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Is there an idiom/expression in English for changing the subject in a conversation (and if possible, in a sarcastic way)?

For example, there is an expression in Turkish: gelelim fasulyenin faydalarına. It can be translated as "let's get/come to the benefits of beans". It also has a sarcastic flavor in it.

It is used generally when you want to change the subject/topic in a conversation. There can be similar but slightly different connotations as well:

  • to change the topic where you think that the conversation is boring
  • to start a topic when everyone is silent or there is no substantial conversation
  • to change the topic to talk about the main/important subject (and this subject is usually important to you only)

It is not getting to the point or beginning to get serious. So the following expressions don't cut it:

  • let's get down to business
  • let's get down to brass tacks
  • let's get down to bedrock
  • let's get down to nitty gritty
  • let's get down to cases

Alternatives of the Turkish expression:

- gel gelelim fasulyenin faydalarına
- gelelim kuru fasulyenin faydalarına

  • 2
    Incidentally: is a word you use when you've got more to say on a topic or want to transition into a new subject. – user66974 Apr 20 '15 at 18:30
  • 5 Ways to (Subtly) Change the Topic of Conversation. realsimple.com/work-life/work-life-etiquette/sticky-situations/… – user66974 Apr 20 '15 at 18:43
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    Informally (IMO) one could use emphasised anyway and then continue with the intended subject. This seems to be most applicable when you want to get back to the main subject after a digression. – Lucky Apr 20 '15 at 18:48

11 Answers 11

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"Moving on!" is an idiomatic phrase used (at least here in the US) when a topic gets too touchy or if the conversation bogs down on a particular aspect of the subject and the wish is to keep it moving past that point.

  • Yep, this is quite common. – ermanen Apr 20 '15 at 19:59
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    "Moving swiftly on..." is an extended version that is used with some frequency in BrE in the same manner. – Sam Apr 21 '15 at 13:49
  • I like it @Sam, I think I'll have to adopt it! :-) – Kristina Lopez Apr 21 '15 at 14:03
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Let's move on to the price of eggs...

Not actually the price of eggs or anything related to it. Just a sarcastic phrase used in a conversation when one tends to gloat off the subject.

Urban Dictionary

This seems to coopt the sarcastic 20th century rejoinder, What's that got to do with the -- ?:

an idiom denoting an irrelevance or non sequitur in the current discussion.

A common form "what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?", is a retort to an irrelevant suggestion. This facetious usage implies that the topic under discussion might as well be the price of tea in China for all the relevance the speaker's suggestion bears on it...

  • In the United States, the phrase "What's that got to do with the price of eggs?"...
  • The British equivalent is "What's that got to do with the price of fish?" or "What's that got to do with the price of meat?"
  • A Scottish variation is "What's that got to do with the price of cheese?"...
  • and a Northern Irish variation is "What's that got to do with the price of a sausage?"

Wikipedia.org

The specific item can be altered for maximum comic or sarcastic effect.

  • 4
    Great suggestion! This expression is also using something edible :) – ermanen Apr 21 '15 at 1:49
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    I've always used 'What's that got to do with the price of fish?' It seems most common in English, at least in Northern England. – cmaughan Apr 21 '15 at 19:07
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A very common 1970s British catchphrase was And now for something completely different. It was a phrase used by the Monty Python's Flying Circus actors whenever they needed to make the transition from one oddball comedy sketch to the next.

I use this phrase today whenever I want to drastically change the topic, (sometimes out of boredom) it's intended to be lighthearted, and it's a signal to the listener(s) that the conversation will take a completely different turn.

And Now For Something Completely Different

a 1971 British comedy anthology film based on the television comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus featuring sketches from the first two series. The title was used as a catchphrase in the television show. The sketches were remade on film without an audience, and were intended for an American audience which had not yet seen the series. The announcer (John Cleese) appears briefly between some sketches to deliver the line "and now for something completely different", in situations such as being roasted on a spit and lying on top of the desk in a small, pink bikini.

It is also listed in the Oxford Treasury of Sayings and Quotations under the subtitle of Change

  • This is very similar and it has an interesting origin. – ermanen Apr 20 '15 at 19:52
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    I can't get the 2nd part of that phrase out of my head although it's been years since I watched Monty Python: "And now for something completely different....a man with three buttocks!" :-) – Kristina Lopez Apr 20 '15 at 19:58
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    'On a totally unrelated matter, ...' – Edwin Ashworth Apr 20 '15 at 22:31
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"...And, on THAT note..." (US)

  • The second answer in this question exactly explains it: english.stackexchange.com/questions/44506/… I really don't know what answer to choose now :) – ermanen Apr 20 '15 at 20:49
  • "Moving on..." (courtesy of Kristina) is probably what you'd say at a work meeting or in polite company. "And on that note..." is more casual (and slightly rude). – Oldbag Apr 20 '15 at 21:09
  • Similar to this answer, I also sometimes like, "...And in OTHER news..." – Alex Pritchard Apr 21 '15 at 18:35
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Aaaanyway...

This is quite common in UK English (possibly further afield too) when there is an awkward lull in the conversation, either just due to people running out of things to say (in which case it's said more naturally: "So, anyway...") or when someone has said something awkward, unfunny or inappropriate (in which case it can be more drawn out: "Aaannnywayyy..."). The more you draw it out, the more sarcastic it comes across.

It can also, as you requested, be used as an interruption if you're bored or want to change the subject to something more interesting to you personally. Doing this would be pretty rude in most normal social situations, but it could be just businesslike if done, for example, at a meeting as a way of getting the conversation back on topic to the purpose of the meeting.

Anyway... serves the following purposes:

  • either gets the conversation back on topic or moves it on to a new topic
  • makes light of the awkward pause, if there is one
  • lightly teases the person who created the awkward pause, if it was caused by something someone said

It can either be followed up with a change of topic, or just used as an indicator you want someone else to change the topic.

For example:

Alice: [talking about something]
Bob: [awkward joke]
awkward silence
Chris: Anyway...
tension breaks; maybe people laugh a bit
Alice: Yes, so, as I was saying...

Bob's awkward joke meant Alice wasn't sure whether to continue or not, and no-one was sure what to say next. Chris' Anyway... breaks the tension and lets Alice get back to what she was saying.

  • There is an equivalent for this in Turkish also: Neeeyse!. But it has a similar usage to the other phrase as you stated. – ermanen Apr 21 '15 at 14:18
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A snarky maneuver would be to say "Riiiiiiight...." and then jump into another topic.

  • Riiiiight!!! :) – ermanen Apr 20 '15 at 19:15
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Incidentally or by the way.

Incidentally is a word you use when you've got more to say on a topic or want to transition into a new subject.

  • Think of the word incidentally as a more formal way to say "by the way."

Incidentally: introducing a different topic; in point of fact.

(vocabulary.com)

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@Josh61, but I don't think the OP wants to be subtle! I think the goal is to be charming, but not discreet.

I've seen some good suggestions here. Here's another: So...how 'bout them Cowboys?

Here's a good explanation: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=So...how+%27bout+them+Cowboys%3F

The Cowboys are a sports team. Literally, the question means, "So, what do you think about the current level of play in this famous sports team?" Or "Aren't they something?"

  • Did the Phillies loose again? – Good A.M. Apr 21 '15 at 7:50
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A cute French idiom for this is “sauter/passer du coq à l'âne,” but its literal translation to English: “[Let’s] jump from the cock to the ass” would probably mean something quite different to most Anglophones (but I bet you’d at least get everyone’s attention with it)!

"Back" to the subject, although they’re probably not best known for changing the subject in the way you mention, I sometimes hear/use variations of “out of left field” and “all seriousness aside” to announce/make transitions in conversation:

“And now for something straight out of left field, what’s for lunch?”

"All seriousness aside, what’s for dinner?”

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When somebody says something too personal or revealing during a casual conversation among acquaintances or co-workers, I sometimes say "Well, thank you for sharing that."

And then I quickly segue to a new topic. Depending on the tone, it could come off as mildly polite or rather sarcastic.

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If the new subject is in some small or remote way related to the current subject or to something that was just mentioned, you can say "Not to go on a tangent, but..." to lead into the new subject. Alternate phrases with similar meaning include "By the way:...", "Speaking of which:...", and "That reminds me:...".

If you're looking for sarcasm, "Not to go on a tangent, but..." can be a subtly sarcastic way of suggesting that you want to change the subject. The less the new subject is related to the previous subject, the more apparent the sarcasm.

protected by tchrist Apr 25 '15 at 21:41

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