I'm also finding it hard to describe the concept succinctly, which might mean that it's not well-formed, but I'll give it a shot anyway.

The concept I'm trying to put a word to is the rhetorical technique where a monologue starts on one subject, perhaps a subject that's already reasonable or agreed-upon to the listener, and, through a series of perfectly natural related tangents, somehow connects to a disparate assertion, especially when the goal is to convince the listener of that assertion. It sort of reminds me of the word game where you take one word, replace a letter to get another valid English word, and repeat this process until you get a different word, like COLD -> CORD -> WORD -> WARD -> WARM. Ideally, I'd like to find the verb or verb phrase form of this (something defined roughly like "moving rhetorically from point A to point B using natural extensions or tangents of previous subjects").

Taken to the level of parody, you might get The DaColbert Code or Fat Tony's bread analogy. Hamfisted attempts at this happen all the time in commercials, with monologues like "At $COMPANY, we know that what's important to you is $VALUE. That's why we're $PROMOTION."

Something like 'conjoin', 'conflate', 'imply', 'free associate', none of these seem to work quite correctly. The ideas I'm trying to express in this term include both the disparity of the beginning and end subjects and yet the overall lack of 'seam' or 'break' in the conversation -- each step is a natural outcropping of the previous part of the conversation. I would call this 'deploying a Ship of Theseus argument' but my understanding of the term is that a Ship of Theseus argument is an inflammatory accusation that deceptively redefines most or all of the words in that accusation to attempt to vilify benign behaviour; by contrast, all of the steps are sequential and out in the open, and the goal is not (necessarily) to deceive.

EDIT 2023 JAN 30: In reading the comments and attempts at answers, I'm going to try and refine my question a little. I think the 'starting from a premise intended to be acceptable by all parties' is an important part of the term I'm searching for (and the connections definitely aren't tangents or nonsequiturs, but logically or conceptually connected in some way).

I placed a comment about this below, but for clarity's sake, the commercial monologue example attempts to find a value that the audience will have and then bridge the state of having that value towards a conclusion that on its face doesn't seem to have anything to do with that value. So a commercial could argue that $COMPANY knows you value family, and that's why they made $PRODUCT, which is so convenient that it will give you more time to spend with your family. "Buying a product" does not itself have anything to do with valuing family, but each step in the argument (buying a product -> convenience -> having additional free time -> spending more time with family -> valuing family) connects logically with the last, and the argument ultimately argues that it would be an alignment with your values to buy the product.

To be clear, this argument does not need to start on a value, but frequently does (the Fat Tony argument starts on an ethical question, for example, and a statement of fact would also be fine). The answer below about chain arguments is the closest so far, but seems to miss the part about starting at a place the audience would agree with.

In trying to describe this, I'm hoping I'm not just trying to define the entire topic of persuasive argument. o3o I think I'm aiming narrower than that.

  • 1
    Not totally sure what you're getting at, but you could try googling "free association" or "stream of consciousness". Or possibly Rambling Old Man Monologue: "I needed a new heel for m'shoe. So I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. 'Gimme five bees for a quarter,' you'd say..."
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 13:00
  • This resembles the 'Six degrees of separation' postulate [Wikipedia], but as far as I know the term has only been applied to human relationships. Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 15:18
  • So far, your question is not clear. If it is described as 'rhetorical', then there has to be a notional theme or topic or proposal/proposition being argued for or against. How exactly, then, can your condition be fulfilled? Do you have in mind an argument that is not dishonest? If so, it is a familiar trick of political rhetoric to defend a policy or criticism by changing the subject. It's called 'evasion'. But I think you must have something more than that in mind. Can you give a more specific example for the procedure you have in mind, please?
    – Tuffy
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 17:33
  • cascading meaning: "each step is a natural outcropping of the previous part of the conversation".
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 19:14
  • @Tuffy The commercial monologue example tried to be a kind of template of what you're asking. An example might plug in something like, I don't know, "family" as the value, and some kind of convenience as the promotion, using the argument that the convenience of having the product in your life will give you more time for your family. The act of buying products has nothing on its face to do with valuing family, but each step in the argument logically connects to the last in order to bridge the two ideas. (While I find this argument distasteful, it's not necessarily dishonest.)
    – Glire
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 22:30

4 Answers 4


You're chaining the assertions together, one to the next. The rhetorical technique is referred to as chain arguments.

  • @BasicalyaForiegnArgeument Sounds similar, although I'm more familiar with the term chain argument
    – Gnawme
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 17:17

You could call this a non sequitur, defined by The Free Dictionary as:

A statement that does not follow logically from what preceded it.

Or more generally as:

a statement having little or no relevance to what preceded it

  • Except that the process is described as "through a series of perfectly natural related tangents; all of the steps are sequential", so none of them are non-sequiturs.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 13:46

This may fall under circumstantial speech where the speaker takes a circuitous route to the point of the conversation otherwise tangential speech may be more apt in situations where there is no defined target for the close of the conversation.


The style of arguement/discussion is known as "rambling" or "unfocused.


Rambling: 2.a. Of speech, writing, etc.: unstructured, aimless, incoherent; straying from one subject to another.

1713 R. Steele Guardian No. 34. 1 The conversation..was so very rambling that it is hard to say what was talked of.

unfocused, adj.1. Characterized by a lack of direction or focus.

1943 A. Rand Fountainhead i. viii. 101 Your work. Very interesting. But not practical. Not mature. Unfocused and undisciplined.

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