Saturday, October 25, 2008

Feeling metaphor

I was sure I'd posted about synaesthesia before - but unless I've done it without tagging, I haven't. At least, Technorati thinks not. So here goes. I don't usually think about being a synaesthete, because I've never known what it was not to see colours, for example, related to numbers, letters or names. I used to argue about it with my mother, who saw different colours - it was normal, wasn't it, if we both did this? So 4 - as a figure or a word - is blue-grey; 5 is yellowy-orange, 9 more yellow. My own first name is pink; John is blue. Wednesday is a blue green, Tuesday pea-green. Get the picture?

And now Mr Heathbank has kindly sent me this link. In it, a neuroscientist links synaesthesia with metaphor, and states that what appears as metaphor is a literal sensory experience for synesthetes. That may explain, he said, why synesthesia is eight times more common among poets, artists and novelists than the general population.

He goes on to link the phenomenon to our ancestors' ability to climb trees - but I suggest you follow the link for that bit. I've just realised that McIntosh is a sort of deep russet colour, and doesn't go at all well with pink.

Update: I just completed a fairly lengthy online test for synaesthesia, which not only confirms my known associations but shows that my strongest manifestation of it is between colour and the sound of various musical instruments - here.
I'd never even thought about that one!


  1. I'll have you know that you've left me feeling totally deprived. Mind you, I always knew I didn't have any artistic bones in my body.

  2. Anonymous1:17 AM

    You may remember a 60s song by Kander & Ebb - "My coloring book" (original orthography kept; I was pleased to see that you had anglicised "synesthete"). The lyrics may be found at

    There is also a song from Barnum entitled "The colors of my life", to be found at

    You will have noticed that I have not the faintest about how to do links.

    Meanwhile, as I wait for BST to turn into GMT again, I can only envy you your synaesthesia: it would be a help to listen to concerts in colour instead of the shapes I vaguely see when I listen to music with my eyes shut. So much more exciting.

    Take this evening - a cracking RSNO concert, with a veteran Uruguayan-American conductor (Jose Serebrier), a magnificent Chicagoan fiddler (Rachel Barton Pine), two warhorses (Bruch fiddle & Pictures at an etc, orchestrated extravagantly by Leopold Stokowski), a novelty (Glazunov's La Mer) and three encores!

    The soloist played a splendidly extravagant transcription of Liszt's Mephisto Waltz and the conductor gave us Stokowski's orchestral transcriptions of When I am laid in earth and Bach's "little" g minor fugue. It was all immense fun, and would have been funner (sic) in colours! I feel positively elated in an old-fashioned way.

    Pardon for this prolonged intrusion on your space. I think I'll go and try to climb a tree without falling off!

  3. Well, I am feeling "blue". Does that count? When I played the clarinet, I used to see music in colors. Somehow, as I have aged, colors seem to have run all together and the canvas is looking a bit messy! Ah well.

    I always thought Wednesday, being the apex of the week, looked very bright yellow! hmmmm.....

    As far as the link you sent, I thought "Kiki" would be the name of a sweet little dinosaur, which resembled the figure on the left. Bobo or Booboo (cannot remember as I was a bit feverish last night) would certainly look like a "splat". Thus, the figure on the right! Please bear in mind, however, I AM left-handed, thereby "special considerations" need apply!!!!

  4. ABF, I love it when you wander on my site. You do it so elegantly.

    Katya, there is nothing logical about my colours: they just are. Have you tried the test I linked to? (Give yourself plenty of time!)