When I read te title to this article on Salon, “The Letter E is Purple,” I knew immediately what it was about–synesthesia, a neurological condidion in which the brain gets certain sensory perceptions crossed. For example, people with synesthesia associate letters and numbers with certain colors or sounds. I alwasy read any articles about it I can find because I have it.
For as long as I can remember, each digit 0-9 has had its own color. Zero is black. One is yellow-orange. Two is blue. Three is red. Four is indigo. Five is yellow-green. Six is blue-green. Seven is lavender. Eight is yellow. Nine is midnight blue. Higher numbers are sometimes combinations of the colors of their digits. Thirteen is orange (yellow-orange + red). Such associations have always been normal to me.
Letters have colors too. The intersting thing is that letters that represent “lighter” sounds have lighter colors than letters that represent “heavier” sounds, making me think that there may be something to the theory of phonosemantics. For example, the letter I is yellow, while the letter M is dark red. And in one instance, a letter actually has a taste. The letter H has a bittersweet taste like a grapefruit.
Places have colors, too. Greenville, SC, where I grew up, is, well, green. Spartanburg, about half an hour away, is orange, and Charleston is yellow.
Synesthesia doesn’t hinder normal brain function, and it has actually helped me. It works as a mnemonic device on occasion. If I’m trying to remember a word or a date, I can sometimes think of its “color” to help me. Or I know I’ve mispelled a word because it’s the “wrong color.”
When I’m writing, it helps, too. I can pick words or phrases that have certain “colors” if I’m going for a particualr mood, and it usually works. It also helps with picking names for characters. Adam Mire is a dark, reddish-purple name for a quiet intellectual prone to depression. Stephen Cahill is light but solid orange name for an easy-going but responsible type of guy.
It’s probably reason I can’t read comic books, though. Oh, well. I guess life has its trade-offs.