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Posted by Bruce Kahl on March 20, 2004

In Reply to: Tangent posted by Smokey Stover on March 20, 2004

: : : What does it mean to "Go off on a Tangent" or "Wild Tangent"? Please help.

: : When people are having a discussion and one is said "to go off on a tangent" it means that that person has deviated or diverged from the original purpose of the discussion.
: : It is mathematical in origin.

: The line that touches the straight one (in the diagram) but curves away after just touching it is called a "tangent" from the La**n "tangere," to touch. Christ said "Noli me tangere" (in the Vulgate), meaning "Don't touch me." Among the words derived from "tangere" is contingent. SS

Yes, the word tangential has numerous cousins: tax, contact, attain, intact, tact, taste, tangible, tactile. What's common in all is the idea of touching (or not, as in case of "intact").

(I had to edit out the "t" and "i" above as Google spiders this URL frequently and people start asking for translations which clogs things up)