Editing an article for Wednesday's editions of The Sun, I let through a reference to an automobile that "collided witha guardrail," then paused and doubled back to the Associated Press Stylebook. Like an insect preserved in amber, the entry was still there:
"Two objects must be in motion before they can collide. A moving train cannot collide with a stopped train."
I suspect that this is a fetish peculiar to newspapers. It was an article of faith in Theodore Bernstein's The Careful Writer, and John Bremner, insisting on the Latin etymology (col plus ladere, "to strike together"), was equally insistent in Words on Words. But etymology is not destiny, and anyhow, the adherents of the Old Faith have been dwindling.
Robert Burchfield, sometime editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and author/editor of the New Fowler's (1996), said flatly of the two-objects-in-motion school, "There is no basis for such a belief. A car can collide with a tree, a bollard, or any other fixed object, as well as with another moving vehicle."
The OED, unsurprisingly, is consistent with Burchfield, including a citation from 1746: "The Blood collides against the Sides of the Aorta."
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage bolsters Burchfield, finding that "collide is standard, even when only one body is in motion."
Garner's Modern American Usage does not even have an entry on the subject.
Next year, at ACES in St. Louis, shall we consign this one to the rubbish heap?
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