Recent­ly, I heard some­one use the phrase “com­ing down the pipe”. Con­sid­er­ing that this phrase is tech­ni­cal­ly wrong, I thought I’d write about it.

Down the pike

The phrase should actu­al­ly be down the pikePike is a short­ened (albeit out of date) form of turn­pike, which is a type of road­way in the Unit­ed States. A turn­pike is typ­i­cal­ly a high-speed high­way, often main­tained by tolls.

The say­ing has been around for a long time, orig­i­nat­ing before the advent of tele­vi­sion, radio, and tele­vi­sion. All news came via trav­ellers and mes­sen­gers com­ing down the turn­pike. Today, down the pike refers to some­thing appear­ing or com­ing into view.

Down the pipe

While tech­ni­cal­ly incor­rect, down the pipe is a pop­u­lar ver­sion of this say­ing. There are over 53 mil­lion results when search­ing for the phrase on Google. Com­pare that to only 16 mil­lion or so for down the pike. Grant­ed, the above search results would include usage not spe­cif­ic to this form (such as “The city was lay­ing down the pipe in the new sub­di­vi­sion.”).

Because pike is an uncom­mon (arguably archa­ic) word, peo­ple unsur­pris­ing­ly hear it as pipe. The thing about down the pipe is that it makes sense. Pipelines, for exam­ple, deliv­er things (gas, oil, water, etc), and since their con­tents flow, the des­ti­na­tion could be con­sid­ered down­stream of the ori­gin. Like­wise, some office build­ings use a vac­u­um tube net­work to send and receive mes­sages; mes­sages sent through this net­work of pipes could be said to be com­ing down the pipe.

It prob­a­bly doesn’t take much to see that down the pike is going to become extinct. Any­one hang­ing onto this rel­ic will be tech­ni­cal­ly cor­rect, but they’re fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle. If pike were a more com­mon word, it might be a dif­fer­ent sto­ry.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

Free monthlywriting &social media tips!

Free monthlywriting &social media tips!

Sign up to receive monthly writing and social media tips.

Thanks for signing up for our monthly writing tips!

Pin It on Pinterest