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  1. #1
    Mad-ox's Avatar
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    Smile the meaning of "tangent"

    hi,

    What is the meaning of the word tangent in the following context:

    Each time our narrator verges on a new event, or we think that we are about to pick up the thread of a previous storyline, the text suddenly veers off on yet another tangent.



    Madox

  2. #2
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    Re: the meaning of "tangent"

    Imagine you're swinging something round your head. It's moving in a circle. Let go, and it flies off at a tangent. So, figuratively, a discussion or argument flies off at a tangent when it suddenly insists on following one (irrelevant) direction.

    (Sometimes it's used in a slightly different sense - moving away violently from one direction. But anyone who's aware of the root [tangere - Latin "to touch": a tangent is a straight line that touches a circle] might be tempted to smile inwardly at what classics teachers might regard as a "mistake"!)

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 16-Feb-2008 at 12:30. Reason: Fix typo

  3. #3
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    Re: the meaning of "tangent"

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Imagine you're swinging something round your head. It's moving in a circle. Let go, and it flies off at a tangent. So, figuratively, a discussion or argument flies off at a tangent when it suddenly insists on following one (irrelevant) direction.

    (Sometimes it's used in a slightly different sense - moving away violently from one direction. But anyone who's aware of the root [tangere - Latin "to touch": a tangent is a straight line that touches a circle] might be tempted to smile inwardly at what classics teachers might regard as a "mistake"!)

    b
    So, "the text suddenly veers off on yet another tangent." can have the meaning of the following: to suddenly start doing/discussing/relating/depicting about something completely different?

  4. #4
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    Re: the meaning of "tangent"

    Quote Originally Posted by Mad-ox View Post
    So, "the text suddenly veers off on yet another tangent." can have the meaning of the following: to suddenly start doing/discussing/relating/depicting about something completely different?
    Spot on!

    b

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