When Words Collide

By Maeve Maddox

This use of the verb collide in a newspaper article struck me as odd:

One driver was able to stop short of hitting the child but her bike collided into another car.

The verb collide is from Latin collidere, “to strike or clash together.” Its most common use is as an intransitive verb. Used without a prepositional phrase, collide signifies an action in which two moving objects strike one another:

Two satellites collide in orbit

Two NJ Transit buses collided in the Lincoln Tunnel this morning

Two Thai F16 jets collided in mid-air and crashed

Collide can also be used figuratively:

Southern Politics and Personalities Collide in Old Globe’s Cornelia,

What Happens When Political and Humanitarian Goals Collide?

When the colliding objects are not of the same kind, or a contrast between them is desired, a prepositional phrase is employed:

Fire Truck Collides With a Van

birds collide with airplanes

As sea floor spreads from the oceanic ridge, it eventually collides against the continental crust or plate.

Insurance rates collide with credit scores

Pakistani frigate collides against the dock

Jeep collides against tree

The prepositions with and against are used to introduce the other object in the collision. The use of with indicates that both objects were moving. The preposition against indicates that one of the objects was stationary.

The following headline is redundant:

15 Injured after 2 Buses Collide against each other

The OED entry includes a transitive use of collide, but calls it “rare or obsolete.” Changing technology may call this use back from obsolescence. Here are two recent examples of collide used transitively:

I simply want to collide a sprite against the edges of the screen.

The simulation has determined they are not moving fast enough to warrant colliding them against each other

A Google search turns up millions of examples of “collide into,” but in most instances, the writer may have been reaching for crashed:

RAF Tornados nearly collided into each other

What would happen if a planet collided into the sun?

Woman who collided into train tested positive for cocaine

Some writers use the word in mysterious ways. In the following examples collide seems to be standing in for combined or coalesced:

Can tetanus, meningitis, and chicken pox shots be all collided into 1 shot?

Our worlds collided into one chat room.

Bottom line: If you find yourself placing “into” after “collide,” you may wish to reconsider your use of one of the two words.

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