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go off on a tangent

to suddenly start talking about a different subject


go off on a tangent = von einem Thema abkommen --- GOOGLE INDEX go off on a tangent: approximately 1,300,000 Google hits



The author often GOES OFF ON A TANGENT to interweave the woes of the family with flashes of the lives of those they meet.

(BBC News)

In my review of the HP TouchPad, which we published last night, I WENT OFF ON A TANGENT about the "touch-to-share" functionality Hewlett-Packard introduced with the TouchPad tablet and the Pre 3 smartphone.


Did you

go off on a tangent (British English, usually "fly off at a tangent")

- to suddenly start talking or thinking about a completely new subject

(Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

In trigonometry, a tangent refers to a line that touches a curve or surface at only one point. The term stems from the Latin "tangentem" (nominative - tangens), the present participle of "tangere", meaning to touch. It was first used by Danish mathematician Thomas Fincke in his 1583 work "Geomietria Rotundi".

It wasn't until the 19th century that tangent took on the figurative sense of being slightly connected with a subject. This also created the adjective "tangential", which means slightly connected or only superficially relevant. Out of these senses the expression "go off on a tangent" eventually evolved, which means to be not only slightly related, but to diverge completely, such as from a topic being discussed.

To see how "going off on a tangent" really works, visit the Hyde Park speakers corner, where in addition to "serious" social and political discourse, some people veer from one subject to another during very long and often entertaining speeches. It's free speech at its best.

At the other end of the spectrum is the United Nations, where from time to time international politicians and diplomats engage in discussions and speeches that can go off on a completely different tangent. Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi once gave a one and a half hour speech in which he called on the U.S. and the UK to shell out $7 billion as compensation for African colonialism, wondered if swine flu was created in a laboratory, demanded to know who was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy and then encouraged the delegates in the audience to get more sleep to combat their jet lag.


veer from a subject, deviate, take a side excursion, ramble on

SMUGGLE OWAD into today's conversation

"If you go off on a tangent during a presentation, your audience will lose interest, so stay on topic."

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