What Colour is Monday?

According to Twitter, Monday is: red, yellow, blue, brown, aquamarine, gray, pink, the colours of each letter the word contains (black, white, blue, orange, red, yellow), bigger than Tuesday, male, and “I have no idea what you’re talking about”. Welcome to my world!

Days have always been coloured for me, and for many others it seems, though I was probably in my mid-thirties before I realised not everyone saw them like that. Some numbers have colours for me too, and some letters have tastes, but that’s all for me; but I wanted to explore this subject and find out what other people see, and I’ve been asking around. An aspie friend has different colours for the days: Thursday is black for her, which is every shade of wrong for me – I say ten is black, and Thursday is yellow! Seven is yellow too (though sometimes it’s purple). Friday is always purple (and @spiraldrain tells me coffee is purple too).

These associations are strong and unshakeable, and I have had mine for as long as I can remember. Even longer than I’ve had my “Colour Piping” learn-to-play-the-recorder book, which gives colours to musical notes in exactly the same order as my days, which is really, really freaky – but otherwise a total coincidence.

One of my number colours is very strong: blue for two and four. Others, I had to think (though the result is still well-defined): you can see them all in the picture, except perhaps eight, which doesn’t stand out; eight doesn’t have a colour for me – it’s not white, it’s clear (and I’m told it’s male as well). Ten, you’ll see, is black (and black, is most definitely not Thursday ;o)

And for me, the letters i, e, j, and f are sweet, the rest are sour, but my son associates letters with certain smells: he says the letter W smells like pomegranite, M smells of cinnamon, I smells of burning metal, and R smells like cow pats! (I guess I’m glad he spends enough time in the great outdoors to know what a cow pat smells like!)

I was delighted to receive the hugely varied experiences of others – from days with not just colours, but smells, tastes and genders too. @kitty_pickles wrote, “it’s a odd one & no mistake! Particularly when the words for colours are a different colour to the one they describe,” which reminded me of one of the tests on Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training game (for the Nintendo DS): it has you click on words of a certain colour, red for example, but the words themselves might actually read “blue” or “yellow” or whatever. I wonder if this task is easier or harder for synesthetes.

We also got talking about our view of time: for me, time is a flat tape stretching into the distance in front and behind me. I can ‘zoom out’ (to view a greater time-scale) by ‘floating’ higher above the tape. The tape is white, on a white background, yet its edge is defined. The days and dates are written in black. Now I couldn’t begin to draw this for you (it’s all I can do to describe it), but @Soundcube has the skills to illustrate his own view of time (see right).

What is your experience of synesthesia? Answers in the comments box please!

See also @myaspielife’s post, born from the same discussion.

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28 Responses to What Colour is Monday?

  1. rose says:

    I see days of the week as colored as well! Your red Monday corresponds with mine, but the rest of the week gave me the ibby gibbies because it was so off:) thats just how it works I guess. Weird. My mobile also gives me purple spirals… Whereas my home phone gives me green zig zags. I wonder why the difference…

  2. Sparrow Rose Jones says:

    I smell personalities and hear equations.

  3. Dani says:

    I went to Sussex! They have a lot of interesting interdisciplinary stuff going on there.

    I don’t have any colour associations, but I do have a bit of muddling between sounds and textures, as well as painful oversensitivity to the ones that are muddled in this way. This includes things such as the sound/texture of paper or of anything touching the back of my neck or my forehead gently. Often texture-sounds that I have problems with give a vague sensation of being tubular in shape and tend to make me shudder… Think nails-on-blackboard but in response to very quiet sounds that most people don’t even notice. I used to have major hypersensitivity problems when I was younger, and would have to leave the room or cover my ears any time people used certain crockery and scratched the cutlery against it or if anything touched polystyrene. Even now, the mere thought of polystyrene makes me shudder. I can feel it in my teeth.

    I also get a sense of spatial relations and shape when listening to music (helpful for dancing, which I really enjoy), and a sense of pitch/ tone when experiencing tastes, which is also really helpful because I can taste a dish and know that it needs more high notes, etc. But it’s all rather mild. It feels more like a translational linking of different modes of experiences rather than a vivid sensation.

  4. I have synesthesia & have been taking part in a study conducted by Cambridge University’s Autism Research Centre. It’s kind of fun! :)
    Here’s the first blog I wrote about it; 2 others follow that one, if you’re interested.
    http://aspergercafe.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/synesthesia-101/
    Cheers,
    A.G. :o)

  5. Fay says:

    Hi Leigh, I have not (yet) been diagnosed with autism although I am 100% sure I am on the spectrum; I have the characteristics of Asperger’s. I stumbled across this blog by accident and, reading it, I could be reading about myself. The part about your education especially resonates as I was also bullied as ‘the geeky kid who never fit in’. Same with obsessive characteristics and lining things up, and so on! And I thought I was the only one who saw days of the week in colour – my Wednesday is yellow and my Thursday is brown, etc. Monday is pink, Saturday blue…and so on. My nan used to use the expressions ‘screaming abdabs’ and ‘screaming hysteria’ when she was about to lose her rag with us kids – I saw ‘screaming abdabs, as kind of a greyish-brown coloured in-filled triangle and ‘screaming hysteria’ as one filled with white noise, like an off-station tv screen. Some bird songs are also shapes and colours for me.
    I’m 42 so in the same age group as yourself and I think that life would have been so much better if it had been realised that I had this condition.
    As I said I have not yet been diagnosed as it has only recently occurred to me that I could be autistic. I guess my first port-of-call would be my GP?
    All the best
    Cheers
    Fay

  6. K Rees says:

    Nothing too much to add except that days, numbers, letters and words have always had a distinct colour association for me – I only realised that this wasn’t the case for everyone in my late teens. Curiously my fore and middle names are coloured blue and yellow and both significant partners that I have had in my life have had names consisting of blue and yellow – this was not a conscious choice!

  7. Karen says:

    I am wondering if my 5 yr old sees the world this way. She is verbal but can’t, or won’t , discuss it. She said to me once, “Mummy you smell of purple” She has fairly extreme sensory needs and is being assessed for help.

    Great post :-)

    • Chris says:

      My camera does the same thing it chagnes the colours on everything, but so did film Fuji tends towards greens and blues, Kodak reds and yellows

  8. D.J. Kirkby says:

    Hi Leigh
    I see smells and tastes as colours sometimes….
    Denyse

  9. blucap says:

    As for time, instead of a tape, I see a year as an oval/circle. Very much like the earth’s orbit around the sun. I always know where I am on the orbit. I project future dates on it. Important days are like buoys on the orbit in space. My birthday is 6 months away, so it is exactly at the other side of the orbit.

    Past days, less than a year ago, are on the orbit as well. This is extremely useful, it enables me to recollect past event with great ease. This ease increases because, for all events, I remember the seasons, in particular the way the sun shines. So when I try to recall an event, a visualisation of the sunlight and weather pops up in my mind. That visualisation helps me in finding where on the orbit the event happened. So, when an event prompts a visualisation of snow, then I should find the date on the winter-part of the orbit.

    The funny thing is that I have two visualisations of the past. To pinpoint the time of the year of an event, I use the orbit system. Here the orbit, unlike earth’s orbit, becomes a spiral. The spiral is continuous, so for events two years in the past, or two years ahead, travel up or down the spiralling orbit; like cilimbing up or down the piral staircase at the Vatican Museum.

    To pinpoint a year, like 1992, which is long ago, I use a tape measure. There are 12 inch-like months on the tape-measure, these form a year; and every year has a place on this tape measure.

    I remember sleepless nights when I used the tape-measure to record past years. It was easy when I was younger: the tape measure was short. I’m in my forties now, I sleep better, and the tape-measure has become a bit blurred. Still, I used it to date events from the past.

  10. Kate B says:

    I got into trouble in my teens when I had a friend called Terry and another called Alan. The word ‘Alan’ for me contains a bright or pale plane, ‘Terry’ is dark and curled. Unfortunately the large blond person was Terry and the thin dark one was Alan. I never got them straight and there were several Hilarious Episodes. This was a pity because I quite fancied Terry, and he got quite cross when I called him Alan.

  11. Flo Fflach says:

    I could probably go on and on about this…but some of it is really hard to describe in words. I don’t have strong colours for days, but they are there, also there is a texture and the week is a circle. Spirals of a couple of weeks sit “over” each other. In fact the words for the days of the week only have a vague reference to the letters within them. The year is a circle too – months then sit in a sort of linear form [though not entirely..] in the year.

    I don’t assign gender to anything. I sort of have colour & form & texture for numbers, even though I do speak some Welsh – which is a gendered language.

    I can’t even begin to explain letters but some of them get muddled up because of their similar feel. I often describe my feelings in colour and texture and will say things such as “it’s a green day” there is usually a texture too. Having talked to a psychologist I am able to say that I think in colour, form, texture – just not very easy to translate. And I know I problem solve like that and usually some words come out the other end.

    I discovered a very specific melting together whilst studying for my MA – drawing, writing and stitch all seem to fill the same place. My drawing is very linear, so it is something to do with line. This does included typed writing, not just “joined up” writing.
    Curiously I have very little to say about music, music is what it is. Occasionally there is texture.

    It’s great to hear other peoples experience. And yes there can sometimes be confusion when there is a strong clash with something in my head and how someone else has presented something in the “wrong” colour or texture.

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      I love this, Flo, thank you so much for commenting! Your view is so different again – I find the variety of these things fascinating, and in many ways, rewarding.

  12. Kate Brown says:

    The Sussex synaesthesia project is here:
    http://www.syn.sussex.ac.uk/index.html
    and I have just spent far too long doing this:
    http://www.synesthete.org/index.php
    which was very frustrating because having answered all the interesting questions it then more or less told me *I* wasn’t interesting because I have no colour associations.
    Heigho.

  13. Kath says:

    It was a long time ago, Leigh, and it wasn’t wine which gave the music colour!

  14. Kath says:

    Apart from once, while, ahem, under the influence shall we say, I have not experienced synaesthesia. (On that occasion I realised that Duran Duran’s song Save A Prayer is a rich chocolate brown.)
    Have you read Mondays Are Red by Nicola Morgan? I suspect you’d identify with this book. It’s a great read, too!

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      I can understand music having colour – that makes total sense. Not sure about the Duran Duran admission, though I suppose if the wine made you listen to it, that’s okay. No, I haven’t read Nicola’s book (ahem back). I shall look it up :o)

  15. Colors, numbers, letters of the alphabet, days of the week, and months of the year have always had a gender in my mind. Zero seems to be genderless or only slightly male, and some of the colors, numbers, letters, days and months are more strongly gendered than others. So each of the numbers, letters, day and months would be associated with the color that has the same male and female attributes, if that makes any sense at all. Also, I can do certain types of math problems in my head very quickly, and it is a visual process that I would have a hard time explaining. I can also visualize multiple dimensions which helped me a lot in my linear algebra class in college (one of my favorite classes). I was more of a “conceptual thinker” when I was a kid, and still am quite a bit. All of this is related to autism and neurodiversity in general. Cool topic.

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      I love linear algebra (and quadratic too, for that matter), so I’m interested in your way of thinking; I struggle to see the lines until I’ve plotted them, but once I have them the whole thing gets much easier.

      Before someone mentioned Monday being male, the idea of gender for days/numbers/etc. had not occurred to me, even though I speak languages that use gender for nouns. Is fascinating!

  16. Kate Brown says:

    Hallo Leigh! I could go on about this too – my synaesthesia isn’t primarily colour but shape/structure. I once tried to evolve a shorthand from it, but needed three dimensions. There’s colour too, but not reliably so, it’s more texture and depth. So Monday is: a blunt wedge-shaped hollow with a sheen to it [MON], that flares out into a matte shallower dip [DAY]. Most people glaze over if I try to explain this :) Timespans also have shapes and shades – last week is fairly flat, like yours, but then curves back into some other dimension. Its margins are not defined, but there is weather – last winter has a great black cloud lowering over it… It’s how I remember history, too: the centuries curve and switch. There is a synaesthesia investigation team at Sussex University – very interesting but only engaged with colours at the moment, so I didn’t qualify. Would you like to know more about that?

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      Wow. I most certainly did not glaze over reading this. It’s amazing! I would never have known; you look so… normal ;o)

      Yes, please. I’d very much like to know more about the Sussex Uni thing. Others might too, so please post here!!

  17. Beth says:

    You have synesthesia? I’m so jealous! I’ve wanted that since I first heard of it. I think your life is that bit richer than mine.

    Love this post! And loving this blog in general. Ages since I’ve commented so reliably on any blog!

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      Don’t be jealous, Beth – it can get very confusing, particularly (as @kitty_pickles said above), when days are written in the wrong colour; It’s distracting and sometimes even distressing!

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog. Thank you for commenting – it’s great to have you along :o)

      • Beth says:

        Maybe so, but the comments here and your post just make it sound… richer than most people’s experience. I think it’s just because it’s something I can’t even imagine, or not really.

        Maybe I just wish someone could flick the switch so I could experience it and then switch it off again?!

        • Diane says:

          Your reply reminds me of a funny experience. I had read about synesthesia and its neurological underpinnings. My own experience of it is minimal, and possibly universal, eg: voices having texture. I was hoping perhaps my brain might develop the pathways, but no luck. Several weeks later, the radio alarm clock went off, and I saw a clear, well-defined, red dot, or light, in my mind’s eye. It was as if my brain had given me a little present, and my brain had a little chuckle.

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