The perception of colour is a very personal thing so I've never seen it as strange that for me every letter of the alphabet and also numbers have their own colour. Sometimes the difference between one letter and another is so subtle that I can hardly describe it, it's more of a feeling. The colours of the letters influence the overall colour of a word, which often takes on the colour of the most dominant letter.

One day a couple of years ago, son Felix had been reading an interesting psychology book, The Frog Who Croaked Blue, and gave a copy to Philip, who had always been slightly bemused by  comments I'd sometimes make about the colour of words. Whilst reading the book he started to question me further about this and tada, everything fell into place. Apparently I am a grapheme-colour synesthete. Knowing this makes no practical difference to me, although it does sharpen my curiosity to find out more.
How letters and numbers may appear to a synesthete, although it's rare 
that any two synesthetes will perceive the same set of color associations

Synesthesia is a sort of cross-wiring of the senses, where one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualisation of a colour.  Patricia Lynne Duffy says of it in her book, Blue cats and Chartreuse KittensSometimes described as a blending of perceptions, synesthesia occurs when one of the five senses is aroused, yet two respond.

David Hockney, the Yorkshire artist, is a famous synesthete. While constructing stage sets for ballets and operas, he bases the background colours and lighting upon the colours he sees while listening to the music of the theatre piece.  Also Norman Mailer described the condition beautifully in his biography of Marilyn Monroe – She has that displacement of the senses which others take drugs to find.  So she is like a lover of rock who sees vibrations when he hears sounds.
David Hockney painting scenery
I must say though that the condition doesn't seem to be very helpful in choosing a new colour for our kitchen. It's been a very saturated bright yellow for several years and I really fancy a change, but I can't perceive of a kitchen that isn't yellow. So we've been trying out a few other yellows - what do you think?
Top left is Sudbury Yellow, top right is Indian Yellow,
bottom left Orangery (my fave) and botton right as is
Other famous cases are the artist Wassily Kandinsky, writer Vladimir Nabokov, composers Olivier Messiaen, Franz Liszt, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Sibelius, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman and Stevie Wonder.

Would be interesting to know what percentage of knitters are synesthetes - maybe we could take a sample poll?


  1. While I am not a synesthete, my adult daughter is, and I have always found it fascinating to listen to her talk about the colors of numbers, letters and people. The books will go straight onto our reading list - thank you for such an interesting post!

  2. My kitchen is sudbury yellow and I adore it! I couldn't imagine any other colour than yellow for a friendly and kitchens are such friendly places bringing people together over food and wine.
    I say..stick with yellow! x

  3. Synesthesia is intriguing, as I only just heard the term a few months ago, ut have met several synesthete's since.
    The Indian yellow is my fave but your orangey yellow is very likeable, too. We're taking a jump and painting a wall of our living room a color similar to saffron. That's a big jump for us.

  4. I am Nancy Nickerson's daughter and I have the synthesia going with numbers and letters. It makes math and music colour-toned and I find patterns in life that others do not notice... I notice more about synchronitic events and coincidences in my life like noticing dream messages and omens like animals and birds moving and singing and the dance of life around me. I also look at landscapes differently because I am interested in pigments and minerals and native uses of clays and rocks in paintings and pottery. I see a scarp of fallen clay and jasper streaked with potential artwork instead of just seeing a pile of mud lumps. I guess what interests you is what you notice. I have a lot of synthesia with music tones also and songs are colorful explosions. That is how I remember the guitar songs I write is by the tone of the chords....

    1. How interesting Tracey - would love to hear your songs, are any of them available to listen to online, on Soundcloud perhaps?

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