(off) on a tangent

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(off) on a tangent

Addressing a topic or topics not relevant to the main discussion. I tried to address the customer's problem, but she kept going off on a tangent and I couldn't understand what her true complaint was. In the middle of our conversation about my finances, my advisor went on a tangent about current events.
See also: on, tangent

on a tangent

On a sudden digression or change of course, as in The professor's hard to follow; he's always off on a tangent. This phrase often occurs in the idioms fly off or go off on a tangent , as in The witness was convincing until he went off on a tangent. This expression alludes to the geometric tangent-a line or curve that touches but does not intersect with another line or curve. [Second half of 1700s]
See also: on, tangent
References in periodicals archive ?
ROBBIE Williams has changed his tune after an extended rant against Britpop stars Suede and their frontman Brett Anderson - and has admitted he went "off on a tangent".
"I've always been the person who's gone off on a tangent, anyway," the artist says philosophically.
Two aspects are particularly noteworthy in Attractors, besides the rare pleasure of watching a work whose language you recognize and which yet surprises you at every richocheing leap and pitched body flying off on a tangent. One has to do with what looks like an increased use of silence and its kinetic equivalent, stasis.