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Is the expression "coming down the pike" or "coming down the pipe"? I've always used pike, but I've heard a few people use pipe recently. I can see how both could make sense, but which is correct?

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I suspect that coming down the pipe arose as a hybrid of coming down the pike and in the pipeline. pike is rather archaic, so coming down the pipe would make a lot more sense to recent generations. –  Pitarou Feb 7 '12 at 2:31
    
Google's ngram indicates that the "pike" version predates "pipe" and is more common, generally. –  kmote Nov 29 '12 at 0:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 20 down vote accepted

The Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms has an entry on "coming down the pike", and says that it's "based on the literal meaning of pike (a large road)". It does not have an entry on "coming down the pipe".

That being said, Google returns 7 million results for the former, and 5 million results for the latter.

In other words, the expression with "pike" is the original one, but the "pipe" variant cannot be labeled as "wrong" at this point in time. Both are widely used and understood.

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In case anyone's wondering how "pike", meaning a long-poled weapon, came to refer to a big road, it's shortened from "turnpike," metonymy for a toll road, where entry was regulated by means of a long pole that was turned after payment to allow traffic onto the road. –  moioci Sep 3 '10 at 23:44
    
Methinks what came down the pipe for Google was some liquid -- searches need to get more semantic. –  Kris Feb 6 '12 at 7:36
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If something is "coming down the pike", it's still a ways off but you can see it. If something is "coming down the pipe", it's currently coming out of the spigot. –  Malvolio Sep 5 '12 at 1:20
    
Just to make it clear, that Google returns 7 million results for one thing and 5 million for the other does not mean that the former was more common originally or in the old days. It simply means they found more occurrences of texts which have the words used in the search query (together or not) more. –  Chibueze Opata Nov 17 '12 at 20:09
    
@Chibueze no idea what you mean by "together or not" — both queries are enclosed in quotes, so Google searches for that exact string. At any rate, the pike phrase is the original one, but Google was used precisely to demonstrate that that is no longer relevant and the eggcorn is almost as popular and just as idiomatic. In short, your comment is confusing rather than clarifying. –  RegDwigнt Nov 18 '12 at 0:23

The original expression was "coming down the pike". Searching Google books for "coming down the pike" in the 1950s, you find a number of things metaphorically coming down the pike, as well as a number of things literally approaching on large roads. In the same time frame, the only thing that Google finds "coming down the pipe" is water. There also seem to be one or two metaphorical references to "coming down the pike" in earlier decades.

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Basing on the Corpus of Contemporary American English, coming down the pipe is more used when speaking, and in magazines; it is also used more frequently since 2000.
You can find the expression in sentences like

And there is a big concern about what's coming down the pipe.
[…] sold on the DVD recorders, because there are some newer technologies coming down the pipe soon.

Coming down the pike is also found in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. It is used more frequently when speaking, and in magazines; it is used more frequently between 1995–2000 and 2005–2010.
It is used in sentences like

We know that there's debt and deficit coming down the pike. […] contributor Janice Lieberman went to Las Vegas to find out what's coming down the pike.

Comparing coming down the pipe and coming down the pike, the most used phrase (as reported by the CoCA) is coming down the pike, which is used more frequently in all the 1995–2010 period.

The New Oxford American Dictionary reports that the phrase coming down the pike means appear on the scene, come to notice. The NOAD doesn't report the meaning of coming down the pipe.

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Perhaps "coming down the pipe" is a mixture of "coming down the pike" and "in the pipeline"? –  John Saunders Sep 14 '10 at 19:53

protected by Community Oct 20 '13 at 12:52

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