The other day I was reading a writing sample for the class Meeting Notes Made Easy, when I found a sentence like this one:
We are waiting to see what comes down the pipe.
The sentence implies that you are standing beneath the pipe looking up–not a good idea.
The original expression is “coming down the pike.” It refers to coming down the turnpike, with the image of something getting bigger as it moves toward us.
Knowing that language evolves, I checked the four fat, current dictionaries on my bookshelf to be sure “coming down the pike” is still the only correct version. Here are the results:
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition:
down the pike 1. in the course of events <the greatest boxer to come down the pike in years> 2. in the future <today’s advances only hint at what’s down the pike>
Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2nd Edition:
come down the pike N Amer. appear on the scene; come to notice. [Abbreviation of TURNPIKE]
The American Heritage College Dictionary, 4th Edition:
Idiom: come down the pike Slang To become prominent. [Short for TURNPIKE.]
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition:
Idiom: come down the pike Slang To come into prominence: “a policy . . . allowing for little flexibility if an important new singer comes down the pike” (Christian Science Monitor). [Short for TURNPIKE.]
Not one of these references mentioned “down the pipe” under either pike or pipe.
The experts have spoken: The expression is “coming down the pike.” Remember: The fact that Google offers 6,370,000 hits for “coming down the pipe” doesn’t make the expression correct–except maybe if you work for an oil company.
Perhaps someday a new ruling from the experts will come down the pike, but not today.
Are you hearing or seeing other incorrect expressions? Please share them.