Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Boyfriend has a quirk.

Correction: Boyfriend has several quirks

  1. He constantly sings about Bilbo Baggins from the Shire. Pick any tune, any tune in existence, and I guarantee he’s sung it, replacing the real words with, “Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit. He was from the Shire.” Sometimes he adds on a “Today” at the end.
  2. Every time he belches, he either burps the words “weep” or “Geoffrey Chaucer.”
  3. Sometimes he gets so excited about Notre Dame Football that his hands go numb. His hands go numb. And then we laugh at him because he can no longer work the remote. He also used to quit kissing me so he could talk about recruiting and stats, a habit of his that I quickly squashed, but I consider that less a quirk and more a failing of his gender in general. He might retort that my hysterical breakdowns that mysteriously occur every four weeks are a failing of my gender in general, and I would have to grant him that point. But I digress.

These three are mere samples of his quirks, to which all his friends can attest. And I love him for them. I really do. If he were any less eccentric or spastic I’d be bored out of my mind. Today’s post isn’t about those idiosyncrasies, however. Today’s post is about the strangest of all his quirks: synesthesia. Synesthesia is a real condition, and he’s got it. Specifically, he has lexical-gustatory synesthesia. Thankfully, this isn’t one of those conditions where your skin flakes off and you think you’re a raccoon. Simply put, synesthesia means your senses kind of crisscross. Commonly, synesthetes associate musical notes with colors, or letters and numbers with personalities. Think Remy in Ratatouille. When he tastes food, he sees colors and shapes. When I was taking piano pedagogy, one of our students called out colors as he heard chords.

“That’s green! Do you see it? That chord is green,” he said.

The mark of a true synesthete is that the the associations remain consistent throughout time. If the number "4" is jealous and smug, then the number "4" will still be jealous and smug two years from now. Boyfriend’s particular brand of synesthesia causes him to associate all words with tastes, and he's had this ability for as long as he can remember. Every word has a taste. Can you imagine that? Some words are bland. “John,” for example, is the taste of a wet washcloth if you were to suck on one. “Brad” is brownies. “Emily” is strawberry kool-aid. “Audra,” unfortunately, is the taste of vomit. But it’s not just names - this goes for all words.

He explained synesthesia to one of his psych classes one day, and they all started throwing out words. One girl asked him what “sex” was. Unfortunately, she didn’t live through the end of her sentence, so I guess we’ll never know the answer. At least, that's my version of the story.

His synesthesia influences other areas of his life, as well. I’m convinced that the strong senses he was born with cause him to appreciate art and beauty (and food) more than most. It’s probably had a hand in his creativity, too. That’s why he loves Ratatouille so much – it’s a celebration of beauty in what could otherwise be ordinary, imaginative care in what could easily be mundane. When I look at Boyfriend, the creator in him reflects the Creator in him, and that’s quite a sight to see. If the Lord of all the earth saw fit to put a few million unnecessary, but pleasant, touches on His work, then I can take special care and pride in the finishing touches of my own work. To remind us of that principle, I gave Boyfriend Ratatouille for Christmas last year (well, that and a bright red union suit with a drop seat).


Anonymous said...

the number 4 is jealous and smug. jealous of how awesome 3 is. 3 is such a bad-ass.

Six in the Mix said...

My favorite quirk of his (that I know so far) is that when he meets people he immediately spells their names backward in his head. Not just, Nire, but things like Adleremze and Htebazile.

Natalie said...

Okay, after reading about your BO problem and now about his "quirk," there is no doubt that you two are made for each other.

audra.marie said...

My dad could simply not get past the vomit. Couldn't do it. He may or may not view Jonny in a different light, now.

Petie said...

I do have to say, I read this post and literally laughed out loud, to myself, in my silent living room, all alone. I was almost in tears laughing. Your post made me feel like Jonny was sitting in the room with me. Well done good friend.

Jonny said...

Ok, Ok, Ok, this is all fine and good. But "Brad" doesn't remind me of brownies. "Brian" does. "Brad" reminds me of those sourdough, cracker, thingies...are they sourdough? They come in a box and are long, and Ok, I'm not sure what they are, but I can taste them right now.

Keeping Up With the Joneses said...

Wow! This post really helped me understand the previous post about odors, which made no SCENTS to me -- but now I think I get it.

What you really have is "OB" that smells like "taem ocat."