February 8, 2004

Synesthesia and Acrostics. I love the acrostic puzzles in the NYT Magazine. They appear every other week, and it's always nice when it's an on week. The interplay between the clues and the developing quote and the name of the author and the title of the work is mesmerizing. Today's quote, describing synesthesia, made me want to read the author's work (link is a spoiler for the puzzle).

Synesthesia is a longterm interest of mine. Here's a cool book about it. When I was a kid, I understood a sort of singing to be the sound of a pickle. The sound was not what is normally called a sour note, though pickles are sour, but a quality I can still remember. I can't tell you what that sound is, because there is no word in the language for it. I thought the word was pickle, but was soon enough informed otherwise.

Though the use of the word sour for both sound and taste seems synesthetic, there is general agreement about the two uses of the word sour. You don't expose yourself to ridicule for calling singing sour the way you do for calling it "like a pickle." There's a difference between a word that has come to have two meanings, perhaps originating in metaphor, understood to be used as a metaphor, and a real perception that a sound actually has a taste or a color, which invites mockery. Perhaps the metaphor was invented invented by synesthetes, disguising their power of perception, repackaging their sensory power as a writing gift.

As a child, I let myself be governed by the desire to avoid embarrassment. Perhaps if I had embraced synesthesia, instead of tossing it aside like a magazine for boys only, I could have been a musician or at least I could have loved music in a deeper way than is open to me now.

Synesthesia is a cool name for a blog, and, discovering this blog while Googling "synesthesia," I was interested to see that this guy is reading "The Feeling of What Happens," which is one of Antonio Damasio's books. I like Damasio.

1 comment:

Sue said...

If the NYT does not provide enough acrostic puzzles, I publish one every
day on my website
- Sue Gleason