Last year, I made an interesting personal discovery. I was hanging out with a group of friends, chatting about stupid things that everybody does, but nobody talks about. You know, like imagining a race between raindrops running down your car window or brushing your teeth for an absurdly long time when someone else is brushing theirs next to you. So I brought up another funny, obviously universal habit: where you think of letters and numbers as having fixed genders and personalities. After I had shared, my friends all just looked at me. Their collective reaction amounted to: “Wait, what?”
That night, I did some Googling, and figured out that I’m not the only weirdo who does this — although, admittedly, it is a relatively small club. I experience a type of synesthesia called ordinal linguistic personification (OLP). Here’s the Wikipedia definition:
Ordinal-linguistic personification (OLP, or personification for short) is a form of synesthesia in which ordered sequences, such as ordinal numbers, days, months and letters are associated with personalities and/or genders.
OLP is pretty understudied. We don’t really know a lot about it yet, or synesthesia in general, for that matter). We don’t know why it happens or if it’s genetic. Apparently, it’s often accompanied by grapheme-color synesthesia, which is when you associate numbers and letters with colors. Out of curiosity, I surveyed my family members. It turns out that my brother also has OLP without grapheme-color synesthesia — just like me.