Friday, December 01, 2006

Tasting Words

The New York Times had a fascinating article a few days ago about people who suffer from a rare form of synaesthesia. Synaethesia itself is a condition wherein a person's senses become sort of cross-wired due to injury or birth defect. For example a person may see certain letters as tinged with an associated color, or they may hear certain words as musical notes. In this even rarer form, people actually experience sensations of flavor when they see certain words. One man they quoted hates to drive because certain words (presumably those on road signs?) make him taste earwax and pistachio ice-cream. Granted this could have a positive effect if you were able to discover words that created pleasant tastes. However, can you imagine what flavor words like unctuous, platitude, or outrageous might have?

1 comment:

Deborah said...

Ooooh! Synesthesia is fascinating. The region of the brain handling number and letter recognition is nearby the region processing color. There is a great "test" for confusing these two regions. Basically a list of named colors: red, green, yellow, blue, grey, etc. Then, each word is typeset in a color: the word red is colored violet. then the word blue is colored yellow, the word orange is colored green, etc.

The challenge is to say the color that the word is printed in, not the name of the color that is colored. It turns out to be quite difficult.