I had to move halls at uni because I have a condition which makes me smell people’s names
‘I could never date a Kirsty because the name smells like urine’
23-year-old Henry Gray has a condition called lexical-gustatory synaesthesia which means he can taste, smell and feel words.
Henry says he discovered his condition back in 2009 after his parents and teachers picked up on him commenting on the tastes for his classmate’s names.
Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia is a neurological condition which results in the joining or merging of senses that aren’t normally connected. People affected with this condition can often taste or smell when hearing, speaking, reading or thinking about words.
Henry says Boris Johnson tastes like “squishing a hard-shelled beetle with his foot” and Harry Styles feels like “hair sticking up like telephone wires” – it’s very specific.
When Henry went off to uni he had to move halls because he was living with three people who had some of the worst names possible. Duncan, who to Henry is like a bird dipped in smoky bacon crisps, Kirsty gives off the smell of urine and Elijah is similar to licking an eyeball.
Henry says his condition doesn’t allow him to form friends with anyone who has a name associated with a bad sensation. He assumed everyone had this condition until his parents and teachers pulled him up on it.
Most of the time though Henry likes having synaesthesia as it doesn’t get in the way. He says: “I’m a bartender at a pub so whenever I look at people’s ID I get a strong sense of the taste and smell. Sometimes it could be an image or feeling – like Leanne is a rose leaning on a window.”
Henry finds that he often gets the feeling of the word strongly when he first meets someone and can then block it out from then. The condition mainly affects him with names but other words such as “off” has the smell of rotting and “because” is like a split wooden clothes peg.
Feature image via SWNS.