What does your name smell like? A man with synesthesia explains

Synesthesia is a neural condition in which certain senses activate other senses, for instance, words evoking smells.

 People with synesthesia can sometimes smell words. (photo credit: FLICKR)
People with synesthesia can sometimes smell words.
(photo credit: FLICKR)

Henry Grey has a lexical-gustatory form of synesthesia in which he can smell and taste names which his parents and teachers discovered after he started making comments about the flavors of names of his classmates in school.

Synesthesia is a rare medical condition in which neural pathways can cause a certain type of sensory stimulation to activate other senses. People with synesthesia have been known to smell certain aromas when reading certain letters or have a sweet taste in their mouths when listening to the piano. They also commonly see words as colors.

Only 0.02-4% of people have this condition, making it extremely rare, however, some famous musicians are known to have it including Billy Joel, Kanye West, Pharell Williams, Hans Zimmer and David Hockney.

Grey is a 23-year-old barman who often shares what his synesthesia is like on TikTok.

In one video, Grey responded to the question of whether he could be friends with someone whose name evokes bad smells.

 Bacon (credit: FLICKR) Bacon (credit: FLICKR)

What names smell bad to Henry?

"No, I would stay friends with them," he replied. "I have a funny story about that: When I was in my second year at university, I entered the dorms and couldn't believe it. On my floor were a Duncan, a Kirsty and an Elijah. That actually made me change my accommodation because I couldn't be with three people with those names."

Grey explained that Duncan smells to him like a burp from someone who just ate smoked bacon, Kirsty smells like urine and Elijah smells like "licking an eyeball."

"These are horrible names for me and those three with their names were together," he said.

"I just couldn't form a friendship with people with these names."

Henry Grey

Grey added that Martin smells like smarties and Gertrude smells like swallowing back vomit.