Let's take this conversation:

Alice: What is a non sequitur?

Bob: A non sequitur is something said that, because of its apparent lack of meaning relative to what preceded it, seems absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing1. In Latin, it means "does not follow".

Alice: Oh, I get it, so if I said "It is lovely weather we are having." in a discussion about the thermodynamic properties of iron, that would count as a non sequitur, right?

Bob: Yes, because cake is very tasty.

Is the last sentence a non sequitur? After all, this is a discussion about non sequiturs, it does "follow" that someone will probably make one -- which makes it not really a non sequitur.

Or is it a matter of point of view? (To Alice, it is a non sequitur, but to me, a spectator, it isn't)

1 Copied from the Wikipedia page since I'm too lazy to write my own dialogue

  • This makes me think of use-mention distinction. I wonder if it applies here. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 30 '13 at 15:11
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    This is writing/lit crit. – MetaEd Jan 30 '13 at 15:34
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    My cat is the oldest! – bib Jan 30 '13 at 17:05
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    @bib: that's as may be, but the moon isn't made of green cheese, and many a muckle doesn't make a mickle! – FumbleFingers Jan 30 '13 at 18:47
  • Yes I think it still is. Alice: "can you give an example of a non-sequitur?" Bob: "Because cats have legs!" is closer to the hazy territory that you are going for. – luqui Jul 13 '14 at 10:40

Non-sequiturs make sense but are incongruous. They are defined by not referencing what has gone before. Bob's last words are nonsense, referencing what has gone before wrongly ('because').

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    I agree. A better example of a true non-sequitur response in this example would be, "The cake is very tasty." Even then, getting back to the original question, that could be construed as a non-sequitur remark, or as an example of a non-sequitur remark, it which case it wouldn't really be non-sequitur, because that was the original topic of the conversation. It all depends on Bob's purpose for and motivation behind that utterance. – J.R. Jan 30 '13 at 16:01

I would say yes, it's still a non-sequitur. It's perhaps less suprising because they were talking about non-sequiturs, but it still doesn't make sense in their conversation. Compare Bob's statement about cake to Alice's example about commenting on the weather. Alice's is on point, Bob's is completely off-topic.

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