Author Topic: "color"  (Read 3994 times)

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Offline wm.annis

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"color"
« on: March 31, 2010, 08:46:20 pm »
While Karyu Pawl has gone back to the drawing board to think about Na'vi colors, we do have a word for color:

'opin n. "color"

So at least we can say things have the color of something else, 'opin a na ...
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Re: "color"
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2010, 09:19:29 pm »
Oeti 'opin si surprised! And when I thought that we'd get COLORS this week... ::slight sigh::

This is cool, of course...

Offline okrìsti

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Re: "color"
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2010, 09:45:22 pm »
I am wondering, if (how) you could (would) assign a color of something in a descriptive construction, something with lam?
Maybe I am just thinking to odd.

fäkeykä ayopin - hoist the colors (could not resist)
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Offline `Eylan Ayfalulukanä

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Re: "color"
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2010, 12:15:10 am »
While Karyu Pawl has gone back to the drawing board to think about Na'vi colors, we do have a word for color:

'opin n. "color"

So at least we can say things have the color of something else, 'opin a na ...

Ahhh, very good. At least, a way to describe color in reference to something else.

BTW, I did see 'Avatar' again a couple weeks back. Paid a lot of attention to colors. An amazing amount of cyan-- Ikrans, bioluminescence, etc. Perhaps, this is where the idea for ean meaning 'blue or green' came from-- cyan is an additive mix of blue and green. (Third bar from left in TV color bars.) There was a fair amount of magenta, the other 'odd' additive color (fifth bar from left in TV color bars), especially in bioluminescence. Not as much green as I would have thought-- scenes that should have had a lot of green were often dark scenes, deep in the forest (Green showed up OK in well-lit scenes). Purples were seen in bioluminescence, often along with magenta and some reds. Of course, you had the deep blue of Na`vi skin. Didn't notice a lot of yellows. There was the striking reds and oranges of Toruk. And a little blood (which was minimized for ratings reasons) Otherwise, these color were uncommon in the Na`vi world.

As far as Na`vi color perception range goes, there were indeed some 'first person' scenes of Jake looking out through his avatar. The color range in those views was the same color range that we would see. That implies that the Na`vi see color the same way we do, even if they can't explain what (for instance) 'red' is without a reference.

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Offline Mirri

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Re: "color"
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2010, 09:19:33 am »
While Karyu Pawl has gone back to the drawing board to think about Na'vi colors, we do have a word for color:

'opin n. "color"

So at least we can say things have the color of something else, 'opin a na ...

Ahhh, very good. At least, a way to describe color in reference to something else.

BTW, I did see 'Avatar' again a couple weeks back. Paid a lot of attention to colors. An amazing amount of cyan-- Ikrans, bioluminescence, etc. Perhaps, this is where the idea for ean meaning 'blue or green' came from-- cyan is an additive mix of blue and green. (Third bar from left in TV color bars.) There was a fair amount of magenta, the other 'odd' additive color (fifth bar from left in TV color bars), especially in bioluminescence. Not as much green as I would have thought-- scenes that should have had a lot of green were often dark scenes, deep in the forest (Green showed up OK in well-lit scenes). Purples were seen in bioluminescence, often along with magenta and some reds. Of course, you had the deep blue of Na`vi skin. Didn't notice a lot of yellows. There was the striking reds and oranges of Toruk. And a little blood (which was minimized for ratings reasons) Otherwise, these color were uncommon in the Na`vi world.

As far as Na`vi color perception range goes, there were indeed some 'first person' scenes of Jake looking out through his avatar. The color range in those views was the same color range that we would see. That implies that the Na`vi see color the same way we do, even if they can't explain what (for instance) 'red' is without a reference.

Considering all the hues of blue in their surroundings, it would be odd if they saw blue as being just one color, wouldn't it?
I'd expect words for a bunch of colors that we would all consider blue, but the Na'vi would have a practical need for distinguishing between clearly.
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Offline roger

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Re: "color"
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2010, 09:29:18 am »
Considering all the hues of blue in their surroundings, it would be odd if they saw blue as being just one color, wouldn't it?
I'd expect words for a bunch of colors that we would all consider blue, but the Na'vi would have a practical need for distinguishing between clearly.

On the other hand, perhaps they don't bother with such commonplace things, and instead have special words for rare colors. Precisely because there is so much in the blue-green range, it may well be more practical to say "X-colored" than to have different abstract words. That's how orange, pink, purple, violet, etc. arose quite recently in English. But red or yellow would stand out in the forest and so would be more salient. They'd also be more likely to be culturally salient with red and yellow items used as decoration and jewelry. But who would have blue jewelry? (Though of course not all Na'vi live in the forest--we keep talking about the colors of the forest rather than the plains or mountains, but all those people speak the same language.)

Large color-term inventories like those of English and Russian only arose with the development of manufacturing and the dyes needed for cloth and paint. The Na'vi would presumably have little use for many abstract color names.

Offline Prrwll Nari

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Re: "color"
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2010, 10:16:06 am »
Though of course not all Na'vi live in the forest--we keep talking about the colors of the forest rather than the plains or mountains, but all those people speak the same language.

Even though they all speak the Na'vi language, there may be discrepancies in things like color vocabulary, simply based on the variation in their surroundings. A Na'vi tribe from a mountainous region may have the word for "gray" in their vocabulary set, for all the rocks around them. But a Na'vi tribe from the lush forests would almost never see this color, and so may not have a need to give it a specific name.

Also, on the topic of naming things influenced by their commonality, I think it would be much more likely that things that are common to a Na'vi tribe would have names, whereas things that are rarely seen would escape being named, and would be talked about in reference to other things (defined by comparison, that is). Therefore, I agree with Mirri that the Na'vi would have several names for shades of blue that we might not have.

One more thing to add. "ean" is blue/green, as we know. In Japanese, the word "ao" is also blue/green. For the Japanese, "ao" refers not to blue or green, but to a color that could be seen as blueish green, or greenish blue. So, maybe the Na'vi word "ean" also refers to the before mentioned cyan, a color which holds both blue and green properties, and is also very common in the forest depicted in the movie.

Offline wm.annis

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Re: "color"
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2010, 10:35:42 am »
We've had this discussion already over in the Lexical Expansion Project.

There is not a single reason to expect people living in a highly colorful jungle environment to have lots of words for colors.  Roger is not just speaking theoretically.  There are groups of people on this colorful planet earth who get along just fine with no more than two color words, even peoples living in jungles.  These people are still able to distinguish fine differences in color, they just don't bother with a giant color vocabulary.  What they will have is a vast vocabulary for local flora and fauna, which provides a nice set to fall back on for color comparisons.
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Offline roger

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Re: "color"
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2010, 10:59:42 am »
Also, AFAIK, in every language that has a single color term "grue" (green/blue), it is not cyan but either blue or green. That is, if you ask people to pick the "best" grue in a color wheel, they'll pick either a prototypical blue or a prototypical green, not something in-between. So we really can call it either blue or green. If you ask about the other color, they'll say that green is a kind of blue, or vice versa that blue is a kind of green, just as in most languages people would say that pink is a light shade of red and that orange is a kind of yellow.

Offline Mirri

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Re: "color"
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2010, 12:19:00 pm »
Also, AFAIK, in every language that has a single color term "grue" (green/blue), it is not cyan but either blue or green. That is, if you ask people to pick the "best" grue in a color wheel, they'll pick either a prototypical blue or a prototypical green, not something in-between. So we really can call it either blue or green. If you ask about the other color, they'll say that green is a kind of blue, or vice versa that blue is a kind of green, just as in most languages people would say that pink is a light shade of red and that orange is a kind of yellow.

Colors do seem to be a very culturally dependent thing, rather than a rational, scientific division of the color spectrum. For instance, I seem to recall the yolk of an egg being "red" in Italian.
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Offline roger

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Re: "color"
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2010, 12:41:11 pm »
Colors do seem to be a very culturally dependent thing, rather than a rational, scientific division of the color spectrum. For instance, I seem to recall the yolk of an egg being "red" in Italian.
Egg yolks are often quite orange, esp. if they come from your back yard, and orange is yellow-red, so might be considered either. But I bet the "best" red and yellow in Italian are nearly identical to the best red and yellow in English. There are languages which are reported to not correspond to perceptual color space, but they are rather uncommon. Karaja, for example, has a "grue" term that ranges from yellow to  purple; Waorani has one that covers white and yellow. You can see these at http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/~regier/color-shape/ (figure 1a is Piraha, figure 4 is Warlpiri, 5 is Karaja, and 6 is Waorani).

Offline Mirri

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Re: "color"
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2010, 12:53:35 pm »
I'm wondering whether the color terms of, say, western languages have historically been shifted from their original meaning, after scientists created the color spectrum?
Does "red" in English now cover the same colors as it did before the rainbow spectrum entered the cultural mainstream?
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Offline roger

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Re: "color"
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2010, 01:06:29 pm »
I'm wondering whether the color terms of, say, western languages have historically been shifted from their original meaning, after scientists created the color spectrum?
Does "red" in English now cover the same colors as it did before the rainbow spectrum entered the cultural mainstream?

Yes, the fact that the 'best' red is the same in nearly every non-Western language as it is in Western languages shows that something else is going on than culture. Presumably it depends on the details of color perception, both on the cone cells in our retinas and in how our brains process that info. Not surprising perhaps that the visually most salient colors (red and yellow) are the colors of ripe fruit--something I'd expect to be true for all diurnal primates, or at least the forest-dwelling fruit-eating ones, not just humans.

Offline Mirri

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Re: "color"
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2010, 01:16:44 pm »
I'm wondering whether the color terms of, say, western languages have historically been shifted from their original meaning, after scientists created the color spectrum?
Does "red" in English now cover the same colors as it did before the rainbow spectrum entered the cultural mainstream?

Yes, the fact that the 'best' red is the same in nearly every non-Western language as it is in Western languages shows that something else is going on than culture. Presumably it depends on the details of color perception, both on the cone cells in our retinas and in how our brains process that info. Not surprising perhaps that the visually most salient colors (red and yellow) are the colors of ripe fruit--something I'd expect to be true for all diurnal primates, or at least the forest-dwelling fruit-eating ones, not just humans.

I don't doubt the biology of it, or the similarity of color perception in the human race, but language and names are a very powerful influence on our way of thinking about things.

If you've never had a cultural reason to assign a name to a specific thing or concept, it doesn't really matter that you are biologically able to easily distinguish it. This just means that it would probably be easy enough to assign a name, but for some reason no one has.
I think Douglas Adam's "The Meaning of Liff" demonstrates this beautifully. This is a book filled with concepts that we all recognize and have noticed before, but there has never been a need to assign a name to them :)
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Offline Prrton

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Re: "color"
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2010, 01:56:07 pm »
Colors do seem to be a very culturally dependent thing, rather than a rational, scientific division of the color spectrum. For instance, I seem to recall the yolk of an egg being "red" in Italian.
Egg yolks are often quite orange, esp. if they come from your back yard, and orange is yellow-red, so might be considered either. But I bet the "best" red and yellow in Italian are nearly identical to the best red and yellow in English. There are languages which are reported to not correspond to perceptual color space, but they are rather uncommon. Karaja, for example, has a "grue" term that ranges from yellow to  purple; Waorani has one that covers white and yellow. You can see these at http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/~regier/color-shape/ (figure 1a is Piraha, figure 4 is Warlpiri, 5 is Karaja, and 6 is Waorani).


If Martha and Calvin had to duke it out over naming rights on B18 I predict that Martha would win and the world (aka Home Depot or Lowe's) would get another "Dune Mist".

It seems to me (personally) that the more "civilization" creates names for theses things that are scientifically identifiable (but not necessarily casually easily perceived by the uninitiated) the easier it is for us to (a) pay attention and (b) store the perception in memory for future reference. The interior of one of the houses I'm commonly in is painted "Builder White" from Home Depot. The other is "Statuesque" from Lowe's. If I were not around these two different "colors" (experiencing them daily in different contexts of illumination), they would both simply be WHITE to me. No doubt about it. But now, if one were to hold up a series of 7 to 8 "whites" in front of me, I'm guessing I'd have about a 90% chance of identifying "Statuesque" correctly in the lineup. Not so sure about the builder white. Having the association of the name "Statuesque" reminds me that the white in the one house is a tiny bit "creamier" than the other. (A design major trained in color perception might say something like "It skews a bit more yellow.") I recall what the actual "statues" look like at the Louvre, British Museum, Smithsonian in my own experience and that helps make that color REAL for me.

I'm also pretty sure that an art major would do better at correctly selecting yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and raw umber off a chart than I would. The "yellow" attribute on "ochre" would probably help me out a bit though.


Offline omängum fra'uti

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Re: "color"
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2010, 07:43:31 pm »
Roger and Prrton bring up a good point that I think has been otherwise missed in this thread.  Aside from the major few colors, VERY few colors have their own name.  Most are purely analogies.

Boulder white and statuesque aren't color names, they are analogies to a big rock and a carved statue.  The main colors in the western world are probably the colors we name the rainbow with.  Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  Now look back over those list and consider each word.  One of them is a fruit, one a flower, and one is really the name of a dye and the color is just named because that's the shade the dye produces.  That leaves us with red, yellow, green and blue as our colors.  Then we have black, white, gray, and brown.  There are also a few oddities out there such as magenta and cyan (Which is, incidentally, the root of "cyanide") but for the most part, the rest of our colors are all analogies.  Rose, peach, teal, lime, cream, coal, etc...  All are just color analogies.

The one color I think merits the most attention here though is brown.  Brown is our blue/green word, in that it doesn't necessarily describe a specific color.  Think about everything that you would describe as brown, and it is quite varying.  Animals, trees, leaves, hair, skin, just to name a few are all things which could in some form be considered brown, but each is a different color.  If brown is so common, why did we only have one word for it for so long?  Even now I suspect most people couldn't give different names to more than a couple different shades, if even that.

The wikipedia article on brown is actually rather interesting.
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Offline Amaya

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Re: "color"
« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2010, 07:52:08 pm »
Then there's Irish, which actually has two colour words which refer specifically to "magical red" and "magical green" respectively.  Colour words are weird.

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Re: "color"
« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2010, 09:12:50 pm »
Boulder white and statuesque aren't color names, they are analogies to a big rock and a carved statue.  The main colors in the western world are probably the colors we name the rainbow with.  Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  Now look back over those list and consider each word.  One of them is a fruit, one a flower, and one is really the name of a dye and the color is just named because that's the shade the dye produces.  That leaves us with red, yellow, green and blue as our colors.  Then we have black, white, gray, and brown.  There are also a few oddities out there such as magenta and cyan (Which is, incidentally, the root of "cyanide") but for the most part, the rest of our colors are all analogies.  Rose, peach, teal, lime, cream, coal, etc...  All are just color analogies.

The color words selected for Na`vi have to 1.)be varied enough to reflect a useful selection of colors, 2.)Be limited enough in scope to cover what is important but not miss any basic colors, 3.)be useful in a conversation about the Na`vi world. Thus, I agree with Omängum Fra'uti with a couple minor differences.

Omängum Fra'uti first lists red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet-- the spectral colors we are all taught. These are light colors, and therefore additive. I think that indigo is too close to either blue or violet, and was probably added to make 'Roy G. Biv' work. So lets discard it. Now you have red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet. This contains the additive and subtractive primary colors, and many of the secondaries. He suggested cyan, which is a pretty essential color on Pandora, as has been previously discussed. Then, with just the addition of magenta, you have all the primary and all the secondary colors for both additive light) and subtractive (non-light) colors. Thus so far, red, orange, yellow, cyan, green, magenta, blue, violet-- 8 very basic colors. Now, you add brown,  as Omängum Fra'uti suggests. This gives you a color that represents mixed subtractive colors, and is a common color in the natural world-- soils, wood, bark, dried vegetation, etc. Lastly, add black, gray and white. We already have black and white, so all that is needed is gray. So in total, you would have red, orange, yellow, cyan, green, magenta, blue, violet, brown, black, gray and white-- 12 terms that can be used to describe just about any color to adegree that the other party would understand. (Remember, you cannot describe a basic color in terms of another basic color, especially the primary colors.) The only thing one might need in addition to this is a modifier for dark and light shades. As I see it, this is the 'balance' between having 1 or 2 overly broad words for color, and a huge number of terms, like 'puce', 'putty', 'sandstone', etc.

As a television engineer, color is really important to me. More than you would think goes into making sure a TV camera faithfully reproduces the colors it is shooting. Engineers spend hours arguing over how to properly portray a color, and as a result, quite a number of standards for color are currently in use. Since a TV camera cannot exactly mimic the eye, you have to accept tradeoffs to cover a useful range of colors, without the camera generating colors that are not really there.


The wikipedia article on brown is actually rather interesting.
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Offline omängum fra'uti

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Re: "color"
« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2010, 10:15:13 pm »
Erm, I wasn't actually suggesting what colors Na'vi would have words for, I was merely pointing out that most of our varied selection of names for colors are purely analogies that through use have become accepted as colors, not actually color words in their own right.
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Offline Mirri

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Re: "color"
« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2010, 07:23:32 am »
Omängum Fra'uti first lists red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet-- the spectral colors we are all taught. These are light colors, and therefore additive. I think that indigo is too close to either blue or violet, and was probably added to make 'Roy G. Biv' work. So lets discard it.
I was about to say. Indigo is not a rainbow color, it was originally a dye from India :)



I do agree with you that most of our color words are related to description of objects. I talked to an artist friend of mine who says it's true that mainstream English didn't have a lot of color words until recently, but artists did because they needed to be able to specify these things. Back then most guys ground their own pigment and mixed their own paint, so it was named after what was in it.

It took a long time before people were able to mix colors that weren't clearly defined, like on the spectrum Prrton showed where one white looks just like the next one. Then marketing departments of those companies started looking for new names. Some were purely PR like "modern pink", others were similies "cornflour blue". There's also the infamous "avocado" or "mint cream", "lipstick red", words that were supposed to sound appealing.
Then there's the organic stuff, "Lincoln green" was the color they used in Lincoln for their cloth. "British racing green", "fire engine red" are other colors that were named after where they were used.

Nowadays these companies do their utmost to contribute to total madness by trademarking all their color names, so the same color has different names, depending on the brand of paint.


Also I seemed to recall this topic being mentioned on QI once, so I grabbed my "Book of general ignorance" and lo and behold!
I'll summarize:

    
The sky in ancient Greece was not blue, but bronze. There is no word for blue in ancient Greek.
(They used this word for copper too, which makes sense to me because it turns blue verdigris when it corrodes.)

    
The nearest words "glaukos" and "kyanos" are more expressions of the relative intensity of light and darkness than attempts to describe color.
Homer mentions only four actual colors in the whole of the Iliad and Odyssey, roughly translated as "black", "white", "greenish yellow" (applied to honey, sap, and blood), and "purply red".

When Homer calls the sky "bronze" he means that it is dazzlingly bright, like the sheen of a shield, rather than "bronze-colored". Likewise he regarded wine, the sea, and sheep as all being the same color "purply red".

Aristotle identified seven shades of color, all of which he thought derived from black and white, but these were really grades of brightness, not color.

In the wake of Darwin it was postulated that the early Greeks' retinas had not evolved the ability to perceive colors, but it is now thought that they simply grouped objects in terms of qualities other than color, so that a word which seems to indicate "yellow" or "light green" really means fluid, fresh and living, and so was appropriately used to describe blood, the human sap.

There are more languages in Papua New Guinea than anywhere else in the world but, apart from distinguishing between light and dark, many of them have no other words for color at all.

Classical Welsh has no words for "brown", "grey", "blue" or "green". Their color spectrum was divided differently. One word "glas" covered part of green; another word the rest of green, the whole of blue and part of grey; a third word the rest of grey and most of brown. Modern Welsh now uses the word "glas" to mean blue.

Russian has no single word for "blue", it has two "goluboi" and "sinii", usually translated as "light blue" and "dark blue", but to Russians they are distinct, different colors, not different shades of the same color.

All languages develop their color terms in the same way. After black and white, the third color to be named is always red, the fourth and fifth are green and yellow (in either order), the sixth is blue and the seventh brown. Welsh still doesn't have a word for brown.

What strikes me as interesting is that these languages did not see light as having a color. All the color words have to do with paint or surfaces (objects).
I can imagine it wasn't until the invention of televisions that we needed to know light could have different colors.
Even stained glass windows on churches would be considered paint, because it really was just a thin layer of paint that made the light change color.

In addition to the colors, English has words like "gloss", "satin" and "matte" to describe reflective qualities of light (texture). There's also funky stuff like pearlescent and iridescent and opalescent and metallic and other ways of 'displaying' colors.

There's also shades of each color. English has "light", "dark", "medium" and "pastel" (pale), for instance.

Even the modern discussion of what color is gets more muddy when you try to define it, for instance in my digital art programs there's five different ways of defining a color. Some use hues and saturations, others RGB or CMYK. Some are palettes, some are mixers, some are gradients.
All these traditional methods of defining color all depend on whether you're trying to make digital art, print, paint, ink, etc.

Add to this the fact that the human eye perceives color as contrasts to the colors surrounding it, rather than an absolute value (nicely demonstrated by the chessboard optical illusion) and it all gets really confusing!
« Last Edit: April 05, 2010, 07:36:45 am by Mirri »
Ngaya poanìl new mune 'uti: hrrap sì uvan. Talun poanìl new ayfoeti -- ayfo lu lehrrap ayu leuvan.

 

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