When I found out about the concept of synesthesia—linking colors to letters, for example—I thought it sounded like the coolest thing in the world, almost like a superpower. I wanted to be able to see colors when I heard music. Unfortunately, it’s not something you can get just by willing it.
You can imagine my surprise when several later, my younger sister found out that we did have a form of synesthesia. Ever since we were little, both of us have thought of numbers and letters as being either male or female. To me it was just natural and I was rather surprised that everyone didn’t do that. I think of some of them as having colors too, although that is not as clear-cut.
In my mind, the numbers 1, 3, 5, 8, 9, and 0 are male. 2, 4, 6, and 7 are female. The male numbers are mostly a blue or purple color , since I think of those as male colors, while the female numbers are all yellow or red.
It’s interesting when I think about numbers above single digits. 1 and 0 are male, but not strongly so, so 12, 14, 16, 17 are clearly female. However, something like 25 is not as clear in my mind. I would still say it’s male though, which seems to indicate that the gender is determined mostly by the last digit.
For letters of the alphabet, B, D, E, G, J, K, L, O, P, R, T, U, V, W, X, and Z are strongly male. A, C, M, N, S, Y are strongly female. The others, F, H, and I are a bit fuzzier in my mind; sometimes they seem male, other times they seem female. Are there such things as androgynous letters? Possibly.
The funny thing is, that my sister’s breakdown of the genders of the numbers and letters is totally different from mine. Actually, it’s almost exactly opposite. I’m not sure what that means, but I find it very interesting.
Other types of categorization
Of course, there are many ways to visual or categorize the world. Some people think of different sounds as having colors. My anthropology professor in university grew up Africa where there is a rainy season and a dry season and so he naturally categorized all colors into “wet” and “dry” colors.
One strange thing I do is to categorize things by two micro machine trucks that I had when I was younger. One was blue and the other was yellow and red. My best friend used to play mostly with one and I would mostly play with the other one. I began to associate them with aspects of our individual personalities and then began to expand them to other things. It’s hard to pin down exactly what each represents, but in general, the blue one is more conservative and introverted and the red and yellow one represents more innovative, out-going things.
Is there any distinct way that you perceive life? Have you had similar experiences to me? I’m curious.
July 23rd, 2013 at 5:16 pm
I find this interesting and never knew there was a name for it. I do think of numbers in particular as maculine or feminine. Letters,too. 4 is feminine as are 9, 2, and 6. 5 is a little boy. It goes on. Colors definitely have gender and in the business of cake decorating are very important.
I also see inanimate objects as having personality and gender.
Thanks for sharing this.
July 23rd, 2013 at 7:20 pm
It’s very interesting to find out how others view the world. It’s so easy to go through life thinking that others see things the same way we do and then it’s a shock to find that they don’t. In our culture, we think of blue as male and pink as female, but it would be interesting to find out how other cultures view them, or if they do that at all with gender.
Thank you for commenting. 🙂
July 23rd, 2013 at 7:32 pm
What the?! This just blew my mind. I have never thought of anything being male or female except males and females, not that anything had a colour except for colours. Weird! Wish I had your brain!
July 23rd, 2013 at 8:08 pm
It’s a scary thing to get a peek into someone else’s brain. I’m glad my wife doesn’t think like this: she might get jealous if I had too many female digits in my phone number.
July 24th, 2013 at 5:29 pm
July 24th, 2013 at 4:00 pm
I too had very few linking like yours, yours is far more meticulous- I sometimes linked some numbers with some alphabets…
July 24th, 2013 at 6:27 pm
Interesting that you associate numbers with genders. Why is it mostly even numbers for female, except 7? I associate colors with moods. If excited and happy, it is red and green. If sad, dreamy or lonely, it is yellow or something pale.
July 24th, 2013 at 7:40 pm
I have no idea why 7 is female; it just is, just like when you look at a girl and know she is female. Weird, eh?^^
July 31st, 2013 at 12:17 am
Well, I never! Never thought that way, I mean. What an interesting idea! Will be giving everything I run into today a gender and a color…
September 10th, 2013 at 10:32 pm
[…] up, I thought this was just the way the world was, just like I thought that everyone knew that “C” was female and yellow. Honestly, I’m not sure how common this is, but here is how I visualize various number and […]
November 4th, 2013 at 11:42 am
I have this form of synesthesia (ordinal-linguistic personification), as well. You’ve described my experience almost exactly. Every letter and number is either masculine or feminine, though a few are kind of androgynous. And most letters and numbers have a certain color, though not all, and not as strongly as in those with grapheme-color synesthesia. I first remember being aware of this in kindergarten. I was looking at the alphabet banner that ran around the top of the room and naming them off: “A is a girl, B is a boy, C is a girl,” etc. I remember wondering if anyone else did this, but after many people telling me no, I stopped asking. Now I’m a grad student studying cognitive psychology, and studying synesthesia! 🙂
I’m focusing in more on grapheme-color synesthesia at the moment (more common, at least that the scientific community has discovered thus far), but I find all forms incredibly interesting.
November 4th, 2013 at 2:12 pm
It’s a funny thing, how we just make these associations and how not everyone does. When I was young, I thought it was natural until my sister told me about synethesia and then I started asking others and found that it wasn’t very common.