Synesthesia

When I was just a wee lad I used to visit my grandparents on occasion.  Not having raised children in several decades, there weren’t too many things at their house that could entertain a little tyke like me.  They had a computer with an inexplicably large number of games on it (hello, Wolfenstein 3D!) and an over-sized Checkers set with a handknit “board”, but while I was still very young I spent a good deal of my time playing with colorful alphabet refrigerator magnets.  They looked like this:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Being an impressionable kid in my formative years, those letters and their respective colors latched onto my grey matter and have refused to let go.  As a result, I often see written words as combinations of these colorful letters.  Name a letter and I’ll tell you its color without hesitation.  This condition is known as synesthesia, specifically, grapheme-color synesthesia, and the jury is still out on whether or not it can actually be acquired by playing with colored letters.

These are the wrong colors!

It’s interesting to see things like this; I prefer some words to other because of their color combinations.  I like blue and green more than yellow and orange, so I favor words with a lot of ‘e’s more than those with numerous ‘i’s, ‘o’s, or ‘u’s.  In addition, some words have a certain feel to them based solely on the letter they begin with.  Sometimes this works out nicely;  the word “water” looks blue at first glance.

Now, this doesn’t happen all the time.  I usually subconsciously tune the colors out, but with a tiny amount of concentration they can soon begin to appear.  For example, right now I cant help but see everything in these colors, an occurrence surely augmented by the fact that all of the colored letters are right up there and I can see them as I write this.

I don’t know how many other people have this quirk, but if you want to screw up your kid’s perception of written language, give them a colorful alphabet to play with.  A couple hours here and there are enough to leave a lasting impact, still strong after twenty years or so.

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