|Even before I started preschool, I noticed that letters, numbers, and other symbols had colors, personalities, sexes, and sometimes textures. As time went on, I did find it quite bothersome that play/learning objects such as books or blocks with letters printed in/on them in colors; the pin-up alphabet, with its letters in colors, above classroom chalkboards; and other items were “wrong”, in that their colors were different than what I saw. After being agitated for awhile about it early on in my schooling, I finally asked, “Why is the four above the chalkboard red on there red when four is blue?” The response I received from this, what I considered a simple question, just like the responses the vast majority of synesthetes get when they mention their non-standard perceptions, was enough to keep me quiet about my perceptions of the world – anything I might think someone would consider out-of-the-ordinary – for the next 15½ or so years. (It was only at that point I heard a segment about synesthesia on National Proletariate Radio’s “Science Friday”.)
As was mentioned previously, some chromagraphemic synesthetes have only colored vowels, some have have lines, dots, or outlines spicing up their graphemes, some have quite a few grey graphemes, etc. I suppose I’m somewhat boring, because all my graphemes have a solid color, with no accompanying shapes or outlines. A few of mine, though, are slightly translucent, a few can change color, a few have a “sheen” or shine to them, and a few “flicker”.
|I’ve always been a big fan of rainbows, and thus I’ve always thought it strange that my first two colors were mixed up spectrally (yellow, orange instead of orange, yellow), or even didn’t have the decency to begin with red and continue on with orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.
Just as the English alphabet can be referred to as the ABCs, my numbers and letters tend to group themselves. What I mean by this is that because of their colors, sexes, and personalities, they react to one another, and like humans, they group themselves accordingly: 0 generally stands alone, but, when he does hang with another, it’s usually 1, because while 1 is a bit of a partier, he does know how to hold his place and be responsible. I could go on all day, so I’ll summarize: 0; 01; 12; 34; 12345; 56; 678; 89.
|Both my capital- and lower-cases of the same letter have the same color. I thought this was strange, because at the very first, I assumed my letter perceptions were based solely (though usually arbitrarily) on visual shape. Clearly this cannot be the case.
The main groupings: ABC; EF; MN; RST; UVW; XYZ.
– Alpha is the same as A.
– Beta is the same as B, but the lowercase beta is slightly darker.
– Gamma is the same as G.
– Delta is a lighter brown than D.
– Epsilon is the same as E.
– Zeta is greyer than Z.
– Eta seems to look like a mix of E and H.
– Theta is a a slightly browner version of T. (The alternate written version looks like an ugly reddish purple to me.)
– Iota is the same as I.
– Kappa is ever so slightly more orange / less red than K.
– Lambda is a darker/wheatier color than L.
– Mu is more brown than M.
– Nu is yellower than N.
– Xi is a very dark grey, whereas X is black.
– Omicron is the same as O.
– Pi is less brown than P. I remember then first time I saw pi, though, and it was a shiny medium gray/grey then. Once I learned what its equivalent was in English, though, it gained its current color.
– Rho is a letter I’m simply not sure about, because it is extremely faint. I am guessing at the color here.
– Sigma, as well as the lowercase ending/lunate sigma, is the same as S, but the lowercase sigma is not the same color. It is, in fact, misrepresented here, because it looks green but also looks as though I’m seeing it through quite a few panes of glass.
– Tau is the same as T.
– Upsilon is a darker grey than Y and is like grey U but with a bit of blue as in the letter Y.
– Phi is also misrepresented here, because while it is that very color of green, it also has H-colored orange in it. This is surely because in translations, phis are often transliterated as the letters p and h in English.
– Khi seems to be a mix of X, K, and H. Before I knew what letters it stood for in English, I, of course, saw at least the upper-case Greek letter as black.
– Psi looks like a medium gray/grey to me, but because of the letters it stands for in English, I also see that color of green.
– Omega is tan, but the lowercase omega is a lighter blue than w is.I started to learn the Greek alphabet when I was 6 [thanks to my great interest in the truly fantastic work of art… I mean, book (!) D’Aulaires Book fo Greek Myths]. I am now able to read basic “Old Greek”. When I initially picked up many of the letters, they had vague, darkened/greyed shades of color to them that, as I learned and remembered them, “brightened” into what they are now. As you can see, letters that have seeming equivalents in English have similar colors to those equivalents, but they are not precisely the same in almost all cases. I have come to the conclusion that there are one to three reasons, depending on the letter, why this is so: 1) My Greek letters have serifs, whereas my English alphabet generally does not. Thus, the shape can dictate the color/shade of the letter. 2) Since I occasionally see color with sound, phonemes often have specific colors. Thus, the sound in “Old Greek” is likely different than the sound of its “Modern English” “equivalent”, and thus the sound influences the color of the letter. 3) As with the letter khi, I can think of some of them as combinations of English letters. In the case of khi, C[H] and X form this combination of color [because I originally learned the letter with the Latinized spelling of chi].
|some Japanese hiragana|
|Left to right: “te”, “a”, “hi”, “ko”, “ho”, “ri”, “ro”, “ru”, “ku”, “n”, “ka”.
This is not the whole alphabet, nor are the syllable-representing graphemes in any particular order, but these are a few examples of what I see when I look at hiragana. At first many of the “letters” had no colors, sexes, or personalities to them, but just like Greek, when I started learning, things became more solid, so to speak. In fact, some vague, dark colors changed not only shade, but color entirely upon my learning them.
Just like some English letters, letters in other languages can have “odd” colors. In the examples above, “ka” is not quite the right color. I tried giving it orangish highlights in Photoshop, but it turned out looking… well, ‘even more wrong’, so I left it as pine green with a bit of orange. Coïncidentally, the color here was the original color I had for it before I learned it stood for “ka”, in which case it gained more oranginess/brownness because fo the “k”.
Each alphabet I’ve shown here has its own colors and therefore, when I read things written in them, they will each have their own flavor (…and I mean flavor metaphorically ;). English is relatively bright and lively. Greek is toned down and has more greens, earthy colors, and, even though it doesn’t look like it from the letters themselves, it has a light sky/water bluish feeling of color to it. Japanese is dark and smoky, with what seems like _ of deep purples, reds, and other toned-down colors.
| From left to right: tick mark, the number 1, uppercase I, lowercase i, uppercase L, lowercase l.
Many people write these graphemes pretty much the same way, as seen on the left, and they generally end up looking like a straight line. I am much more particular about the way I write them, as you can tell from the graphics on the right. There are plenty of other chromagraphemic synesthetes who can sympathize with my plight, because without differentiating the marks, not only does the information attached to the graphemes confused, but so do the colors, as you can also tell from the graphics.
Along those same lines, it drives me up the wall to read text that isn’t in black or white. Having to read something written/typed in “the wrong colors” is very aggravating. And even though writing/typing in black or white is still not “right” in color, my head is able to fill in the missing colors much more easily, and with very little hassle or confusion. It’s basically the problem of, ‘If it’s written in red, I pay more attention to it being “wrong” rather than paying attention to and understanding what it is I’m reading.