It wasn’t until very recently that I knew other people didn’t do this, too. For me, it all started in first grade, when we were learning numbers that added up to ten. All of them had colors in my head. (5 + 5? Navy blue. 4 + 6? Yellow and red.) Then, when I was in high school, I offhandedly told my friend Alex that her phone number was red and yellow and green, and she was intrigued, so we sat there all night with her reciting people’s phone numbers, and me telling her their colors. I usually just get a combination of colors, but with the numbers, I can break them down into individual hues. I get this mostly with proper nouns—names and places. States are an entire color. City names are combinations. People’s names are fun.
Letters have colors for me too, but I don’t think they come from synesthesia. They come from my most prized possession when I was very little: my magnetic refrigerator alphabet. Evidently, I loved the “little green B” so much that I slept with it. Then I lost it, and had to make do with the black B, which was not an easy transition. If you’re interested, my parents will be more than happy to tell you this story, several times.
A boy I know likes to sit there for hours and just name things, and places, and numbers, just to see what I say. I like that about him. He asked, “How does that work when you’re reading a book? Does everything show up as a color?” It’s not like that. Maybe I read too quickly for them to register, but sometimes, individual words stand out if I mull them over for a bit.
Anyway, it’s nice to know there’s a name for it, and such a good name, too. (And in case you were wondering, “synesthesia” is dark blue and gold and silver.)