This context comes from the movie "Annie Hall" with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

“It reminds me of that old joke- you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that's how I feel about relationships. They're totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.”

I know this phrase in the sense of:

"turn in"

  1. To surrender, deliver, or give information about someone or oneself to the authorities, typically the police. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "turn" and "in." I was so racked with guilt over the accident that I turned myself in to police.(Farlex Dictionary of Idioms).

I'm not sure if this is the sense conveyed in the scene from the movie though. There is another definition that I suspect might be more fitting here.

"turn in"

to submit or refer someone or something to someone or a group, especially in some official capacity. The good citizen turned his neighbor in for watering his lawn during the wrong hours. I turned in the report to the treasurer.(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs.

The second definition says to refer someone. Does the psychiatrist from the joke say "why don't you refer him to a psychiatrist"(or him for that matter)?

  • This one: refer someone or something to someone or a group, e.g. local mental health services. Dec 5, 2022 at 20:49
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    In fact in most, if not all places, health services would not care about a person behaving oddly unless they were likely to harm themselves or other people, so there would be nowhere to turn him in. Dec 5, 2022 at 20:52
  • It doesn't make a lot of sense as a joke. Unless they were planning to turn him in to a farmer.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 5, 2022 at 20:58
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    @ChrisH - I just told the OP's joke to my 10 year old niece, and she chuckled, and then said 'I don't think I'd like the kind of 'eggs' that a man might produce'. Dec 6, 2022 at 11:25
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    @ChrisH - my wife is vegetarian but is OK with dairy and eggs. Early in our relationship she said she tried not to think about where they come from. I thought she meant the precise part of the hen's anatomy but no, she meant she preferred to pretend they grow on some kind of bush. Dec 6, 2022 at 12:54

1 Answer 1


It is the first defintion. "Deliver to the authorities". In this specfic case you would understand it to be "Deliver him to a secure mental hospital (insane asylum)"

Of course in real life, that's not how mental health crises are managed, but this is a joke.

  • These days I think we are supposed to just call them 'hospitals', but at home, when no-one else is there, my wife and I talk about 'the nut house' and chez les dingues. Dec 5, 2022 at 21:28

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