Synesthesia and multicolored baby names

Have I ever mentioned that I’m a synesthete?

People who have synesthesia experience a sort of “mixing” of the senses. For instance, one synesthete might see the color green whenever he hears a harpsichord. Another might smell apple pie whenever she touches velvet. Sounds strange, I know…but I’m not making this up.

For me, every letter and number has a specific color. The letter A is yellow, the letter B is pink, the letter C is dark blue, and so forth. This form of synesthesia — “grapheme-color synesthesia” is what Wikipedia calls it, though I’ve seen other names for it — is one of the most common.

Because my letters and numbers have colors, any sequence of letters and/or numbers appears to me as a string of colors. One big benefit to this is that the colors help me recall things like passwords, phone numbers and zip codes quite easily.

And, as I’m sure you can imagine, having synesthesia adds a whole new dimension of fun to baby names. :) It even influences how I feel about certain names; I tend to like names containing complimentary hues a bit more than names with chaotic or imbalanced color-schemes.

For those of you with this same type of synesthesia: Do you like certain given names more (or less) because of it? Have you ever used your synesthesia to help pick out names for children (or for pets)?

10 thoughts on “Synesthesia and multicolored baby names

  1. Wow, that is truly fascinating. I had no idea that there was a word for that, or so many different forms of it – just read about it at Wiki.

    What struck me the most in my reading was this, on the topic of general synesthesia (not necessarily the color type): “Even within one type, synesthetic perceptions vary in intensity [15] and people vary in awareness of their synesthetic perceptions.”

    I’ve always felt “strange” about how I sort of think of/visualize/perceive certain things like numbers, letters in the alphabet, calendars, like the way they form in my mind, and then I read about a “number form” of synesthesia where “numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be “farther away” than 1990), or may have a (three-dimensional) view of a year as a map (clockwise or counterclockwise).[9][10][11] ”

    Fascinating. I’d say I wasn’t overly aware of this in myself, and that my perceptions are not “intense” as described above, but they’re there. Amazing to me that there is a name for this, and that it is fairly common.

    As for the connection to names, I don’t “see” colors with letters, or blendings of colors with names, but I do see shapes & forms & think some look more asthetically pleasing than others, but I don’t think that’s related to synesthesia. I know many people who see names that way (for example, I tend to like names that are “flat” especially on the bottom – like no letters cross the line — Evan, Luke, Caroline, vs. Kyle, Carolyn (the y’s make the difference). I also love names that aren’t “bumpy” with lots of ups & downs — say, I’d prefer Susanne (smooth on top & bottom) to Rebekah (the b,k & h, making it bumpy).

    Okay, now that I’ve made a total fool of myself, lol…

    Really interesting, unique topic, though! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. I’ve had a couple of synesthete friends. That’s pretty spiffy.

    I have a tendency to like first and last name combos that share a lot of letters. (Remember when I suggested Daphne Phelan?) I don’t know why. I guess they just look prettier to me on paper. It’s like they just make sense.

  3. @Cathy –

    “Amazing to me that there is a name for this, and that it is fairly common.”

    That’s the same thought I had the first time I learned of syn., about 7 or 8 years ago. It was nice to learn I wasn’t too weird for having a polychromatic alphabet. :)

  4. That’s really amazing, I’ve known several people with color-oriented synesthesia, and it always amazes me. One girl saw names as one color, depending on the order — She said my real name, Emily, was a bright red.

    Just curious, I’d like to know what colors you picture when you hear E-M-I-L-Y and M-O-O-K-I-E. Mookie is my online persona, and I’m curious as to which one has better-flowing colors :D

  5. @Mookie – Mookie has some repeat colors, so it’s a little more pleasing to the eye than Emily is.

    It’s hard to describe every single color. M is something like brick red, E is a light, lemony yellow…each one is very specific.

    I’d intended to create an image of my alphabet for the post, but I scrapped the idea once I realized just how long it would take to find the correct shades. :(

  6. I don’t think I have synesthesia, but I’m somewhat strange with the way I percieve things. Warm colours all belong on the right hand, except yellow, and all cool colours and yellow belong on the left. Odd numbers are on the left, even on the right. Circles on the left, squares on the right. Conflicts are veiwed as red and blue, red usually being the traditional, blue usually being the new. Most names have colour, but not specific letters. Like Emily is blue and Mookie is brown.

  7. With me it’s words to textures/colours.
    For example my name is hard and smooth in texture and is a lemon-yellow colour; The word black is a thick colour but thin in texture, runny somehow.
    I prefer light and soft names, like Emily to me is a really light blue colour but soft and spongey in texture.

  8. It’s interesting to see how you guys would describe Emily and Mookie.

    For me, Emily is a light spring green, a bit sharp, and… full? I can’t think of a better word to explain it. There’s no empty space in it. It’s refreshing. In terms of shape, it’s a checkmark.

    Mookie is brown, heavy, and shaped like a a sine wave.

    My primary form of synesthesia is actually time to location. For example, my current home is Thursday afternoon, which is surprisingly nice. My favorite place would be somewhere that felt like Friday 8 AM. My least favorite apartment ever was absolutely a Wednesday at 11 PM; I hated it, and moved quickly. I classify most homes like this, and am always willing to tell my friends what their home is. I also associate the time/date to colors – Thursday afternoon is apricot with purple edging (again, surprisingly nice); Friday 8 AM is cerulean blue, Wednesday 11 PM would be yellow-brown with red.

  9. @Mookie/Emily :) I do not know if you still visit here, but in the case that you do, I thought, as an extreme synesthete, I would share my ‘senses’ of these two names you’ve provided.

    Mookie is deep indigo.
    (m=deep indigo) (o=black) (o=black) (k=brick red) (i=bright violet) (e=pure blue)
    it is small, and pointy, and has whisker-like sprays coming out of it, much like the head of a siamese cat. It smells like black pepper.

    Emily is olive and avacado green.
    (e=pure blue) (m=deep indigo) (i=bright violet) (l=seafoam green) (y=rich qrange)
    it is strong, flexible, and feels like cotton lace. It smells like apples and cinnamon.

    Hope this helps you choose, enjoy! :)

  10. I like names that are black in color like Olivia and Veronica. Maybe it’s the Os and the Vs that make them that color for me. My other favorites are red M names and orange J names. I especially like Juliet, it’s very vivid, almost red. Although when it is spelled Juliette the colors get diluted a little. And my own name is lavender colored, maybe because the walls of my room when I was little were painted that color. I’m not sure if I’m synesthetic or if these associations exist for other reasons, like maybe Olivia makes me think of black olives or Juliet makes me think of Romeo and Juliet, hence the passionate colors. But then there are some things I can’t explain, like why Geraldine tastes like rice or Summer (just the name, not the word or the season) is kind of squishy-textured.

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