No doubt the train of thought of every
passenger aboard that train was derailed.
When one character becomes so sidetracked by one train of thought that he completely forgets about the original topic.
Characters prone to this include the Cloud Cuckoo Lander
and The Ditz
. The Only Sane Man
(who is often subject to this) can respond with a facepalm, some form of internal monologue expressing his disbelief, or an attempt to remind the invoker of this trope what they were talking about in the first place. Occasionally, the subject material brought up in the Derailed Train of Thought
can result in the recipient receiving Too Much Information
. Responses may include the Spit Take
, and for added humor, the invoker of the Derailed Train of Thought
may remain unaware of the reaction he/she has caused.
Sometimes, the invoker of this trope may not be a Cloud Cuckoo Lander
, but is extremely embarrassed and, as such, wants to turn the subject to something different. Or it could be a Cloud Cuckoo Lander
who also happens to be extremely embarrassed.
Compare also with Non Sequitur
, in which it is heavily implied that the character should
be discussing one thing, but one of them goes completely against those expectations. In this trope, it is made clear by an initial statement what the conversation is about, and then one character turns the topic to something completely different. Observe:
In Non Sequitur
(taken from their page):
What we need is some way to stay in contact over long distances. Some sort of communication or "telephonic" device which is "mobile"... Of course! That's it! We'll train messenger pigeons!
In Derailed Train of Thought
Alice: We'll need something to stay in contact over long distances. I think a cell phone should work, how about you?
Bob: That would work. Say, have you ever thought about how a cell phone and a cell could be related? Maybe the cells in our body have little cell phones implanted in their DNA. Speaking about DNA, have you...
Notice that in the second example, Alice specifically stated that they were going to talk about cell phones,
whereas in the first, it was merely implied.
Related to Wiki Walk
and Seinfeldian Conversation
, in which the conversation is pointless but not necessarily unrelated.
Anime and Manga
- Azumanga Daioh: Osaka, Cloud Cuckoo Lander extraordinaire, does this at least once, with a discussion on japanese characters that starts with hemorrhoids and goes on to the proper way to write kanji, and then to sea life.
- In the Bleach anime, Orihime manages to produce the epic Leekspin meme in an Epic Tangent resulting from a crash-in with Ichigo in their school hallway. He asks if she's okay, this results from her embarrassment of bumping into him.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed would rather recite the periodic table than talk about his potential love for Winry.
- Everyone who tries to talk to Isaac and Miria. Everyone.
Live Action TV
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin often goes off into these. Watterson, apparently, based Calvin's tangents off of his own wife.
- In Seinfeld, George's boss, Mr. Steinbrener, always gets sidetracked by one thing or another when George tries to talk to him.
- The Doctor, on Doctor Who.
This is my timey-wimey detector. It goes ding when there's stuff. Also, it can boil an egg at thirty paces... whether you want it to or not, actually, so I've learned to stay away from hens. It's not pretty when they blow.
- The Swedish comedy show Hipp Hipp had Melodikrysset, a musical crossword aired on radio, wherein the host would play a song and then explain whet you were supposed to write. After playing In the summertime the explanation is as follows.
:That was In the summertime by Mumbo Jerry and it's about the summer, in the summer people like having ice-cream. Personally I'm fond of 88:an. 88:an has crushed nuts in it so therefore Pungspark
goes on vertical no. 13.
- The Newsroom features this regularly, most notably when a meeting where a discussion regarding the possibility of American troops having committed a war crime segues into a long discussion about whether Santa Claus has eight or nine reindeer.
- The Monty Python's Flying Circus episode "Erizabeth L" has a police inspector (from the Film Fraud Division) who's apparently incapable of arresting a dangerous criminal who's impersonating famous directors without digressing into a lengthy biography of the director in question.
- Sophia did this practically every time she told a Sicily story on The Golden Girls. She'd get off on a tangent, then say "But I digress."
- According to the man himself, author Peter David is so prone to doing this that he called his column in Comics Buyer's Guide "But I Digress..." as a lampshading of it.