A couple years ago, I read this unintentionally amusing sentence in a newspaper.
The 25-year-old turned himself into the Hudson County Regional
Fatal Collision Unit at about 3:45 p.m. on Monday, Suarez said.
Wow, I thought to myself. That would be something to see.
The problem was the word into.
We do know that people are capable of changing themselves.
With plastic surgery and flexible ethics, a woman can turn herself into a big-bosomed porn actress.
With talent and hard work, high school drop-outs can turn themselves into famous overachievers like Quentin Tarantino and Aretha Franklin.
But, as for turning oneself into a Fatal Collision Unit? Never heard of it.
Into and In To
It is not difficult to see how the confusion arose.
In and to are both prepositions, and each requires a noun or pronoun as its object. And the word into is also a preposition
But in is flexible. Sometimes it is a descriptive word, an adverb.
Harvey dropped his test into his teacher’s in-box. (Preposition)
Harvey turned his test in to his teacher. (Descriptor and preposition)
Harvey turned his test into his teacher. (Ha ha ha)
You can see where I’m going here.
Just over two weeks ago, the recently notorious film executive began his legal journey as a criminal defendant.
Some of the headlines:
Harvey Weinstein charged with rape after turning himself into police
Harvey Weinstein turns himself into police
LIVE: Harvey Weinstein turns himself into police
Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has turned himself into police.
Harvey Weinstein turns himself into New York police
JUST IN: Weinstein turns himself into police
And here is the lede from a news story published by an outfit that I know for a fact employs trained journalists.
Embattled film mogul Harvey Weinstein was seen carrying two books with him when he turned himself into police on Friday morning in New York City on charges of rape and sexual assault.
I could go on — and on and on — but I believe I have made my point.
We all have seen television dramas in which an officer of the law describes herself or himself as “a police.” But when Weinstein appeared in the courtroom for his arraignment, he wasn’t a police; he was just the same old Harvey.
The into malaprop also figured prominently in April reports after UFC fighter Conor McGregor got his Irish up outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The first seconds of the cellphone video below show McGregor lobbing a hand truck at an innocent bus.
McGregor probably regards such activity as necessary to maintain his credibility in the mixed martial arts community. But officials took a different view. And so, afterward, we got the following headline, among others:
Conor McGregor turns himself into police after attack on bus
at UFC 223 Media Day
And language from two mainstream publications:
UFC star Conor McGregor has turned himself into police in the wake of a backstage melee he instigated that has forced the removal of three fights off UFC’s biggest card of the year.
Conor McGregor turned himself into the New York City Police Department after he was wanted for questioning after he attacked a UFC bus containing fighters on Thursday and injuring one person. (This sentence is a textbook-ready example of bad newswriting, BTW.)
The into misuse appeared also on various MMA websites, but it didn’t originate there. It seems that either the Associated Press or CBSSports, or possibly both, led with the into construction and that the smaller outfits picked up the error and neglected to correct it.
My considered opinion is that if McGregor wanted to change after that unfortunate incident, he should have turned himself into a bus, instead.
What is it with New York and prominent criminal prosecutions? Harvey Weinstein spent the majority of his career in Los Angeles, where most of ingenues and starlets are, but the NYPD was first out of the chute investigating and charging him.
Now there seems to be a battle afoot between the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the state attorney general over which gets to lead the very prurient and very newsworthy court case. Even the governor has voiced a point of view.