Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/267

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257
THE COLOR OF WORDS.
THE COLOR OF WORDS

By N. E. NEWELL.

THERE are some curious things in regard to the way in which the human mind is affected by colors as well as the human sight. We are all familiar with what is termed color-blindness, and the unexpected results that sometimes attend it; but color-sound is something which has received much less investigation.

How much, or in what way, animals are affected by colors, is not very well understood; but the subject has been investigated enough to know that they are influenced by them, and the future will probably bring out some surprising results to the one who shall thoroughly cultivate this comparatively unexplored field of research.

Some people can select and appreciate the colors of sounds; and to them the speaking of a name presents, mentally, a well-defined color, or combination of colors, different names having different shades or combinations.

The same name should, of course, always present the same color, or combination, when spoken, although, to different people, possessing the faculty, a given name or sound does not present the same characteristics. To prove the first of these two facts, a list of names was prepared, and the shade or color given by a lady who has this power, marked against each one of the list. After several weeks the names were again read to her, and the colors designated by her marked. This course was pursued several times during a year or more, the lady not being allowed to see the results in that time. During these several experiments the only variations in the answers given were such as would be natural where there was some uncertainty in regard to terms: for example, the answer to a given name at one time might be, "bluish," and at another, "lead-color"; so, what was called "straw-color" might be afterward called "buff." The approach to similarity in the shades shows that the same mental picture was present, and only language was at fault.

With one or two exceptions these were the only changes noted in the several trials; and the extent to which the experiments were carried warrants the belief that there was a well-defined idea of the color of words.

A few years ago a New York physician had two patients that probably had this faculty of the mind abnormally developed: one had a horror of all words in which the letters ch were placed; and the other was taken with hysterics at a certain shade of blue. Whether or not the latter case has any bearing on the subject, may be questioned; but it seems as though a perception so acute in regard to certain colors would involve the power of word-coloring.