Non sequitur (literary device)

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A non sequitur (English: /nɒnˈsɛkwɪtər/ non SEK-wit-ər, Classical Latin:  [noːn ˈsɛkᶣɪtʊr] ; "it does not follow") is a conversational literary device, often used for comedic purposes. It is something said that, because of its apparent lack of meaning relative to what preceded it, [1] seems absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing. This use of the term is distinct from the non sequitur in logic, where it is a fallacy. [2]



The expression is Latin for "it does not follow". [3] It comes from the words non meaning "not" and sequi meaning "follows". [4]


A non sequitur can denote an abrupt, illogical, or unexpected turn in plot or dialogue by including a relatively inappropriate change in manner. A non sequitur joke sincerely has no explanation, but it reflects the idiosyncrasies, mental frames and alternative world of the particular comic persona. [5]

Comic artist Gary Larson's The Far Side cartoons are known for what Larson calls "...absurd, almost non sequitur animal" characters, such as talking cows, which he uses to create a "...weird, zany, ...bizarre, odd, strange" effect; in one strip, "two cows in a field gaze toward burning Chicago, saying 'It seems that agent 6373 had accomplished her mission.'" [6]

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  1. The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. Oxford University Press, 2009.
  2. "Non Sequitur - Examples and Definition of Non Sequitur". Literary Devices. 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2021-08-31.
  3. Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary. Archived 2012-02-18 at the Wayback Machine
  4. "Definition of NON SEQUITUR". Retrieved 2021-08-31.
  5. Chambers, Robert (2010). Parody: The Art that Plays with Art. Peter Lang Publishers. p. 75. ISBN   978-1433108693 . Retrieved 2014-09-17. Along with a rhythmic pattern, these jokes, however absurd they may be, build dual frames of reference, if not alternative worlds entirely reflecting the idiosyncrasies of the individual stand-up artist.
  6. Harrington, Richard (16 June 1983). "The Bizarre Side". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 August 2020.