My Grapheme Syn in My Daily Life

In my previous post, I introduced my grapheme synesthesia. Now I’ll talk about how it works in my daily life. I’ve broken it down into general sections, beginning with the most obvious way it affects me.

Writing/Naming

One of my hobbies is writing, so when I choose character names, I have a lengthy process I go through. I have to choose a name that sounds like the character. For instance, an evil character who is sly might have a name that glides. An evil character who is forceful might have more Ks and Ts in their name.

But the colors have to match. So an evil character might have darker colors, while a bubbly character might have bright colors.

Because the color has to match, spelling also matters. I may think a cool teenage guy should have the name Caleb, but because of the soft shape of the C, it’s medium green color, and the light A and E, it feels more relaxed than some alternate spelling of the name, like Kaleb. (I don’t know. Maybe his parents like the letter K. Don’t ask me. Ask them.)

On top of all that, I like to have names with meanings that fit the character (or are ironic); names that are from that character’s heritage; names that their parents would give them, even if the kid doesn’t like it (Alistair Jensen for my rich boy, but he likes A.J.); and so on.

Depending on what I have to start with for the character, I pick a different point and begin there. If I know where he’s from but not what he’s like, I’ll browse names from that place. If I know he’s popular but relaxed, I may look for names like Caleb. If I know she’s bubbly, I’ll look for lighthearted names or for names with bright colors. However, for each name I pick, I usually try to hit all of the requirements: meaning, spelling, sound, and how well it fits the character.

This also means that I’m adverse to certain names depending on the colors. I’m not a fan of most shades of pink, especially the ones in my alphabet, so I avoid names like Madison, Matthew, Paul… Unless the name just really fits.

This is perhaps the biggest, most immediate way my grapheme synesthesia affects me. And, yes, my future children’s names will be chosen in similar manners. Sorry, future husband. You’ll have to deal with colors, too.

Reading/Scanning

My synesthesia helps me with word searches some. I don’t have projected synesthesia, meaning I don’t see the colors physically on the page. The colors are associated, remaining in my mind’s eye. If I scan too fast, I’m likely to gloss over the colors. That said, I can scan fairly quickly for words I’m looking for. Take this article, for instance. If I knew I had misspelled “Matthew”, I would quickly scan the naming area for the dark pink M and the lighter pink/orange A, keeping the letter shapes second in mind.

Spelling/Memorizing

I’ve always loved spelling. I’m not perfect at it, and I make mistakes sometimes, but as a kid, spelling bees excited me. I never did them seriously, but when we had them in class, I loved it. I remember I won my third grade spelling bee with the word “squirrel”.

It’s worth noting right now that I didn’t realize I had synesthesia until I was in high school, so I can’t say for certain if the colors helped me remember “squirrel”, or if I remembered that it had two Rs and one L simply because that was how I had read it. It was probably a combination of both. My dad has recalled one or two instances when I was in elementary school that I mentioned letters having colors.

The colors of words and numbers aid me in memorization, and often that’s the case for others, at least in their own native languages. Obviously “sun” is spelled with a U and not an O because U is golden yellow-orange like a sun. Yes, the date was 1576 and not 1675 because the green 5 came first, looking like a forest with the red-brown 1 before it.  No, I don’t remember if it was “Tommy” or “Timmy” or “Ted”, but I know it started with a T because it’s brown, and “Bob” is clearly navy blue.

Adding in foreign languages can confuse things. For some synesthetes, the new language doesn’t have colors. Or it gains colors once they familiarize themselves with the language. That may mean that an E in French is the same as an E in English because it’s written the same way. If the colors are based around the sound of the letter, that may alter things. This can help or hinder things. For instance “cat” is “chat” in French, so that’s not hard to remember since the colors are similar. In Russian “dog” is “cabaka”, which is drastically different for me in terms of color, so I had to find a way to remember that one.

In foreign scripts–and this is the case for me–the letters/syllables take on colors in one of two ways. I’ll show you by example. Here’s a refresher of my colors for reference.

2015-04-11-my-graphemes

Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. That means it has many letters that are similar to English ones and some that aren’t in English. It also means that letters that look like English ones are pronounced as other English ones.

For example, H in Russian is actually an N in English. For me, when I see the Russian H, I see it in the color of English H.

Japanese uses a syllabary, so each character represents a sound, like “ah”, “ko”, “yu”, or “ne”. Respectively, these are: あ、こ、ゆ、ね .

For me あ is the color of “a” because that’s how you write it in Roman letters. Similarly, こ is the color of K with a hint of O, because that’s how you write it in Roman letters but also because it looks almost like an O with how close the lines are to each other.

ゆ is an odd mix and is my favorite one to read. It has the color of lowercase “n” because of its shape. (The line through it is basically black.) However, it blends with the colors for Y and U in different places (namely the top left and bottom right) because that’s the English equivalent.

ね does something similar. It’s a mix of “N” with a hint of “e” in the curly-Q at the bottom. However, it also looks like a 2 on the right-hand side, so it takes the color of N on the left-hand side and the color of 2 on the right. So it’s basically 3 colors at once. Far more interesting than my English alphabet!

All that said, I don’t see colors for the Japanese script as “obviously” as I do the English ones, or even the Russian ones. These are letters I’ve noticed in particular, so I mentioned them. They’ve made memorizing words and characters easy at times (in the case of Japanese, it helped me remember certain sounds), and other times it confused things (silly Russian H equalling an N).


So that’s my grapheme syn as I experience it throughout the day. It may seem like I’m observing all these colors with every ounce of my attention, but I’m not. I’m so used to this that I don’t even notice it half the time. It simply is. Much the same way that I can tune out the typing sound my keyboard makes while I focus on what I want to type, so I can tune my colors out. It’s just another day for me.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. I’d love to hear about your own syn experiences if you have them!

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