A Man With Synesthesia Explains What Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ Actually Smells Like

Flickr / Anna Young
Flickr / Anna Young

Synesthesia is a neurological phenomena where one sensory (or cognitive) pathway leads to another sensory (or cognitive) pathway. So that means you can “see” letters or numbers as colors. Smell words, perceive time as locations in space, and so on. It all really depends on the individual and it’s pretty difficult to really define it.

Someone on Reddit wondered on r/ShowerThoughts if “A person with Synesthesia could finally tell us what “Teen Spirit” smells like.” And this being Reddit, someone answered the call.

I’m a full-spectrum synaesthete.

Here’s the best proof I can offer.

I’ve never smelled the deodorant in question, but the words “Teen Spirit” aren’t all that unpleasant. Imagine a drier sheet scented with “Mountain Air” or something, then add a very faint hint of a garbage can that was recently emptied. (I know that last part isn’t great, but it’s the least prominent smell.) There’s also a light aroma of something that reminds me of cotton candy, but I can’t put my finger on it.

The song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has a bunch of different smells associated with it, but the prevailing scent is… okay, well, you know when you first walk into a movie theater? It smells like that experience would, if that makes any sense. It’s not just the faintly acrid stench, it’s not the popcorn, and it’s not the miasma of different body odors; it’s the aromatic chord of those various things (plus a few more) put together and then covered with damp dirt.

So ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ smells like a combination of dryer sheets, stagnant air, cotton candy, and a movie theater experience. Interesting. TC mark

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