It’s a condition I’ve had my entire life. I just didn’t know there was a name for it.
As far back as kindergarten, I can remember explaining to my parents that I saw the days of the week IN COLOR. I was very exact about which day represented a specific color – or combination of colors. The pairings have always been the same. The list rolls off my tongue as fast today as it did when I was just learning to talk. And it looks like this:
I remember my parents asking me to recite the list of days and corresponding colors for friends.”Tell them, Lon” they would say. “Tell them how you see the days of the week in color.” I’d recite the list for whomever the audience was that day – making sure they knew that Tuesday wasn’t just any gray – but a very specific shade of gray mailbox. When they heard that Friday was a very exact striping of black and white, they looked puzzled. And by the time burnt sienna rolled around for Sunday, they didn’t quite know what to think.
I’ve shared my quirky view of time and color with many friends and colleagues over the years – and I’m usually met with a quizzical face. Well, after a little research I’ve discovered I’m not alone.
What is synesthesia?
Synesthesia is a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, i.e., the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color. It comes from the Greek words, syn (together) and aisthesis (perception) = “joined perception.”
Experts say the most common form – colored letters and numbers – occurs when someone always sees a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet or number. For example, a synesthete (a person with synesthesia) might see the word “plane” as mint green or the number “4” as dark brown. There are also synesthetes who hear sounds in response to smell, who smell in response to touch, or who feel something in response to sight. Just about any combination of the senses is possible.
Over 60 types of synesthesia have been reported, but only a fraction have been evaluated by scientific research. Of course it is possible that, as my husband suggests, we’re all just “a little nuts.”
So next time you see a city skyline, and you taste blueberries, maybe you hear a violin and you feel itchy on your left foot, or you finally come to terms with seeing Thursdays as lollipop red – call me. It’s lonely out here.