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Inspired by this chat message (text is below), I have sometimes wondered if there is a word for the feeling that a person you were talking to about a particular subject was using the same words as you, but was actually talking about something else, or was leading into a very different and seemingly unrelated subject. Typically, you feel like the person is crazy by this point.

Is there a single word for this? Is there a two- or three-word phrase, maybe?


The chat message:

There should be a word for that double-take sensation you get when you realize the conversation is further down the rabbit hole than you thought. Like when you are having what you think is a normal chat about interest rates, or something, and the other person mentions that we're all controlled by lizards from space.

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1  
This situation is commonly called talking past each other. I'm not aware of a word specifically for the realization that you're doing it. –  Bradd Szonye Oct 15 '13 at 1:22
    
@BraddSzonye That is close, but I was thinking more along the lines that the person you are talking to is crazy too. –  fredsbend Oct 15 '13 at 1:33
    
Oh, you might want to write that into the question. It's a significant contextual detail. –  Bradd Szonye Oct 15 '13 at 1:33
    
@BraddSzonye Got it in there. I also added the text of the chat message. –  fredsbend Oct 15 '13 at 2:16
1  
Oh, so funny, laughed out loud. I'd call this 'misjudgement' because you assumed you were talking to someone rational and sane, who turned out to be the opposite, temporarily or otherwise. It's sometimes hard to tell, we naturally assume that others aren't bonkers. –  bamboo Oct 15 '13 at 11:25

5 Answers 5

be at cross-purposes

at cross-purposes:

If two or more people are at cross purposes, they do not understand each other because they are talking about different subjects without realizing this: I think we've been talking at cross purposes - I meant next year, not this year.

Catch the wrong pig by the ear

the porcine reference is unlikely to be flattering but might not land you in any trouble if the person is crazy and at cross-purposes the whole time.

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This is pretty darn close. +1 –  fredsbend Oct 15 '13 at 15:50

I think your question held your answer. I would just label that chat as crazy talk.

crazy talk

Talk that makes no sense at all. Talking outta your ass. Talking stupid.

"Man that guy over by the bar is talking straight up crazy talk."

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This certainly works, however, it just doesn't sound as cool as I was hoping. +1. –  fredsbend Oct 15 '13 at 15:51

I would say either something like a paradigm shift or maybe even an aha moment.

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That's really some food for thought. "Bewildered" comes to mind, "baffled", but it's kinda hard to describe the feeling of craziness of the other person.

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For a thing, "misinterpretation" is possible.

About persons, it would be "quid pro quo".

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Why would it be "quid pro quo"? That phrase related to favours or advantages, not about talking nonsense. "Quid pro quo" is more closely related to "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine". –  Matt Эллен Oct 15 '13 at 8:18
    
@Matt Эллен certainly not in British English, and from the etymology. I could say "sorry, I thought you were speaking of Lady Thatcher, not the Queen, it was a quid pro quo". My answer is in the scope of the question. –  ex-user2728 Oct 15 '13 at 8:38
    
Definitely in British English. It's the only English I know. Just look at the definition. Your example sentence doesn't make sense. –  Matt Эллен Oct 15 '13 at 9:01

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