non sequitur

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Alternative forms




Learned borrowing from Latin phrase nōn sequitur (it does not follow).




Examples (logical fallacy)
  • “All ravens are black; this object is black; therefore, this object is a raven.”
Examples (humor)
  • “Take my wife – please.” (Henny Youngman)
  • “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.” (Dorothy Parker)
  • “A fool and his money are soon partying.” (Steven Wright)

non sequitur (plural non sequiturs or non sequuntur)

  1. (narratology) Any abrupt and inexplicable transition or occurrence.
    Having a costumed superhero abduct the vicar was an utter non sequitur in the novel.
    • 1980 May 13, Anatole Broyard, “Books of The Times”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      Non sequiturs, gratuitous acts, frustrating ellipses, ambiguities, a dearth of emotion: Miss [Lillian] Hellman avails herself of all these current techniques in telling a story that she keeps telling us may not be a story at all.
  2. (logic) Any invalid argument in which the conclusion cannot be logically deduced from the premises.
    Synonym: fallacy
    Antonym: sequitur
  3. A statement that does not logically follow a statement that came before it.
    • 2012 August 5, Nathan Rabin, “TV: Review: THE SIMPSONS (CLASSIC): “I Love Lisa” (season 4, episode 15; originally aired 02/11/1993)”, in AV Club[2]:
      Ralph Wiggum is generally employed as a bottomless fount of glorious non sequiturs, but in “I Love Lisa” he stands in for every oblivious chump who ever deluded himself into thinking that with persistence, determination, and a pure heart he can win the girl of his dreams.
  4. (humor) A kind of pun that uses a change of word, subject, or meaning to make a joke of the listener’s expectation.
    Coordinate term: paraprosdokian

Usage notes

  • In sense “abrupt transition”, contrast with segue (move smoothly from one subject to another), which is etymologically opposite (“does not follow” vs. “follow”). However, segue has connotations of moving between distinct subjects, and thus to segue often means to change rather abruptly, with at best a pretense of smooth transition – in both cases there is often a rapid move between distinct subjects, with the distinction being whether this is done smoothly or not.

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Further reading