Commonly Misquoted Phrases
By Chad Upton | Editor
Admittedly, I am not an English professor. There are many occasions when readers have corrected me, and I appreciate it, that’s what this site is all about — learning new things.
I’ve noticed a few common phrases that frequently get misquoted in conversations. Even if you know the correct phrase, you might not know it’s meaning or origin. If you’ve got others, share it in comments at the bottom.
The word “tide” is an obsolete word for time, although it’s still with us in words like “Yuletide” (Christmas Time).
The phrase comes from sailors who had to anchor (or compromise progress) when there was no wind to fill their sails — to prevent the tide from pushing them backwards or off course. The earliest recorded use of the phrase can be found in A Sea Grammar (1627), “To Tide ouer to a place, is to goe ouer with the Tide of ebbe or flood, and stop the contrary by anchoring till the next Tide.”
Down the pike
common misquote: down the pipe
If you’re talking about something in a pipeline, whether it’s literal or metaphorical (like a sales pipeline), then “pipe” does make sense. But, if you’re talking about anything else, then it’s probably “coming down the pike.”
The etymology is pretty straight forward, in this context, “pike” simply refers to “turnpike”, which is a major roadway, usually a toll road. In other words, it just means that something is coming down the road.
common misquote: flush out
Much like, “coming down the pipe“, “flush out” is a real phrase. But, “flush out” is often used when people actually mean, “flesh out.”
To “flush out”, means to expose or release something, like flushing the toilet. It comes from bird hunting, where one flushes out a flock of birds. To “flesh out” is to bring something to life, to make it real. If you take an idea and make it real, you have put flesh on a skeleton.