Let's say Bob asks Alice a question. If Alice does not answer the question Bob is posing now, but the question he posed earlier - how is this delay expressed?

Both the words 'lag' and 'delay' seem inappropriate here, as they are much more specific about time, and not about the time when the question was asked.

  • 2
    I can't think of a word for it, but here's a classic example youtube.com/watch?v=y0C59pI_ypQ
    – djna
    May 29, 2018 at 13:09
  • 2
    I think you're making things difficult for yourself by supposing that words 'lag' and 'delay' are inappropriate because they're "much more specific about time". Both those terms (and probably others) can be used in contexts where actual "clock" times and durations are irrelevant (such as your context, where all that matters is the sequence). I know the collocation has specific technical connotations, but I'd be inclined to just say Alice and Bob are having an asynchronous conversation (where Alice's responses are "delayed" by one conversational "turn"); May 29, 2018 at 13:17
  • @FumbleFingers, it seems you've solved my problem by assuming I shouldn't search for alternative in the first place. Thank you. Still I think I should wait for complete answer if any.
    – yurimz
    May 29, 2018 at 14:05
  • I find it hard to believe Alice and Bob could actually have a "real time" interaction as described (if Alice's utterances really were "offset" like that, relative to the immediately-preceding utterance, she'd probably be of immense interest to neurologists and such, but it's hard to see how anyone could actually "converse" with her). But I do note that this is an inherent feature of what can happen with interactive text messaging (SMS, Whatsapp, web-based discussion forums) often ends up, so maybe there is a term for it. May 29, 2018 at 14:36
  • Alice did answer his previous question. She took her time answering his question.
    – Lambie
    May 29, 2018 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


If, for example, you're talking about a series of texts in which you respond to someone's first text, even though new texts have come in, and then you respond to the next text, even as the other person responds to your first text, well ... I don't think there is a name for it because it's so ubiquitous that it's normal. Example:

Alex: Hey, are you coming over to watch the game tonight?
Alex: By the way John says he can't make it, he's got the kids.
Alex: Oh and grab a six-pack on your way? I'm low.
Brad: I'll be there, but probably late. Who else is coming?
Alex: OK, that's fine, kickoff is at 6pm
Brad: Sorry about John, but family ya? What kind of beer?
Alex: Sam and Rick said they'd come by.
Brad: Oh man Rick?
Brad: Dude is gonna talk the whole game.
Alex: Whatever.
Brad: Whatever?
Alex: Whatever kind of beer you want.
Alex: Yeah about Rick but Sam is bringing him so what ya gonna do?
Brad: K see you later on.

I'd call this a disjointed conversation, in which the questions and responses are out of whack but nevertheless comprehensible.

Skewed is also possible, or jumbled, or discontinuous, in which questions and answers are flying all over the place.

A technical person might call it an asynchronous conversation (as FumbleFingers suggested) which is accurate, but I don't think that would be meaningful to the average person.

However I would not call it confused or incoherent (or many of the other synonyms of disjointed) because the participants mostly understand each other even though the responses don't match up with the previous texts.

(Edit) More formally we could define this as a lag between query and response, which you could call a delay of some number of conversational cycles. Anyone familiar with these terms (and how they relate to asynchronous communication) would easily understand what you mean.

  • I was looking for actual term to use in context with meaning "delay for two/ten iterations". As @FumbleFingers mentioned, such construction is totally valid. Would you mind mentioning it, so I can accept your answer?
    – yurimz
    Jun 1, 2018 at 9:00
  • @yurimz ok, done. Be aware that if you are writing a formal paper on this phenomenon, the literature might already have a formal term for it.
    – Andrew
    Jun 1, 2018 at 15:42

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