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Hazel: [goes on a rant, asking Death why the universe isn't fair, while apologizing for being a stupid mortal]
Death: They aren't stupid questions, but they could just as well be "When is purple?" or "Why does Thursday?" if you see what I mean.
Hazel: Not really.

In some works, the lines separating time and space and color and various other abstract concepts sometimes get blurred. This can be done for many reasons, ranging from Faux Symbolism to actual symbolism and from portraying a character as deep and wise to portraying him as weird or outright psychotic.

See also Ice-Cream Koan. Not to be confused with Tastes Like Purple, where it's about the senses getting mixed up rather than metaphors or reality itself twisting beyond comprehension.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Death Note: One of the rules of the Death Note states "When humans die, the place they go to is Mu (nothing)". "Mu" is a peculiar term in Japanese that doesn't exactly mean "nothing", but rather it means that the question or statement doesn't make logical sense. In other words, the very idea of a "place" humans go to after death is nonsense: there is no afterlife, just oblivion.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Sandman spin-off Death: The Time of Your Life, Death uses this in her attempts to explain that certain "deep" questions, such as why the universe isn't fair, rest on an underlying misconception. (Fair for whom? Fair by what metric?)


  • There's a minor recurring joke in the Discworld books about this. The Disc rests on the back of four elephants, which are standing on the back of a giant sea turtle. This sometimes leads to people wondering, "What does the turtle stand on?" which the narration explains is a question that makes about as much sense as asking what sound the colour yellow makes.*
  • Pointing this out is a MAJOR part of some of C. S. Lewis' debates on certain theological questions, esp. the "Can God create a boulder so big he couldn't lift it" are questions like this. His argument is that just because you can fiddle with the meaning of words, doesn't mean what is true becomes untrue.
  • One particularly famous example appears in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when the computer "Deep Thought" concludes that the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is... the number 42. It was at this point that Deep Thought's creators realised they didn't know what the Ultimate Question was.

  • Captain Beefheart was very fond of this trope in both songs and interviews. A prime example is in "Tropical Hot Dog Night", when he describes this event as being "Like stepping out of a triangle into striped light".
  • In the Blutengel song "Leave the Day", the first line of the lyrics goes, "This is the night, where all your dreams come true." It is surely no mistake that they sing "where" rather than "when". They are talking about "night" as a metaphorical concept rather than the time between evening and morning.
  • Joy Electric: "I want to stay with you forever, / forever is a place", from the song "Forever is a Place".
  • On "What Time is Love?", The KLF wonder exactly that. This gets a Call-Back on the last track of The White Room: "They're justified and they're ancient, / and they know what time is love."
  • The title track to Chris Rice's album "Smell the Color 9" uses the inherent impossibility of the concept as a metaphor for the difficulties of keeping faith when no evidence is available to support it.
  • This trope applies to many of the lyrics written by Jon Anderson of Yes. A prime example is "I Would Have Waited Forever," from the album Union: "So in between the perfect flame flame of you, love will never let you down." The song "Close to the Edge," from the album of the same-name, takes the cake, though, with lines like "A seasoned witch could pull you from the depths of your disgrace and rearrange your liver to the solid mental gracenote " and "Then according to the man who showed his outstretched arm to space, he turned and pointed, revealing all the human race."
  • Neutral Milk Hotel: In the song "Two-Headed Boy, Part 2", Jeff Mangum gets to belting about God being a place: "When we break / We'll wait for our miracle / God is a place where you'll wait for the rest of your life."
  • Near the beginning of the song "The Devil's Dance Floor" by Flogging Molly is the line "The colour of her eyes / Were the colour of insanity."
  • They Might Be Giants' "Experimental Film" touches on "the color of infinity inside an empty glass".
  • Neil Young gets away with this almost literally in "I Am A Child"; ''What is the colour when black is burned... what is the colour?"
  • Teddy Pendergrass asks, "What is the Color of Love? Is it warm, is it tender..."
  • The T-shirt slogan "On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your favorite color of the alphabet?"

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Module WG7 Castle Greyhawk: In one level of the dungeon, the PCs can meet a philosopher who asks questions like, "Why is up?" and "Sideways: fact or fiction?"
    • Spelljammer introduced astrosphinxes, insane and murderous creatures with heads resembling goat skulls. They go around asking "riddles" such as "What's the speed of down?" or "How loud is blue?" and blasting anything that can't answer with Chain Lightning. On the other hand, there's a 1% chance that an astrosphinx will perceive a similarly-insane response as a valid answer, causing the creature to explode in a burst of electricity.

    Video Games 
  • Referenced in Skyrim; if you ask the Arcane University's librarian who wrote the Elder Scrolls, he replies that it would take him some time to explain why that question doesn't make sense.
  • The rachni in Mass Effect talk about their hive-mind-speak by mixing taste, color, and song, such as describing the mind-rape of one of their queens as causing her to sing with a "sour yellow note".
  • The sap produced by the Sinister Sprout in Fallen London is described as tasting somewhat like pineapple, and somewhat like your mind being consumed by the endless depths of the earth.

  • Gunnerkrigg Court: In the first City Face interlude, we find that fairies perceive time and space differently from how we do:
    Mustard Seed: Where will you be back?
    Polo: Right here. See you in an inch!
  • One Penny Arcade strip presents a conundrum: Gabe cannot remember his password for some thing or other, and he's left himself the nigh-incomprehensible "what is delicious" as a hint. Tycho is stumped; what, in fact, is delicious? The concept of delicious? But Gabe left off the question mark. Perhaps it's a statement. Perhaps what, itself, is delicio -
  • In Skin Horse, when the Black Helicopter piloted by a Brain in a Jar is asked whether is dead he answers 'mu' (see Buddhism below).
  • In Freefall, Florence once tested a couple of robots for sapience by asking them "What does my name smell like?" One of them declared the question to be nonsense and ignored it. The other reasoned that since he didn't have olfactory senses and Florence did, names might actually have a scent to her, proving that he could consider alternate opinions and perspectives.

    Web Original 
  • 4chan gave us the infamous Translation Train Wreck "Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?" So far, still no conclusion on what it was supposed to say, though one likely candidate in context (they were discussing The Conduit) would be "Has anyone else really decided to go that far in wanting to be more like?"—that is, "Has any other company gone this far to make a game look realistic?"
  • Ars Technica has described the original Microsoft Surface laptop as a "giant wad of glue, fabric, spot-welds and hate".

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons naturally has an example.
    Lisa: Have you got any fruit?
    Homer: This has purple stuff inside. Purple is a fruit.
  • The Venture Bros.: It turns out erasing someone's memory too often can cause them to think like this.
    Col. Gathers: Wipe their pink little minds and send them back home, like I told you.
    Brock: They discover us every other week. I can’t keep doing that, it's starting to make them buggy. Listen to this. Dean, what day is today?
    Dean: Sagittarius.
    Brock: [slowly] Good! Now Hank, what color is my tongue?
    Hank: It’s kind of... Wednesday! Like a light Wednesday.

    Real Life 
  • The Buddha, when asked about whether God existed or not, said that the question was as relevant as asking about the number of stars in the sky, leaves in the forest or grains of sand on a beach. Of course, a Constantly Curious child may ask that too.
    • Of course, nowadays, we have fairly good estimates of number of the stars in the sky (visible or not), the leaves in a forest, and the grains of sand on a beach.
      • And all while all three are theoretically hard numbers, the numbers are actually changing all the time due to constant creation/destruction of the individual items. When does a bud become classified as a leaf? When does a fallen or damaged leaf become disintegrated enough to no longer be one? When does an individual grain of sand stop being on the beach and start being in the sea instead? The exact answer depends on what your views or parameters are, and even then the answer changes as time passes.
    • There is in fact a concept to describe this, called mu. Basically it's a strange hybrid of the Mathematician's Answer and a Flat "What", and it means that a question is too fundamentally flawed to answer. It can also be translated as "null", "not applicable", "framework unsuitable, refer to next level", "question or answer out of the boundaries of the system", "not even wrong", or other paraphrases.
  • A short anti-joke from Germany goes like this: "At night it's colder than inside."