From: “Born on a Blue Day,” by Daniel Tammet

Blue Nines and Red Words

“I was born on January 31, 1979 — a Wednesday. I know it was a Wednesday, because the date is blue in my mind and Wednesdays are always blue, like the number 9 or the sound of loud voices arguing. I like my birth date, because of the way I’m able to visualize most of the numbers in it as smooth and round shapes, similar to pebbles on a beach. That’s because they are prime numbers: 31, 19, 197, 97, 79 and 1979 are all divisible only by themselves and 1. I can recognize every prime up to 9,973 by their “pebble-like” quality. It’s just the way my brain works.

I have a rare condition known as savant syndrome, little known before its portrayal by actor Dustin Hoffman in the Oscar-winning 1988 film Rain Man. Like Hoffman’s character, Raymond Babbitt, I have an almost obsessive need for order and routine which affects virtually every aspect of my life.

For example, I eat exactly 45 grams of porridge for breakfast each morning; I weigh the bowl with an electronic scale to make sure. Then I count the number of items of clothing I’m wearing before I leave my house. I get anxious if I can’t drink my cups of tea at the same time each day. Whenever I become too stressed and I can’t breathe properly, I close my eyes and count. Thinking of numbers helps me to become calm again.

Numbers are my friends, and they are always around me. Each one is unique and has its own personality. The number 11 is friendly and 5 is loud, whereas 4 is both shy and quiet — it’s my favorite number, perhaps because it reminds me of myself. Some are big — 23, 667, 1,179 — while others are small: 6, 13, 581. Some are beautiful, like 333, and some are ugly, like 289. To me, every number is special.

No matter where I go or what I’m doing, numbers are never far from my thoughts. In an interview with talk show host David Letterman in New York, I told David he looked like the number 117 — tall and lanky. Later outside, in the appropriately numerically named Times Square, I gazed up at the towering skyscrapers and felt surrounded by 9s — the number I most associate with feelings of immensity”.

“My synesthesia also affects how I perceive words and language. The word ladder, for example, is blue and shiny, while hoop is a soft, white word. The same thing happens when I read words in other languages: jardin, the French word for “garden,” is a blurred yellow, while hnugginn — Icelandic for “sad” — is white with lots of blue specks. Synesthesia researchers have reported that colored words tend to obtain their colors from the initial letter of the word, and this is generally true for me: yogurt is a yellow word, video is purple (perhaps linked with violet) and gate is green. I can even make the color of a word change by mentally adding initial letters to turn the word into another: at is a red word, but add the letter H to get hat and it becomes a white word. If I then add a letter T to make that, the word’s color is now orange. Not all words fit the initial-letter pattern: words beginning with the letter A, for example, are always red and those beginning with W are always dark blue”.

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Published in: on February 4, 2007 at 4:32 pm  Comments (13)  

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I WATCHED THE DOCUMENTARY LAST NIGHT!!!!!!!

    “Brain Man”…I was talking about him to my family the whole day. Sob7an Allah.

    He learnt Icelandic in seven days, SEVEN DAYS!

    I was totally blown away.

    Thanks for posting about Tammet ya Nerro.

  2. where did u get it from??????????

  3. Sou: Pleasure ya Sou…I wish everyone around reads the book or watch the documentary…it is extraordinary.

    Sameh: Amazon.com

  4. it is allready on my amazon list, thought u got it from egypt. alaas, another shipment to track 😦

  5. Very interesting 🙂

  6. I wanna this book, I will try to order it.
    Thanks nerro, have a nice day:)

  7. Thanks ya Nerro, I would try to hunt it 🙂

  8. I liked the excerpt awi.. if you like these books, you will definitely like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime 😀 It was available in Diwan/Virgin i think

  9. Guys, the book is not here yet, bas eventually ya3ni will be…am glad u liked it 😀

  10. […] on my wish list: Born on a Blue Day I heard about this book from Nerro’s post. I read the excerpts she put and I was immediately drew to know more about […]

  11. Hi all

    when i beginning to search about “brain man” and his book i was interested to have a documentary video about him and i feel it will be good to whom interested to to have such video i download this video from a torrent link and this torrent in the following link

    http://www.mininova.org/tor/547786

    i see this video and it’s very good hope you find it like i find……bye

  12. I loved this book because, like Daniel, I have synesthesia and enjoyed comparing the colors of words and numbers to his.

  13. i have the book and i love it but the reson i read it was becaue’s my brother has what he has and i have to help hem


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