal to me. Words have colors Ė for instance, my sonís name, Callum, is a bright, sunny yellow with flecks of baby blue, particularly in the Lís.

The inside of my head kind of feels like a Jackson Pollock painting. All splotches and globs of brightly colored paint, roads leading nowhere, just an explosion of thick, goopy color with a nonsensical message. Convergence, 1952 by Jackson Pollock is my favorite painting. Probably because itís the colors of my name. Yellows, a hint of orange, lots of black, and a little fleck of blue peeking out; all of it streaked into oblivion. My name looks just like that; it did long before I ever saw a Pollock painting.

I also have synesthesia with regard to music. Certain songs bring vivid colors into my head. If I listen to "Happiness is a Warm Gun," by the Beatles, my head fills with alternating flashes of mustard-yellow and bright, silvery white. It has a distinct pulse and a gritty, sandpapery feel. David Bowieís voice always invokes a bright sky blue that sometimes turns darker, or has shades of gray, depending on the mood of the song. Rap music invokes a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes all spiraling through my head at warp speed. I prefer one sole theme, which is why I think I donít usually care for rap music unless itís really unique or exceptional (for instance, Lil Wayneís voice is a silvery gray with purple undertones that I find really pleasing). Classical music takes me through a landscape of color, shape and feeling. Usually I close my eyes when listening. Itís like having my own personal DVD of "Fantasia" playing through my head whenever I listen.

Usually when I tell people about my synesthestic experiences they look at me like Iím some crazed hippie. I probably am a crazed hippie in reality, but what I experience is more than just psychedelic. Itís spiritual. My synesthesia is so ingrained into me that if I lost my ability tomorrow, I would feel as if Iíd been blinded or deafened.

Occasionally I experience the other types of synesthesia that have to do with taste, sensation and smell, but only occasionally. Smells and tastes definitely invoke a distinct color in my brain. For instance, the smell and taste of fresh garlic makes my head fill with bright, vibrant green. Diet drinks with their saccharine sweetness always appear in my head as being a shimmering, blinding silver.

It can be strange, having synesthesia. If Iím out to dinner with a friend, and they scrape their fork on their teeth, my brain fills with unnamed metallic colors, and my ears roar with the sound of it. I canít stand it. I can taste the metal on my own tongue and it is unbearable. It can cause obsessive compulsive behavior sometimes. Occasionally the sound and taste of silverware is so loud in my brain that I have to use plastic cutlery when I eat.

Synesthesia certainly enriches my life as an avid reader and a writer. It always helped my poetry and as I become better at essays and stories I find that it enriches them, too. Certainly F. Scott Fitzgerald was synesthetic. No one can read "The Great Gatsby" and tell me that he wasnít. I think that is why I feel so decadent and wistful when I read his books. Iíve read "Gatsby" dozens of times and never tire of the language and the way his words flow in an endless barrage of color. Many artists and celebrities are synesthestes, including Tori Amos, Eddie Van Halen, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stevie Wonder, Vladimir Nabokov and many, many others.

Iíd be lying if I said I wasnít grateful to have synesthesia. I have had it so long that it is like second nature to me now. I often forget that I do have it, and just go through life assuming that people are experiencing the same sensations as I do. I see the months of the year like a giant Rolodex, spiraling through an open space. They all have colors, genders, ages and personalities. I also benefit from having a somewhat photographic memory with directions, phone numbers, addresses and names, because I see them as a pattern of colors.

It all tastes blue to me.
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Old 02-15-2011, 02:10 PM
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I knew someone in college, a music major, who associated colors with certain pitches. Beyond that, even - if two different fingerings could produce the "same" pitch (with certain, too-subtle-for-me differences), one version would be (say) blue to her, and another yellow.
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Old 02-15-2011, 02:17 PM
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Yeah, for me letters and numbers have always been certain colors for me. And sounds are also certain shapes for me.

Always thought it was normal, I guess not lol
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Old 02-15-2011, 02:20 PM
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I wish I had synaesthesia. Anyone know how I could induce it? I mean, besides LSD?
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Old 02-15-2011, 02:32 PM
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I always thought of my name as being green. Actually, more like the first letter of my name is green.
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Old 02-15-2011, 02:33 PM
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I'd like to have it too. I have heard before that it helps with memory and reading.

The closest I can get to it, I think, is that numerical digits vaguely have personalities for me. Maybe a few letters too.
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Old 02-15-2011, 02:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gentle Giant View Post
I wish I had synaesthesia. Anyone know how I could induce it? I mean, besides LSD?
Besides LSD? No.
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Old 02-15-2011, 02:46 PM
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I see sarcasm as red.
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Old 02-15-2011, 02:49 PM
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i wouldn't want that! i think i already have enough noise in my brain w/o having a mental disorder (that i know of). but it is really strange to read about.
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Old 02-15-2011, 03:09 PM
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does brown taste like shit?
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