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In his blustery speech to parliament, Prime Minister Yusuf struck out on an odd tangent to praise China as an "all-weather friend".

What's the meaning of a phrase "strike out an odd tangent"?

I googled it yet I couldn't find any useful information.

closed as off-topic by Hot Licks, Mari-Lou A, choster, tchrist, TimLymington Oct 26 '15 at 13:38

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  • You missed an "on" – mplungjan Oct 23 '15 at 8:46
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    Look up "tangent". What does it mean? – Hot Licks Oct 23 '15 at 8:48
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In a speech, a lesson, or conversation, a tangent is a sudden shift in thought that seems almost unrelated to the rest of the talk. From NOAD:

tangent (n.) figurative a completely different line of thought or action

So, in this case, an odd tangent would be the same as a peculiar aside. It's something that had the audience wondering, "Where is this coming from?"

This usage of the phrasal verb strike out is a bit trickier. Collins says:

strike out (v.) to start out or begin

So the phrase simply means he started talking praising China, and the audience (or this author, at least) didn't think that it fit too well with the rest of his speech.

I can see why you'd have trouble finding this if you Googled the whole phrase. The phasal verb strike out has other meanings, too, some of which are much more prominent, especially this time of year.

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Tangent means:

An abrupt change of course : digression

"The speaker went off on a tangent."

[Merriam-Webster]

In Wiktionary:

A topic nearly unrelated to the main topic, but having a point in common with it.

"I believe we went off onto a tangent when we started talking about monkeys on unicycles at his retirement party."

In the sentence, praising China as an "all-weather friend" was not related to the main topic and it felt strange.

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  1. to go off on a tangent

    to ​suddenly ​start ​talking or ​thinking about a ​completely new ​subject Cambridge

  2. odd - strange

  3. struck out

    started doing something new, independently of other ​peopleCambridge

So he suddenly did something new and strange by calling China "All weather friend"

Complete quote:

Pakistan seems keen to foster the impression that new tensions with America might nudge it even closer towards China. In his blustery speech to parliament on May 9th Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani struck out on an odd tangent to praise China as an "all-weather friend", providing Pakistan with strength and inspiration.

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This expression is derived from geometry, in which a tangent is a line that intersects a circle at exactly one point. Thus, a conversational tangent is a line of discussion that intersects the original topic at exactly one point, and is thus almost but not entirely unrelated to the original subject.

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