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Tasting Series: 1. Tasting Words

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There are a few Synaesthesia types that are far more uncommon than Grapheme -> Colour that I talked about the other day. I will dedicate this week’s blog to the sense of TASTE.

Sometimes, it is hard to believe that there are such a variety of inducers. Both my children taste words, numbers, sounds and music. Other things that trigger off tastes for Skye are names, equations, emotions, personalities, and Chinese characters. Rarely, he tastes touch and smells as well.

Let me start with words in this blog, then work my way down to others in my future blogs.

Synaesthesia researchers Jamie Ward and Julia Simner have reported that in the Lexical -> Gustatory Synaesthesia, the synesthetic associations are constrained by food experienced during childhood. Tastes seem to be triggered by the corresponding food name as well as by words that share phonemes. In my family’s case, Thomas and another adult family member intend to taste most food names by the corresponding food, e.g., the word “Sausage” tastes sausage, the word “Tomato” tastes tomato. The adult family member did not know this experience was unusual as he thought everyone tasted food when a corresponding food name was mentioned.

For Skye, the food name rule does not appear to apply well. However, the sounding words seem to be more relative. For example, the word “Dollar” tastes like Vomit, “Life Line” tastes like Olive Oil, “Tony” tastes like lemon.

An important nature of Skye’s and Thomas’ Synaesthesia is conceptual, i.e., associations usually have meanings. For example, the word “Monkey” tastes like banana to Skye, the name “Andrew” tastes dim sim as he used to have a Chinese friend called Andrew.

Due to a wide range of food my children grow up with, their tasting experience is very diversified. Both are exceptional eaters. They started eating Indian curry and Thai curry from a young age, some words such as “Hurry” trigger a curry taste. Sometimes, the taste can be so spicy and Skye needs water to physically wash down the taste.

Some synaesthetes feel their stomaches are often full after a day of tasting different words as the experience is extremely real. But this is not the case for my children. They love food so much and can’t stop eating. Again, their taste syn may not be as strong as those people who feel full often.

Please don’t feel sorry for them when occasionally they taste something unpleasant such as vomit or tree (a taste Skye never forgets after he naively tried once just to be adventurous), most tastes are so beautiful. One minute can be like eating a lolly, the next minute is having a cake! What happen if Skye tastes vomit? Oh don’t worry, Skye is clever enough and would say to himself “Petrol”, then the beautiful birthday cake taste comes and offsets vomit. Until today, none of us including himself know why “Petrol” tastes like birthday cake to him. Have I ever bought him a birthday cake from a petrol station? I don’t think so. But “Petrol” is Skye’s golden word, that’s good enough.

I’d love to hear from other synaesthetes who taste words or names :-) I know you have a lot of amazing experiences to share too.

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