Elements of Eloquence Single Line Challenge, Chapter 6: Synaesthesia

Mark Forsyth informs us that synaesthesia, when it is a rhetorical figure and not an illness, involves assigning the properties of one sense to another; or to an abstraction.

To further inform yourselves, do go ahead and review the short and entertaining chapter Chapter 6 in our book, “Elements of Eloquence.”

“A gravelly voice”
“The warm colors of a painting”
“Smells like… Victory.”

Apparently there are rules to this one, at least in terms of what seems natural to native English speaker.

Sight and Sound exchange their qualities freely.

The qualities of Touch can be attributed to a Sound; but not the reverse.

Taste gives freely but in Forsyth’s opinion, not the reverse. I have to wonder whether a wine connoisseur  would agree.

Smells don’t exchange qualities with other senses; but perhaps they can with abstractions or objects.

“There’s something fishy about all this.”

Fragrance by Frederic

Go ahead; give it a try. Follow the rules; or break them.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5


  1. A syrupy trickle of song

    Thunder growled on and off like a quarterback stretching and rolling over in bed
    Edit: Thunder growled tensely on and off, sounding like a quarterback looks stretching and rolling in a bed too small for him.

    Bird calls echoed everywhere, tiny sparkling gems falling through the early morning air.
    Edit: Birdcalls brilliant as falling gems

    Living with lost joy is like eating cocoa powder without sugar, or corn without butter, or steak without salt.

    Her attitude was malodorous, filling the house with an emotional stench like a bowl of sour milk forgotten in a cupboard.


  2. He brought her a bouquet of flowers that smelled like the most beautiful afterthought she’d ever been given.

    Hearing the child scream was like burning your tongue on a hot cup of coffee.

    The wind carried the smell of spring, which sounded like flowers opening and tasted just like the hope you feel when you wake up and birds are chirping and hopping through patches of grass that weren’t there the night before. (You said you wanted to see me wild. Too much?)

    These are hard to write without using simile. But delightful!


  3. a blanket soft as a whisper

    The waves tasted like trumpets, the wind like flutes, and the sun shone like a harp in the midst of the orchestra.


    • Hard to write synaesthesia without lapsing into simile… yes. I think I did a some of that kind of lapsing last May, above.

      I think your most successful instance was the scream that sounded like a burn. That works very well. (And is true to life!)

      “blanket soft as a whisper” is also good.

      I love your line about the waves, wind, and sun. Good development of an idea there. The sun as harp is definitely not synaesthesia, but it is an excellent poetic image! I liked that whole line. The waves tasting like trumpets just works somehow. The wind needs to feel rather than taste like something sounds, I think.


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