Understanding You Is Like Smelling the Color 9

Have you just heard someone say “understanding you is like smelling the color 9”? Well, you might be left a little confused, and understandably so.

This article will explain everything you need to know about the phrase and how to use it.

Understanding You Is Like Smelling the Color 9 – Meaning

“Understanding you is like smelling the color 9” means that it is impossible to understand what someone is saying. Since “9” is a number, it does not have a color or smell associated with it. Therefore, it’s a play on words creating an error that no one can solve.


  • “Understanding you is like smelling the color 9” means that something is impossible to understand.
  • It plays into using a number with no smell or color association to create an impossible problem.
  • The phrase originated from the song Smell the Color 9 by Chris Rice.

Perhaps it would help to go through some examples to see how it works:

  • Trying to understand you is like smelling the color 9. I don’t want to think about it!
  • You can’t just smell the color nine and think that solves the problems. Nothing here makes sense.

“Smell the color 9” is a simpler phrase that applies to many situations. You don’t have to use it only when you don’t understand someone. You could also use it for any situation that doesn’t make sense or seems impossible.

Understanding You Is Like Smelling the Color 9 – Origin

So, where did the phrase come from? Well, the exact answer to that is tricky, but there seems to be an accepted origin.

The phrase comes from Christian musician Chris Rice. He wrote an album entitled Smell the Color 9. The album had a feature song of the same name, and this was likely the origin of the phrase.

Understanding You Is Like Smelling the Color 9 – Synonyms

Perhaps some of these synonyms will give you some better ideas:

  • I can’t make heads or tails of this.
  • I don’t understand a word you’re saying.
  • Figuring you out is a seemingly impossible task.
  • You’re so confusing.
  • I think we have our wires crossed.
  • We are not on the same page.
  • I think I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.
  • It’s beyond me.

In What Situations Can You Use “Understanding You Is Like Smelling the Color 9”?

Finally, let’s look at different contexts that might allow you to use the phrase.

It’s worth starting with formal contexts so you know when it’s acceptable.

You could use it when addressing employees presenting a bad idea. If you don’t understand why they brought the idea to your attention, you should call them out for it with a phrase like this.

Of course, we do not recommend using the phrase if you are speaking with your boss. It could be quite snappy, rude, or insulting. So, if you want to be respectful, try not to use it when addressing superiors.

Informally, there are plenty more options available.

You might want to use it when telling your friends they make no sense. It lets them know that you don’t understand what they’re saying and may need them to reiterate their point.