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A non sequitur (pronounced /ˌnɒnˈsiːkwɨtər or ˌnɒnˈsɛkwɨtər/) is a conversational and literary device, often used for comedic purposes. It is a comment which, due to its apparent lack of meaning relative to what it follows,[1] seems absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing, as in the following exchange:

Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Fish.

The use of non sequitur in humor can be deliberate or unintentional. Literally, the expression is Latin for "it does not follow."[2] In other literature, a non sequitur can denote an abrupt, illogical, unexpected or absurd turn of plot or dialogue not normally associated with or appropriate to that preceding it. It is a type of logical fallacy.

A joke which relies on non sequitur commonly goes as follows:

Q: Why did the boy fall off his bike? A: Because his mum threw a fridge at him.

The non sequitur can be understood as the converse of cliché. Traditional comedy and drama can depend on the ritualization and predictability of human emotional experiences, where the Theatre of the Absurd uses disjunction and unpredictability. The New Yorker magazine is popular for their use of non sequitur one-liners in their comics.

This use of the term is distinct from the non sequitur in logic, where it is a fallacy.

See also

References

  1. ^ The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. Oxford University Press, 2009.
  2. ^ Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary. http://mw1.m-w.com/dictionary/non%20sequitur

External links

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