Color Language

– I gladly respond to the invitation extended to the “ friends of the Club ” to “ tell their experience ” respecting color language.

From early childhood I have been impressed with the imaginary colors existing in words, whether spoken or written or printed. In my case it is not only the vowels which sound and show color : each letter of the alphabet has its own hue, so that all the books I read are “ illuminated ” to my eye and mind. The alphabet looks and sounds to me as follows : a, pale yellow ; b, dark blue ; c, orange ; d, black ; e, bright red ; f, yellow ; g, blue ; h, dark red ; i, blue ; j, dark blue ; k, dark red ; l, sky blue ; m, yellow ; n, pale yellow ; o, white ; p, red ; q, gray ; r, brown ; s, yellow ; t, blue ; u, pale blue ; v, red ; w, gray ; x, black ; y, pale yellow ; z, red.

The numerals also offer the same suggestions. 1 is black ; 2, dark red ; 3, pink ; 4, pale yellow ; 5, orange ; 6, bright red ; 7, purple ; 8, gray ; 9, dark blue ; 0, white. These colors remain the same in all combinations of numbers. Green is not suggested by any letter or figure.

Words, when read rapidly, usually take the color of the first letter, especially if that letter be a capital ; but the other letters modify the shade, and upon examination each hue asserts itself fully. Thus, for instance, Charles and Caroline are both yellow words ; but Charles is a much deeper yellow than Caroline, because its second letter is dark, while in the other name the second letter is very pale.

With me, words possess not only imaginary color, but also imaginary form, suggesting things quite different from the ideas comprised in their real meaning. Thus, the name Arthur presents a beautiful boy with long yellow curls ; the word teach, in all its modifications, shows an ugly face with conspicuous teeth ; technical is a cross-eyed person; biography, an exceedingly corpulent man, etc. Truth is a face with a harelip; study, a face with a very large, rounded nose ; instruction, a man walking in a pompous manner. These last three words, taken at random from a printed page now lying open before me, give a clue to the association of ideas which produces the impression. The word truth suggests a lisp, and a harelip always causes indistinct speech ; the letter u in study is the middle letter, and is not unlike a nose in shape, especially if it be a capital u. Instruction contains the word street.

A German poetess told me, recently, that the vowels have color to her, while the consonants have form, some suggesting a camel, others an elephant, others a giraffe, etc.

The Popular Science Monthly for February, 1893, contains an elaborate article on Number Forms which bears upon this subject, such demonstrations being therein considered as affording useful data for further psychic discoveries.

In my opinion, this tendency, which seems in every case to show itself in early childhood, is merely an indication of the artistic temperament (active imagination and creative power), and it probably exists in various degrees in the minds of many persons who either are not in the habit of examining their mental processes, or do not think it worth while to record and publish these apparently motiveless intuitions.

Judging from my own experience, I am disposed to look upon such fancies as the immature products of an exuberant imagination which has not yet been trained for perfected work. The habit once formed may continue through life ; but it is less heeded as thought expands, and in many recorded instances is entirely laid aside in mature years.

I still retain my childish idea respecting printed characters ; but I do not stop to think about it, now that I can gratify my intense love of color and form in the practice of artistic painting.