I taste words.
I’ve wanted to write about my synesthesia for a while. People are curious when they learn that I experience lexical-gustatory synesthesia, which means I associate words with flavors and textures of foods (and sometimes non-food items) that can vividly be felt. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of insight. Words have always tasted like things, so I never thought I was weird or alone. When I first learned about more typical manifestations of synesthesia, it didn’t even occur to me until relatively recently that being able to taste words could be considered a form of it; that’s how ingrained it has been in the way I interact with the world.
I considered starting a Twitter account for when a word triggers my synesthesia, but my synesthesia isn’t exactly “triggered,” it’s experienced alongside all the other things I’m experiencing. It’s like another sense that’s being stimulated, like hearing music and reading a book at the same time, but instead of hearing music, it’s tasting flavors and textures.
The words don’t have to be in English, as the association comes primarily from the sound of something in the word rather than the meaning. Some words in English, however, taste like items that are semantically related, so the meaning can’t totally be excluded. Mainly, it’s that certain sounds share sounds of certain flavors or textures, which, for some reason, I experience very literally. I have read that the associations are formed in childhood, and I can attest to that. The word “sneaker” tastes like a cookie I haven’t tasted or seen since my childhood. The word “education” used to remind me of American cheese when American cheese was all I’d ever known, but having been fortunate enough to taste Manchego cheese in my adult life, it’s refined the way I experience the word “education.” Sometimes, if a word or concept is repeated enough, like in a lecture or if I’m working on something, I get hung up on it and crave that item. Not all words taste like food items. Not all words taste like things I can accurately describe. Not all words taste pleasant. Some words have stronger associations than others. Attaching a modifier to a word can change the flavor/texture it has. I have tried to use my synesthesia to remember facts. If I can’t remember the name of something I try to remember what it tasted like when I heard it. I’ve never gotten it to work.