A question about "cross over" here:

"We all joke about the ways that we could maliciously behave in our jobs," Goldman said. "That's gallows humor. Going online gets problematic. With (Hodges) it was not just a joke, it was a running theme. At some point it crosses over from being a joke to a warning sign."

According to dictionaries, "cross over" could either a musician changing from one genre to another, or a person switching allegiance from one political party to another.
But neither definition applies to the usage in the example. Could it be an error?


This is an ordinary use.

If an expression like this doesn't show up in as a distinct idiom in your dictionaries it is usually not because it is an error but because it is not an idiom: its meaning can be deduced from its components. Cross over from A to B means to move from a position on one side of the literal or figurative line dividing A from B to a position on the other side, in the process passing over and across the line. You may cross over from the United States to Canada, from childhood to adulthood, from college to the workforce.

In fact that is the meaning in your two examples noted in your dictionaries: a musician who crosses over from rock to rap or from pop to country crosses the vague line which separates the genres, and a politician who crosses over from the Democrats to the Republicans crosses a similarly vague ideological line. (In the UK it is, to be sure, a literal crossing as well, from the Government to the Opposition benches in Parliament.)

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  • So, the example usage (a comment crossing over from a joke to a warning sign) is wrong? – meatie Sep 8 '14 at 22:54
  • @meatie As I have just explained, it is ordinary usage. There's nothing wrong with it. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 8 '14 at 22:55
  • Then, can I write: "He crossed over from a high school student to a college student"? – meatie Sep 8 '14 at 23:02
  • You can; though we would more likely say "He crossed over from high school to college". – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 8 '14 at 23:05
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    As I said, you should not expect dictionaries to include collocations whose meanings can be deduced from their components -- only those whose meanings cannot. Would you expect to find "go up" or "be found" in a dictionary? – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 8 '14 at 23:09

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