I am confused about a line from the movie Kingpin:

Ernie: All right, let's go. Thank you for the education, gentlemen. We've just received a PhD in stupidity. (to Roy) Doctor, shall we?

Roy: Give us a chance to win our money back.

Ernie: Are you crazy? (to the winning bowler) Padre, how much are you into us for already?

Winning man: $350.

Ernie to Roy: That's a landau roof and power steering down the drain. Could be in your pocket right now. Let's go.

I am confused because the scene is pretty clear that Roy and Ernie lost money to the other person. However, Merriam Webster says be into someone for means "to owe someone an amount of money". So if I am into him for $2,000, I owe him $2,000, correct? If that's correct, shouldn't Ernie say "How much are we into you for?"

  • 1
    It means: Padre, how much do you already owe us? It can go in either direction.
    – Lambie
    May 18, 2018 at 23:37
  • For the record, that sounds very strange to me too. I would assume the meaning from context, but the grammar is very strange and confusing.
    – KumaAra
    May 19, 2018 at 1:32
  • @Lambie. I've never heard it go in both directions. He's into them for a grand has always meant He owes them a thousand dollars whenever I've heard it used.
    – TimR
    May 19, 2018 at 12:08
  • 1
    This is the lingo of the world of gambling, the kind of gambling where you can get kneecapped, BTW. books.google.com/…
    – TimR
    May 19, 2018 at 12:09
  • Both directions: Padre, how much are you into us for? How much is he into them for?
    – Lambie
    May 19, 2018 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


I agree with Webster. I've never heard that phrase used as it is in the question. As an explanation, I think it is a phrase that might or might not have been used more frequently several generations ago than now. It's used infrequently enough now that the meaning might have become confused for some users, to the point that movie writers can get it wrong. They have the context right, but the reference is reversed.

  • I also thought the screenwriters might have got it wrong. I wish dictionaries could be clearer with their example sentences, which don't really help without context.
    – Eddie Kal
    May 19, 2018 at 5:27
  • 1
    English has tons and tons of slang and jargon. To be into someone for is gambling-speak as pointed out above but also somewhat underworld-speak. That said, I don't find it to be particularly dated. Also, "to be into someone" can also mean: to like someone.
    – Lambie
    May 20, 2018 at 15:15

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