For example, if someone says "this tastes purple" instead of saying it tastes like grape, or if asked what flavor of Gatorade you prefer you answer with, "blue".

It also seems common with candy and artificial flavors (or flavors perceived as artificial), and I'm wondering if there's specifically a name or term for this type of substitution.

I'm specifically talking about uses that are not due to synesthesia or some other kind of disorder or medical condition.

  • It’s called baby-talk. - not specific to colors and taste though. – Jim Dec 25 '17 at 19:36
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    Synesthesitic synecdoche, duh. – Dan Bron Dec 25 '17 at 20:14
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    @briantist - When daughter was about 2 we went to Sea World and got cotton candy. I asked her what flavor hers was. She said, “Pink” – Jim Dec 26 '17 at 0:36
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    @Jim not at all synesthesia. adjectives for vision (colors) and touch (soft) are ... of themselves, But other senses use nouns or verbs in pure simile: there's no good 'perfumy' word, you just say that something smells like perfume. Some languages do the same for vision: in Pirahã 'red' is really 'like blood'. What's the word for this? It's not parataxis but is associated with such seemingly oversimplified grammar. – Mitch Dec 26 '17 at 0:39
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    @Mitch - Right. I wasn’t suggesting It was. I just wanted to verify with OP that It wasn’t what he was thinking of. – Jim Dec 26 '17 at 0:43

This answer is perhaps not specific enough but ... I think this is a category of metonymy.

: a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated (such as "crown" in "lands belonging to the crown") M-W

  • Metonymy applies when the usage is established. "This tastes purple" is just nonsense. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 26 '17 at 1:42
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    @EdwinAshworth That doesn't make any sense. How can a usage become established if it isn't already? Metonymy applies equally well to original phrases and to clichés. – Caleb Dec 26 '17 at 5:12
  • @Caleb 'How can a usage become established if it isn't already?' implies that the English language never changes, which is obviously nonsense. But trying to add respectability to nonsense / baby-talk by calling a DIY string a 'word' or saying 'He sounded indigo' is an example of a particular figure of speech is disingenuous and hardly English usage. Chomsky's famous 'Colorless green ideas sleep furiously' was intended to illustrate grammatical nonsense. 'This tastes purple' violates the Gricean maxim of quantity. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 26 '17 at 11:43
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    @EdwinAshworth It sounds like you're saying that "this tastes purple" is nonsense because nobody says that. (OK, it doesn't really sound that way -- I obviously can't hear you, but sometimes people use one word when they really mean another...) Somebody was the first to say "I've got wheels" or "we need boots on the ground," and it wasn't nonsense when they did, even that very first time. – Caleb Dec 26 '17 at 16:15
  • @Caleb 'Colorless green ideas sleep furiously' is still the nonsense it was intended to be, though many more examples of it being used have occurred than of 'This tastes purple' intended seriously. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 26 '17 at 19:44

For example, if someone says "this tastes purple" instead of saying it tastes like grape, or if asked what flavor of Gatorade you prefer you answer with, "blue".

I don't think we have a term that refers specifically to substituting a color for a flavor and that's not related to synesthesia. It doesn't seem to be something that's common practice.

I think k1eran's answer of metonymy is the right one if the speaker is substituting purple for grape. Another possibility is that the speaker is using irony: since artificial grape flavor often doesn't taste like real grapes, using the color that's usually associated with the flavor is way to show that you know the flavor is "grape" but not truly grape.

In the latter example, though, "blue" is very nearly the actual name of a flavor — Cool Blue is the name of one Gatorade flavor:

Gatorade Cool Blue

As well, the speaker could be indicating a preference for all of the several Gatorade flavors that are colored blue.

Flavors often have a strong connection to specific colors, and vice versa. Processed foods like candy or sports drinks are often given colors that tell the consumer what flavor to expect, so describing a flavor in terms of its associated color isn't so strange. Conversely, we have lots of colors that are named for flavored things: orange, grape, cherry, lemonade, espresso, rosemary, cabernet, and mint are just a few words that can be either a flavor or a color.

  • Hm, blue gatorade was not a good example then. I don't drink gatorade but it's something I thought I heard, maybe it was about vitamin water flavors or some other drink. – briantist Dec 26 '17 at 17:15
  • Perhaps you heard it correctly, and it only sounded odd to you because you're not well versed in Gatorade flavors? – Caleb Dec 27 '17 at 2:42
  • It was a joke, something along the lines of anyone who refers to gatorade flavors by name and not color is 100% a cop. Searching on twitter, I see that this is a popular sentiment: twitter.com/search?q=flavors%20colors%20cop – briantist Dec 27 '17 at 17:19

I've encountered two kinds of this - the "baby talk" referred to in comments (sorry I can't remember you're username and posting on my phone - will edit later, if I remember), and a slightly disparaging way of saying "this has a faint or indistinct flavour I associate with food or drink of this colour".

The latter I'd probably call sarcasm.

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