This woman claims she can taste people’s names and Jesus is a Malteser

This woman claims she can taste people’s names and Jesus is a Malteser


‘Jesus is a Malteser and Paddy is a fat, damp, squishy notepad’: Author with condition which makes her taste words is telling people on Twitter what flavour their names are

  • Julie McDowall is an author and freelance journalist from Glasgow
  • She claims to have synaesthesia, which allows her to taste and sense words
  • She received more than 15,000 replies to a tweet offering to describe names

Have you ever wondered what your name tastes like?

An author with the condition synaesthaesia, which she says makes her sense words, faced thousands of requests on Twitter from people desperate to know.

Ross, who apparently tastes of a Greggs sausage roll, can count himself luckier than Donald, who produced the effect of a rubber duck dipped in vinegar.

While Jesus tastes like a Malteser, others produce sensations or images rather than tastes – the name Paddy reminds her of a fat, squishy notepad with damp pages.

Julie McDowall, an author and journalist from Glasgow, received more than 15,000 replies to a tweet encouraging people to ask her what senses their names trigger

Julie McDowall, a freelance journalist and writer, tweeted on Sunday: ‘I have synesthesia which means I can “taste” words. Ask me what your name tastes like.’

She has since had more than 15,000 replies, among them people curious to know how she senses their name.

As well as tastes, many names conjure up images and feelings for Ms McDowall, from Glasgow, whose condition is a well-documented phenomenon.

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Scientists believe synesthaesia is triggered by crossed wires in the brain – extra neural connections – with areas designed to process signals from one sense also being connected to another.

This means senses – vision, hearing, feelings, smells and tastes – get mixed up.

Ms McDowall, who says she can taste or somehow sense words, claims the name Jesus tastes to her like a Malteser chocolate

Paddy Patterson may have been disappointed to find out his name reminded Ms McDowall of a ‘fat squishy notepad’ with damp pages

Donald tastes like a rubber duck sliced in half and dipped in vinegar, according to Ms McDowall


These are some examples of the tastes produced by certain names, according to Ms McDowall.

Some names produce images, feelings or smells instead of tastes – there are more on her Twitter account @JulieAMcDowall.

  • Aaron – A stale chocolate bar
  • Amelia – Muesli
  • Brandon/Brent – Flat Coke
  • Brian – Little shreds of coconut
  • Charlotte – Raspberry lollipop
  • Danielle – Spaghetti hoops
  • Donald – A rubber duck dipped in vinegar
  • Duncan – A smoky bacon crisps burp
  • Gavin – Smooth, silky vinegar
  • Grace – A soft turnip in vegetable soup
  • Graham – Cold stew
  • Hannah – A tasteless banana
  • Jeanne – Salty pea soup
  • Jesus – Maltesers
  • Katie – Madeira cake
  • Keith – Minty chewing gum
  • Lee/Leah – Custard
  • Lindsey – A cold can of Lilt
  • Madison – Ear wax with chocolate
  • Mia – Rice pudding
  • Nick/Nicole – A biscuit dipped in vinegar
  • Oliver/Olivia – Watery, tasteless onion
  • Ross – Greggs sausage roll
  • Sam – Tuna
  • Sandra – A green Polo fruit sweet
  • Sean – A mouthful of furniture polish
  • Sebastian – Lovely soft caramel
  • Sharon – A stale Cadbury’s Flake
  • Timmy – A fizzy Refreshers sweet
  • Wendy – Watered-down orange juice

Ms McDowall has synaesthesia, meaning there is crossover between her senses – the condition is a well-documented medical phenomenon thought to affect one in 5,000 people. She claims the name Charlotte tastes like a raspberry-flavoured lollipop from the 1980s

Anybody named Duncan might be best off avoiding the author – the name produces the taste of ‘a burp after eating smoky bacon crisps’, she said


Synaesthesia is a condition which causes people to experience different senses at the same time.

For example, the most common type of synesthesia, colour-graphemic, causes those with the condition to associate words and numbers with colours.

Across the world, one in every 5,000 people have synesthesia, according to Boston University. 

But lexical-gustatory synaesthesia – in which someone experiences a taste or smell when they read or hear a word – is a rare form of the condition and affects less than one in 100,000 people.

Experts believe the condition is caused by ‘crossed wires’ in the brain – when signals intended for part of the brain interpreting a particular sense are also sent to something controlling another.

This means a single stimulus can trigger multiple sensations at once. 

James Wannerton, the president of UK Synaesthesia Association said: ‘Synaesthesia is caused by cross activation between two normally separate areas of the brain.

‘An individual with synaesthesia has extra neural connections linking these separate areas.

‘The stimulation of one sense causes an involuntary reaction in one or more of the other senses.

‘Someone with synaesthesia may for example, hear colour or see sound.’ 

Ms McDowall said Catherine tastes like a rusk dipped in chocolate and coffee, while Katie is a ‘sensible cake, like Madeira’.

‘Keith is minty chewing gum’, she added, Duncan is ‘a burp after eating smoky bacon crisps’, and Hannah is ‘a gray tasteless banana’.

Danielle reminds Ms McDowall of spaghetti hoops, she claimed, Amelia is muesli, Graham is cold stew, Austin a ‘cold and slightly flattened sausage roll’ and Sabine tastes like soap.

Other people conjured sensations or images for Ms McDowall, who revealed her sister also has the condition.

Ian and Darren produce the feeling of an earache, she said, while Dominique ‘gives the smooth feel of a domino… accompanied by the smell of disinfectant’.

Joe is a ‘leathery chunky button on an old man’s cardigan,’ and Colleen could be ‘a little wooden puppet’s legs’.

The name of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative MP from Somerset, reminds Ms McDowall of a dry cream cracker, tinsel and ‘sodden cats’, she said.

Ms McDowall said her own name corresponds to the image of a ‘watery eyeball’, while Jack is ‘very specific. It’s an old leathery footstool my Gran used to have.’

After becoming overwhelmed by people asking her to describe their names, Ms McDowall has stopped doing it on Twitter.  

She is now offering to do three names for someone in return for a donation to her podcast.

And yesterday morning she appeared on BBC Radio 1’s breakfast show, when she told DJ Greg James his name was ‘tasted shortbread with the sugar dusted off’. 

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