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Chris -- 2015-05-30

#1 2006-09-25 14:20:12

Registered: 2006-08-16
Posts: 130

New similar phrase vs. incorrect version of old phrase?

I was looking through the “nearly mainstream” eggcorn list, and one that caught my eye was the following:

pike » pipe
Chiefly in: coming down the pipe

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

Unless the FCC gets smarter about the technologies coming down the pipe, they’re creating perfect conditions for a real mess down the line. (The Coming (Cognitive) Radio Revolution… AKA The FCC as Regulatory Ostrich)
And with all that new hardware coming down the pipe and the potential for lots of new Metroid, this year should be a barnburner! (The Metroid Database)

In the industry where I work, there is frequent discussion of the “product pipeline”, which is the sequence of products intended to come out over the next several years. Usually two or three generations of product beyond the ones currently on sale are in development at any given time. The phrase “in the pipeline” is used pretty frequently, and I would think that “coming down the pipe” would actually be a perfectly legitimate extension of this metaphor, rather than having anything to do with “pikes”. I notice that both of these “spottings in the wild” are from the high tech industry, which is where I’ve seen this pipeline metaphor used.

Are there good ways to determine whether you’re looking at a garbling of a well-known phrase or a legitimate new phrase?

-Francesca Berger



#2 2006-09-25 15:21:23

Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: New similar phrase vs. incorrect version of old phrase?

Francesca: you make some good points, and I have thought about the very same concerns before. My viewpoint is the following: A phrase is an eggcorn if just a single person mis-hears the original phrase and unknowingly creates new imagery which makes sense when they go to reuse it. Even if another person creates the very same phrase by way of pun (or other contrived means), it does not detract from the fact that at least ONE person made it by way of an honest mistake.

So, to apply this principle to your example: Yes, you are correct to point out that the phrase “coming down the pipe” might have been contrived (even subconsciously) when delivered by an individual in a pipeline-intensive industry. And so, such examples would probably have to be discounted. But, if you find other examples where there is no such distraction, then you probably have a genuine eggcorn.

One way to assist the hunt—and eliminate the problems stated above—is to tailor your Google search by adding (or subtracting) key words. For example, when I searched for mixups of “wave” and “waive”, I narrowed the topic down to “waive your right(s)” but I had to subtract off “wave your right (arm).” Not an exact parallel to the context of your question, but perhaps it’s food for thought.


Last edited by jorkel (2006-09-25 15:33:40)



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