Anne Williams lives in Perth, Western Australia, and she has synaesthesia. I think many of you will know what that is – it’s a neurological condition where stimulation of one sense leads to the experience of another sense being stimulated.
I’m betting several of you reading this will experience some words and names as having a specific colour; this is called grapheme-colour synaesthesia. (I have a theory that many “name-fussy” people have some type of synaesthesiac relationship to words and names; perhaps even one so subtle it has not yet been recognised).
Anne has the much rarer lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, where hearing a certain word will evoke a specific flavour and texture at the back of her mouth.
For many years, it was a mystery to her why she spent her childhood craving salt and vinegar chips (crisps), and ice cream waffle cones. Later she realised it was because her dad’s name, Dave, evoked the taste of the chips, and her mum’s name, Kay, gave her the taste of ice cream cones. Her best friend Olivia used the words like and England a lot, which tasted of chocolate YoGo (a pre-packaged yogurt dessert) and oatmeal biscuits (cookies) respectively.
When it came to choosing a husband, it was a bit tricky, because as well as picking someone appealing and compatible, she also needed him to have a name that had a nice flavour, as she was going to be hearing it all the time. Luckily, the man of her dreams was named Steve, which has the same familiar salt and vinegar chips taste as her dad’s name, Dave. (They do actually sound a little similar).
Steve was happy to let Anne pick their children’s names, as she was going to have to taste them on a daily basis. For her daughter, now aged three, she chose the name Tobi, which tastes of mashed potato and gravy. And her son Saxon, now around 20 months, was given a name which evokes the flavour of Dixie Drumstick crackers. When her children call her “Mummy”, she instantly tastes freshly-made pancakes.
Anne is a music teacher, and sometimes it’s challenging when she dislikes her students’ name-tastes. Some of the yukkier ones for her include Ryan (crayons), Ellen and Helen (celery), Leanne (spearmint leaves), Ben (rubber bands or squid) and Brad (soggy Weet-Bix, a breakfast cereal).
Some other words and names as tasted by Anne:
Anne – hard boiled egg-yolk
synaesthesia – Kraft cheese spread
baby – pikelets (little pancakes)
March – sticks
Wednesday – melted margarine on toast
The Wiggles – red jelly snakes
family – soggy All-Bran
Sydney – tomato soup
Australia – no taste
New Zealand – cold Cheddar cheese
(Story from Woman’s Day, December 5 2011)