A recent Something Awful thread cued me into the fact that I have grapheme --> color synesthesia, meaning I associate non-colored things with particular colors for no good reason. Well, the thread didn't alert me to the fact that I have it -- I've wondered about this for most of my life. The thread alerted me to the fact that there's a name for it and that other people do it too.

I can remember letters having colors as early as first or second grade, and my curiosity as to whether they had colors for other people, and if they were the same colors for everyone, followed soon after. Apparently the answers are (1) not everyone and (2) no.

For the record, here are my wacky color associations, which I've seriously had for as long as I can remember and at various times in my life have driven me crazy. In particular I would sometimes try to picture a letter with the wrong color (like a blue A), and it would bug the hell out of me and I didn't know why.


A Yellow
B Dark green
C Red
D Pink or orange
E Light blue
F Purple
G Green
H Dark red
I Yellow
J Dark blue
K Red
L Orange
M Green
N Dark blue
O Light blue
P Purple
Q Green
R Pink or orange
S Light blue
T Yellow
U Orange
V Purple
W Red
X Purple
Y Purple
Z Red

0 Light blue
1 Dark blue
2 Light blue
3 Red
4 Green
5 Dark blue
6 Yellow
7 Red
8 Orange
9 Purple

Sunday: Light blue
Monday: Green
Tuesday: Light orange
Wednesday: Light blue
Thursday: Red-orange
Friday: Purple
Saturday: Yellow

Just to be clear, I don't see these colors when I actually read words, letters, numbers, or calendars. But if I picture the letter "A" in my head it's inevitably yellow, and if I think about Wednesday in the abstract I picture the word "Wednesday" as light blue and have the color in the background as I think about doing things on Wednesday or things that happened on Wednesday. Apart from the nagging curiosity I don't think this has caused any significant problems, but I'm glad that it's an actual thing that happens to people and not just me.

Have a light orange Tuesday, everybody.


I don't assign colors to letters and numbers, but I do assign genders to them. They even have "shades," like maternal, boyish, etc. I was just having a conversation about it with my roommate, who does the same thing. Another friend of hers does it, too.

At the risk of sounding insane, I do assign a color to one non-colored thing: the pleasant feeling of a shower jet causing a vibration in my ear. It's purple.

You fool! Four is blue and five is green and seven is purple. You're right about three, though. Good work.

Also, blue, green, brown, and black are boys. Red, yellow, orange, and purple are girls.

(You're clearly not the only one, Matt. I've had these associations since I was about five years old. Green years old.)

There's a really awesome painting in my house based on the synesthetic associations of a girl who used to live here. She took a Vassily Kandinsky quote (about lending your eyes to music and your ears to painting) and painted it as a series of colored squares, each one representing a letter. The quote is posted on the wall next to it in actual letters so that people who don't see letters with her colors can decode it.

Sometimes when I can't quite remember a song or a word or something I'll just have a vague sense of some thoroughly irrelevant sensory input -- like a lemony taste for a word, or the stripey feeling of a song. I think I'm just so desperate to remember whatever it is that my other senses get in on the act and give me whatever associations they can come up with. It's neat; I almost wish my memory were worse so it would happen more often.

Synesthesia is AWESOME! You're right about E, 2, and 5, by the way. The rest are wrong. :) is a pretty cool synesthesia site to visit.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on December 26, 2006 12:18 PM.

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