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Apr 28, 2024
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Words related to the senses

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AWADmail Issue 1139

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

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From: Anu Garg (words wordsmith.org)
Subject: Senses

I invited readers this week to tell us about their sensory superpowers or sensory challenges. Here’s a selection.

Ten years ago my right vestibular nerve was removed because of a schwannoma. My left vestibular nerve is usually very good at keeping me balanced, but with mono hearing it’s a challenge to identify the source of a sound. With two ears I had stereo, but with one good ear, when I hear a strange sound I have to spin 360 deg. to try to locate its source. The most recent episode of confusion occurred when I thought my brand new washing machine was making a clatter, but it turned out to be the lid of a pan simmering on the cooktop in the kitchen. It took me ten or fifteen minutes to sort that out because I couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from.
-Carol Bobb, Whangarei, New Zealand (carol.lew xtra.co.nz)

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The sense that I’ve been missing since 1991 because of a car crash is my sense of smell; I have anosmia. No one can tell that I have anosmia by looking at or listening to me but it can have significant impact on my life. The thing that first made me know that I have it is that the flavor of my food and drink was greatly reduced or in some cases removed altogether. Flavors are primarily sensed as aroma, especially coffee: I have no idea what “flavor” of coffee I’m drinking ... it all tastes like coffee. I can’t smell the aroma added to natural gas, which could be fatal to me, but I also can’t smell skunk, much to my delight. I have to pay close attention to the expiration dates on food because the smell test is meaningless. I recently found out that Ben of Ben and Jerry’s has anosmia which partly explains why their ice cream has such intense flavors. Adjusting to anosmia wasn’t terribly difficult for me but sometimes I’m overcome by an intense wish that I could once again smell the personal aroma of the ones I love ... probably the biggest loss from my lost sense.
-Don Fearn, Duluth, Minnesota (pooder charter.net)

After a brain infection two years ago, I’d wake thinking “Where did I put that?”, referring to my left hand which seemed to be just something attached to me, but not of me. I’d often find it on top of my head or pinned under my back.
-Melinda Gordon, Chicago, Illinois (melingo live.com)

I inherited two very influential genes from my father, a retinal disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa and another unnamed trait, that of extraordinary hearing. The former has now left me with very little remaining eyesight, yet my hearing is what I call my superpower. I once astonished an audiologist when she realized I was able to hear tones slightly higher than a dog whistle. I hear all manner of things most humans can’t hear. Several years ago, my guide dog and I were waiting to be served in my local post office. A woman stood at the wicket, counting her change, and I heard a coin fall to the ceramic tile floor. When she made no effort to retrieve it, I said, “Excuse me, but you just dropped a dime.” The woman glanced down, picked up the coin, and when she spotted me and my guide dog, she asked the obvious question: “how did you know it was a dime?” My answer was just as obvious, at least to me. “It sounded like a dime.”
-Bob Berrigan, Alexandria, Canada (sleetburger bell.net)

An acquaintance of mine is hyperosmic. One day during the pandemic he posted, “Dear anonymous fellow commuter: You didn’t brush your teeth this morning, and you think that because you’re wearing a COVID mask the rest of us in the subway car couldn’t tell. But I could. Trust me.”
-Bryan Todd, Lincoln, Nebraska (bryansink yahoo.com)

Over the course of having five babies with smelly diapers, who became “Mom, smell this!” kids and then sweaty hormonal teenagers, I became microsmatic on demand. They grew up a long time ago, but I can still turn off my sense of smell when needed.
-Mary Treder, Puerto Peñasco, Mexico

I use the Columbus school of typing’s method: discover and land on. 😂
-John Chamberlin, Falls Church, Virginia (jbcblues gmail.com)

Proprioception disorder is not uncommon in veterans. The VA is just starting to study it re repetitive motion/impact, chemical/parasite/disease-induced neurological damage.
-John Craw, Glenford, Ohio (thecrawh gmail.com)

I’m an avid birder by avocation, and, based on the comments by other birders I’ve got exceptional hearing (esp. for a 64-year old who did listen to his share of very loud rock-n-roll in the teenage and young adult years). On the other hand, and especially subsequent to what was a very mild case of COVID, my sense of smell and taste has significantly diminished; I don’t notice at ALL what my wife says is the whiff of cat urine in the room where we keep our feline companions’ litter boxes. Spicy or flavorful foods seem a bit blander than they did. That could be an effect of age, or an after-effect of my otherwise mild COVID case. I suppose that’s a fair trade-off: I get to practice my avocation equipped with one heightened sense, and DON’T get bothered by the unavoidable after-effects of having three cats in the house!
-Marc Chelemer, Tenafly, New Jersey (mc2496 att.com)

My son is autistic. I am neurotypical and I had to learn a lot about neurodiversity. One of the first things I learned was that we have seven senses: the usual five plus vestibular and proprioception. Autistic people often process sensory information in different ways. The world can be too loud, too bright and too overwhelming. My son’s practical issues with proprioception became evident when he was learning to write. He was not getting feedback from the muscles and joints in his fingers about how hard to press and repeatedly broke pencil leads and tore through the paper. He had occupational therapy for years to help him with this issue. Other autistic people need a weighted blanket or other forms of deep pressure to calm their nervous system and be able to sleep.
-Tracy Blues, Cape Town, South Africa (blues.tracy gmail.com)

I am an endodontist, specialising in root canal treatments. In this field we need specialised proprioception, working with our two fingers as we are unable to see what we are doing! Even eye and brain surgeons can “see” what they are doing with special instruments. Although we use magnification to see a lot of what we do, the most important part is near the root tip, and there we work by feel, and are unable to see, which I believe is unique to our surgical specialty.
-Carlo Castellucci, Hong Kong, China (carlocastellucci yahoo.com)

My superpower, which involves touch, sight, smell, and taste, is rearranging leftovers to fit more in the fridge no matter how little space seems available.
-Brenda De Silva, Port of Spain, Trinidad (bjtcdesil gmail.com)

From birth, I have had trouble with depth perception related to extremely poor vision in one eye. I developed lots of unconscious coping strategies along the way. For instance - I only realized in my 50s that I always walk close to a wall, or touch objects with my hands as I walk by them. This was noticed by a balance therapist, not me! Now in my mid-60s, I have lost most feeling in the bottoms of my feet, so my brain no longer receives that essential balancing information anymore... falls are more frequent, and completely unexpected. I’m upright and walking... then I am on the ground. Yikes. How do I deal with this? With a great deal of humility (not my superpower), and a robust sense of humor!
-Lori Kohler, Thomasville, Georgia (kohlert2 gmail.com)

I first learned the word proprioception 60 years ago in an introductory biology course in college. As my professor explained, it is,”knowing where you are relative to yourself and your surroundings.”
Now, with diabetes and the attendant peripheral neuropathy, my sense of it is diminished. I have a hard time with walking and with balance (a cane has become my companion), and items slide through my fingers and fall to the floor because I fail to realize I don’t have a grip. Proprioception has shifted from an autonomic, taken-for-granted background sense to a trait that constantly needs to be taken into consideration for my every move.
-David Hoyler, Lee, New Hampshire (dwhoyler yahoo.com)

Our book group just finished reading Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir “I Am, I Am, I Am”. In it she describes the long-lasting effects of a childhood bout of encephalitis, which left her with cerebellar damage, including a lot of damage to her proprioceptive ability. She bumps into things, can’t reliably touch her thumb to her nose, and has a poor sense of how far to reach to grasp something.
-Judy Purvis, Durham, North Carolina (judypurvis921 gmail.com)

From: Tim Slattery (timslattery utexas.edu)
Subject: Photophobia

My wife is a photophobe, one symptom of a condition that makes her extremely sensitive to almost everything: sunlight, smells, noises, spicy foods, etc. I tried to show her the beautiful illustration for this word but she shouted OUCH and flinched away. Apparently the intricate patterns of the illustration were too much for her. I don’t get it, but it’s very real to her.

Tim Slattery, Alexandria, Virginia

From: John Ayer (firevexil gmail.com)
Subject: Oliver Sacks

Sacks also wrote a book, which I found fascinating, The Island of the Colorblind, about a Micronesian island where many people are colorblind and highly photophobic. He described how such a child was given good sunglasses, and was promptly seen running down a road, screeching in delight, as a child should. I don’t know whether sunglasses have been made available to the islanders.

John Ayer, Norwich, Connecticut

From: Elizabeth Block (elizabethblock netzero.net)
Subject: Amusia

People sometimes say they are tone deaf when what they mean is they cannot carry a tune. There are professional musicians who cannot carry a tune. I once heard the son of William Butler Yeats, the poet, say that his father could recognize one tune, and only one tune. That tune was God Save the King. He could recognize it because people stood up. That is tone deaf. And weird, because his poetry is so musical.

Elizabeth Block, Toronto, Canada

Sour Grapes
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: gustatory and macrosmatic

The art of wine tasting goes well beyond merely tasting the vino. The bouquet, or aroma, is a nose thing, yet our taste buds work in tandem with the olfactory receptors. The sommelier uses an array of criteria to size up a particular wine, preferably doing a blind test, not knowing the name of the winery, the year (vintage), or the variety of grape. The sommelier is looking for complexity, acidity, balance, structure, viscosity (alcohol content), body, brightness, fruitiness and tannin content. Some wine aficionados think they have an expert nose and palate, but are just faking it. In reality, they can’t even tell the difference between a red or white in a blind test.

Dogs have 40 times more smell-sensitive receptors than us humans. Their nostrils are extra mobile and they use that flexibility to trap odor-bearing molecules and to also determine wind direction. Humans have harnessed dogs’ sniffing superpower to hunt, search for narcotics and landmines, detect cancer, or sense oncoming seizures. Certain breeds are skilled at ferreting out truffles. The top dogs for truffling include the Lagotto Romagnolo, the Springer Spaniel, the Belgian Malinois, the Golden Retriever and the Beagle.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Words related to the senses
1. Proprioception
2. Macrosmatic
3. Photophobia
4. Amusia
5. Gustatory
= 1. Kinesthesia
2. Basset
3. Light harms eye
4. Opposite to appreciate music
5. Apt to taste mushroom order or chow down
= 1. Body “me” awareness
2. What’s the stink?
3. Opposed to light - too much!
4. Choir, opera, or trio? I must pass!
5. Taste a creme pie
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)
Make your own anagrams and animations.



This remains just between you and me,
But whenever I have to go wee,
My proprioception,
Without any exception,
Lets me find the appendage that’s key.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Since his proprioception is bad,
He’s the worst dancing partner I’ve had.
He steps on my toes,
And God only knows
When the music stops playing, I’m glad.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Yeah, I fell on my tush; who’da thunk?
I was only the slightest bit drunk!
But my proprioception
Was skewed; misconception
Of how much you’ve had, and you’re sunk!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Achieving success at conception
Requires good proprioception.
You’ll find out if you’re skilled
With the soil you’ve tilled
Nine months after your wedding reception.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Macrosmatic folks readily sense
Even smells that are not that intense.
They’re likely to groan,
“Don’t use that cologne --
A mere spritz of it causes offense!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Politicians can be charismatic,
So your nose needs to be macrosmatic.
If not fooled by your ears,
You’ll cry copious tears
At ones full of hot gas aromatic.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


I admit that it’s slightly bizarre --
Wearing shades late at night in a bar
Where I go have a drink.
Photophobia, you think?
I’d prefer if you thought I’m a star.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

All the Dracula legends suggest
That in daytime the Count is at rest.
Photophobia’s why
That old blood-sucking guy
Says the midnight buffet is the best.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Photophobia? No prob today!
The clouds have assembled, and they
Are keeping things dark;
Take your cane to the park
‘Cause you might not see what’s in your way!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Old Dracula hated the light,
Avoiding all things that were bright.
And since photophobic,
But, not claustrophobic.
He stayed in his coffin till night.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“As yer plagued with severe photophobia,
Go tuh sleep, and all day I’ll watch ovuh ya,”
Said Igor. “Tonight
There are sweet necks tuh bite;
Waze’ll guide yuh tuh North Macedonia.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


My old classmate could not sing a song;
Her best efforts would come out all wrong.
Her amusia’s bad
So quite often she had
Teachers ask that she not sing along.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

There once was a bride with amusia
Honeymooning in lovely St. Lucia.
“On the beach in these dunes,”
Said her groom, “who needs tunes?
Take your clothes off and let me peruse ya.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Said the shark, “With my sense gustatory,
For lunch I’ll find Nemo and Dory
That idea, though, was fleeting;
He went to a meeting,
And learned “Fish are friends” -- quite a story!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“Welcome to Brazil! We know how to give our guests a proprioception!” said the banner in front of the hotel.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“That big black bird o’ yor’n sho ‘nuff makes a mess.” “Whuh? Macrosmatic-ulously clean!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Will my photophobia winner in the race to sell pictures of Harry and Meghan to the tabloids?” worried the paparazzo.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“What kind of amusia gittin’ yer inspiration from these days, Bill?” asked William Faulkner’s old high school buddy.
Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Let’s see what kind of gustatory can withstand,” said the Labour Party windbag.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story. -Terry Pratchett, novelist (28 Apr 1948-2015)

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