“I smell and taste colours as well as words”: This is what it’s like to have synesthesia.

Image: iStock.

For many of us, colours evoke an emotional response. You might feel soothed just by looking at a pale blue wall, or cheered by the sight of a yellow dress in your wardrobe.

However, people with synesthesia can taste or even hear colours, along with numbers, words, letters and even months of the year.

Synesthesia is a rare, incurable neurological phenomenon where two or more of a person’s senses become entwined. It’s hard to imagine what that might be like to experience first-hand, but in a recent Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit, one woman has provided a fascinating insight.

Redditor “Marapara”, a Manhattan-based actress, learned she had synesthesia when she was seven years old. “I opened the plate cabinet in my home’s kitchen, turned around and told my mother that the cabinet smelled like the phrase, ‘The devil is riding the elevator’ and the words ‘cranberry sauce’,” she explains.

Here are some of the most interesting things Marapara revealed about life with Synesthesia.

On how colour can change her response to something:

“If I look at something gross or unpleasant but the colours taste good, then it becomes more of a positive thing.”

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"Green is my favourite [colour] - it tastes like water with sugar."

On having a strong reaction to people's names:

"Sometimes I won't talk to [people] because their names don't taste well or are too overwhelming. For example, I couldn't really be friends with someone named Ruth because the name resembles peanut butter, and saying it over and over would make me feel actually sick."

"Probably the best tasting name to me is Shawna, because it tastes like apple sauce. Nastiest name... there are a lot of unpleasant tasting boys' names out there, but if I had to choose off the top of my head I'd say Carol and Ralph."

"The most interesting thing of all is that I don't taste or smell anything at all when I read or hear my name."

On the most delicious-tasting colour:

"Green is my favourite — it tastes like water with sugar." (Post continues after video.)

And the most delicious-tasting word:

"I think the best thing is the word 'Abundance'. It tastes like a mixture of fruit with extra sugar added ... To add to that, 'Abundance' is also the colour yellow."

"[Today] I wanted something sugary and sweet that was also yellow, so I repeated 'abundance' to myself."

On how her mental health affects the tastes and colours she experiences:

"I have bipolar disorder, and so when I'm manic, my senses are extremely heightened so everything is a bunch of colours and so on. But when I'm depressed, every single thing is actually black, gray, or white. I taste those colours and hear them as well as see them."

signs of depression
"When I'm depressed, every single thing is actually black, gray, or white."

On how her reaction changes depending on the language:

"I definitely get sensory overload at times, but especially when people speak a different language ... I speak French and every word in French tastes differently than all the words in English!"

On how synesthesia helps with music:

"I played violin for 10 years and once I figured out which notes tasted like what, it came naturally. Every note tastes/smells/looks different."

Do you, or does anyone you know, live with synesthesia? What's it like?

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