I have read literature on synaesthesia that looks into whether the connections between words and colours/tastes/shapes are associations picked up from childhood and throughout life. No-one really knows, but I have read articles that say the associations are not picked up in this way.
I think they are.
For me, some words are vivid colours because of their connotations. For example, ‘holiday’ is yellow because it has happy, sunny connotations, but if ‘holiday’ was a word I’d never heard of it would be quite a dark colour because of the H and O being black.
The name Benjamin is orange, and thinking back to primary school I had a friend called Benjamin who had bright ginger hair. Is this the reason why that name is that colour? I don’t know but it’s possible.
When I think of all the people I met at uni, their names might be the colour of whatever they were wearing the first time I noticed them. This isn’t always the case but it has happened, and I didn’t even realise it until recently (and it’s one of the reasons why a name like John can be lots of different colours depending on which John, but I’ll talk about this another day).
Although I believe that connections are constantly being made and kept, it’s still not a conscious choice. I think that a synaesthete has an ‘ability’, or something different that causes the brain to hold on to the connections and then cause the person to have that colour experience at a later date when confronted with the word or name. This raises many more questions, of which I’ll have to explore in the future.