Words in Living Color or Why Ask Why

Words, words, how I love words.

Words can be bombs and balm, deadly serious and ridiculously silly.

I was infatuated with words long before I formed by first shaky letters on a Big Chief tablet and the passing of time isn’t dulling my fascination. It just morphs and adjusts to the stages of my life. For instance, one of the wordy joys of the past few years has been exploring their power with my grandchildren.


Emerson Ann is my oldest. She’s five now and we’re still playing a game we developed quite by accident, only now we play it with her little sister Carlisle. Our game was born a couple years ago when Emerson became preoccupied with a three-letter word that has been known to try the patience of munchkin loving parents and grandparents everywhere. “Why?”

I realize all children ask why. Please trust me when I say Emerson took it to extremes. Her why knew no limits. For someone who adored my interviewer and loved the power of communication, I was surprised to find myself losing patience with the “why’s.” I was looking for a way to diffuse my frustration when I had an epiphany, Emerson didn’t really give two hoots about the answer, she was in it for the conversation. She wanted to exchange words. Period. With that, I was all in, too, and our game was born. No longer do I try to compose a reasonable answer to “Why” and it’s that much more fun when I don’t.

“Keggie, why aren’t the fish biting?”
“Because, Emerson, they’re playing doctor with the turtles.”
“Keggie!” Emerson grins. “Fish and turtles don’t play doctor, kids do.”
“Oh– that’s right. Kids play doctor because they like to eat worms.”
“No, Keggie.” Tons of giggles. “Kids don’t eat worms, birds do.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I remember now, because birds drive tractors.”

And on and on it goes. Welcome to our world. The less sense our game makes, the more fun it becomes for all of us and I can answer why ’til the cows come home without the slightest irritation.

Grant Thomas, my oldest grandson, isn’t into the why game. Grant is an imaginative, budding artist. He loves to draw and he likes to think about big words and say them aloud, repeatedly, the bigger the better. “Disgusting” is one of his new favorites. He applies it generously and sometimes in context.

One morning last week, Grant and I were on the back porch tossing around big words when I got a peek into Grant’s five-year-old mind that I can’t quit thinking about.

I had told Grant about a cool word, “Spectacular.” Grant agreed that it was a good word and then he told me that spectacular was silver. I paused and asked my grandson to repeat that. He did. I asked Grant what color disgusting was, and he told me quickly that disgusting was gray. Whoa.

Suddenly, I felt like Emerson. I was bursting with questions. I interrogated Grant on a number of words and he told me without hesitation what color he saw each word in his head. Just so you know, remarkable is multicolored.

Grant sees words in color.
I still don’t know what I think about that. In a wonderfully ironic twist, I find myself speechless.

What say you?



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Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is an author, speaker, and radio host known as The Belle of All Things Southern. Shellie likes to say, "The whole world stops for a story." She stacks hers up at All Things Southern.com

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  1. Julie Cantrell says

    Hi Shellie – I have SO much to say about this amazing post. First of all, I LOVE the way you write, and this is a perfect example of WHY I swoon. LOVELY lovely lovely (and the adorable photo tugs at my heart too!)

    Now, about seeing words in color. My son does this (numbers too) along with about 4% of the population. It’s called Synesthesia.

    Here are some interesting links about it. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-butterfly/201104/are-you-synesthete



    You can find many. It’s also linked to a HIGHLY CREATIVE mind, as if you didn’t already know that about your budding artist. Isn’t it fascinating?!

    Hugs, and keep those conversations flowing. You sound like the best Keggie ever.


    • says

      Julie, is it possible that some of your answer didn’t post? Regardless, thanks for pointing me towards this book. I’m going to do more reading on the subject. It’s new to me, but I can tell you that synesthesia strikes me as a gift, a blessing, and not a “condition”. :)

  2. Rachel Hauck says

    Oh Shellie, I love this!! I see things in color too. More when I was younger than now… hmmm… what’s that about?

    Mostly days of the week are a color for me. I remember telling my Grandmother about it and she said, “Oh, you should tell your daddy” because she thought it might have some “gifting” significance.

    I think words ARE color and we need more Grant Thomas’s in the world to help us see them!


    • says

      Agreed, Rach! I think it’s a gifting. Have been surprised this morning in following some links that suggested in some way that it was to the disadvantage of the one with blended senses. I’ve got a big old word for that, too– HOGWASH! :)

  3. says

    Thx, Denise, of course– I see the game as a future children’s book, but then, as Nicole and I have long discussed, everything is a book to us. :) I’ll check out that link!

  4. Nicole Seitz says

    Spectacular is not silver to me, it’s multi-colored. Love his brain! And adore your silly word game with Emerson Ann. Sigh. Loved this post.

  5. Lisa Wingate says

    I agree with Miriam. That was spectacular, Shellie! Words in color. Maybe if we all saw them that way, we’d think more about what colors we’re adding to the world and to the insides of our own souls πŸ˜‰

    I’m going to think about whether I see words in color, too…


  6. says

    Love this!! Think what a wordsmith Grant can become! If words to him ignite color in his brain! Pls encourage him and point that boy to Jesus: what glory can someday be given to the Saviour through such a person! (I wonder where he gets it?:)

    • says

      :) You make me smile with that parenthetical question! Yes, his parents and I are definitely pointing this brilliant boy to Jesus. The definitive joy of my life is that my kids are raising their kids in Christ Jesus!!! Thanks for chatting here at SBV!

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