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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.
fly off at a tangent
To begin addressing or discussing a topic that is different than or not relevant to the main discussion. I tried to address the customer's problem, but she kept flying off at a tangent and I couldn't understand what her true complaint was. In the middle of our conversation about my finances, my advisor flew off at a tangent about current events.
go (off) on a tangent
To begin addressing or discussing 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.
1. Of an explosive device, to explode. Run! The bomb in the building could go off at any moment!
2. Of an alarm, to enter into an active state, typically resulting in a loud noise or other indication. The whole building had to evacuate because the smoke alarm went off. The silent alarm went off at the bank, we'd better check it out.
3. To depart. If you want Mom to get something for you, you better talk to her before she goes off to the store.
4. To stop functioning. You better go look for coffee in another department—our pot went off before it was finished brewing. The power went off hours ago—what's taking them so long to get it back on?
5. To happen. Considering all the problems we had beforehand, it's amazing that our party went off so well!
6. To expire, as of food or drink. "Off" in this usage means spoiled or rotten. Don't eat those leftovers—they're a week old and have definitely gone off.
7. To stop taking a medication, which is stated after "off." Didn't the doctor tell you that you have to go off a medication like this gradually?
8. To become very angry and hostile, often unexpectedly. The boss just came into my office and went off on me for no apparent reason. Every time I bring up that topic, he just goes off.
9. To talk about something at length. Grandpa went off on politics for so long that our dinner got cold.
10. To die. At Christmastime, I really miss the relatives who have gone off before us.
11. slang To orgasm. I don't think I'll sleep with him again—I didn't go off the last time.
go off at a tangent
To begin addressing or discussing a topic or topics not relevant to the main discussion. I tried to address the customer's problem, but she kept going off at a tangent and I couldn't understand what her true complaint was. In the middle of our conversation about my finances, my advisor went off at a tangent about current events.
off at a tangent
On a course of discussion that is irrelevant or divergent from the topic at hand. Primarily heard in UK. If we keep going off at a tangent, we'll never get through this meeting. It's impossible to get through a conversation with my mother because she's always going off at a tangent.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
1. Lit. [for an explosive device] to explode. The fireworks all went off as scheduled. The bomb went off and did a lot of damage.
2. Lit. [for a sound-creating device] to make its noise. The alarm went off at six o'clock. The siren goes off at noon every day.
3. Fig. [for an event] to happen or take place. The party went off as planned. Did your medical examination go off as well as you had hoped?
(by oneself) to go into seclusion; to isolate oneself. She went off by herself where no one could find her. I have to go off and think about this.
(into something) to go away to something; to depart and go into something. He went off into the army. Do you expect me just to go off into the world and make a living?
go off on a tangent
Fig. to pursue a somewhat related or irrelevant course while neglecting the main subject. Don't go off on a tangent. Stick to your job. Just as we started talking, Henry went off on a tangent about the high cost of living.
go off (with someone)
to go away with someone. Tom just now went off with Maggie. I think that Maria went off with Fred somewhere.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Explode, detonate; also, make noise, sound, especially abruptly. For example, I heard the gun go off, or The sirens went off at noon. This expression developed in the late 1500s and gave rise about 1700 to the related go off half-cocked, now meaning "to act prematurely" but originally referring to the slipping of a gun's hammer so that the gun fires (goes off) unexpectedly.
2. Leave, depart, especially suddenly, as in Don't go off mad, or They went off without saying goodbye. [c. 1600]
3. Keep to the expected plan or course of events, succeed, as in The project went off smoothly. [Second half of 1700s]
4. Deteriorate in quality, as in This milk seems to have gone off. [Late 1600s]
5. Die. Shakespeare used this sense in Macbeth (5:9): "I would the friends we missed were safely arrived.-Some must go off."
6. Experience orgasm. D.H. Lawrence used this slangy sense in Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928): "You couldn't go off at the same time...." This usage is probably rare today. Also see get off, def. 8.
7. go off on a tangent. See under on a tangent.
8. go off one's head. See off one's head. Also see subsequent idioms beginning with go off.
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]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
go off on a tangentBRITISH, AMERICAN or
go off at a tangentBRITISH
1. If a person or piece of writing goes off on a tangent or goes off at a tangent, they start saying or thinking something that is not directly connected with what they were saying or thinking before. Our teacher would occasionally go off on a tangent totally unrelated to the textbook. Note: Other verbs are sometimes used instead of go. The humour is often a little forced and the book's theme wanders off on a tangent now and then.
2. If someone goes off on a tangent or goes off at a tangent, they start to behave in a completely different way from before or to do something completely different from what they were doing before. I suppose I was trying to conform, but then I went off on a tangent, moving to London to study drama. Note: In geometry, a tangent is a straight line which touches a curve at one point but does not cross it.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
go/fly off at a ˈtangent(British English) (American English go off on a ˈtangent) change suddenly from talking or thinking about one thing to talking or thinking about another: One moment the professor is working hard on a problem in physics, the next he’s gone off at a tangent and he’s talking about bees.
A tangent is a straight line that touches the outside of a curve but does not cross it.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
1. To go away: The children all went off to play at the park. Don't go off mad—let me explain!
2. To stop functioning. Used especially of electrical devices: The lights went off suddenly, and the performance began right away.
3. To occur, or be perceived as having occurred, in some particular manner: I think our party went off very well!
4. To adhere to the expected course of events or the expected plan: The project went off smoothly.
5. To stop taking some drug or medication: She went off painkillers a few weeks after the operation.
6. To make a noise; sound: The siren goes off every day at noon.
7. To undergo detonation; explode: If you push this red button, the bomb will go off.
8. go off on To begin to talk extensively about something: He went off on a series of excuses for his bad behavior.
9. go off on To berate someone directly and loudly: My boss really went off on me when she learned that I had forgotten to make the phone call.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.