Synesthesia – Are You a Synesthete?

Synesthesia – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

For our Word Wednesday feature today we are going to learn about a rather unique phenomenon involving mixing words with food.

What is this condition and how do you know if you are a synesthete? In answer to that, here is part of what one finds on Wikipedia under this word:

Synesthesia (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia; from the Ancient Greek σύν syn, “together”, and αἴσθησις aisthēsis, “sensation“) is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.

One of the really unique aspects of this mixing of the senses is associating words with food – a condition known as

Lexical-gustatory synesthesia

This is another rare form of synesthesia where certain tastes are experienced when hearing words. For example, the word basketball might taste like waffles. The documentary ‘Derek tastes like earwax’ gets its name from this phenomenon, in references to pub owner James Wannerton who experiences this particular sensation whenever he hears the name spoken. It is estimated that 0.2% of the population has this form of synesthesia.

One of the reasons for bringing this up is due to a recent article that appeared on the Smithsonian online – “Meet the Man Who Can Taste Words” (there is some adult content linked in this article, so be aware). Here’s an example of someone with this sensory ability:

For [James] Wannerton, words are a constant source of distraction because the consonants give them taste. “College” tastes of sausage. “Karen” tastes of yoghurt. “Yoghurt” tastes, foully, of hairspray. “Most” tastes of “crisp, cold toast with hardly any butter on it”.

Now, there is another reason for mentioning this unique “skill” today: one of our own Seminarians is a synesthete. I discovered this amazing talent a few summers ago when he first helped me in the library. And boy, did I have fun with this! I don’t think he will mind being exposed, and you really ought to ask him about it sometime. You might be surprised to know what food your name is associated with in his mind. Then, again, maybe you don’t want to know.

O, the unique young man is Senior Ryan Barnhill. I just hope this doesn’t come out at Synod. 🙂

Published in: on March 25, 2015 at 10:08 AM  Leave a Comment  

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