Piping Hot Factoids
Plans unlikely to be realized are called “pipe dreams” in a reference to the dreams experienced by opium users, since this drug was often smoked with a pipe.
Saying “pipe down” to encourage quiet seems to trace back to an officer ordering that a pipe whistle be blown on old sailing ships to either have the crew go to sleep or go below deck after a disturbance.
In an apparent reference to multi-piped musical instruments such as bagpipes and organ, a person with a “set of pipes” has a strong speaking or singing voice.
Despite being traditionally associated with Scotland, the bagpipes were likely introduced to Scotland by the Romans, with roots in ancient Egypt before that.
“Pied” in Old English meant multicolored, so in the legend of The Pied Piper, the musician was wearing an outfit of many colors.
The term “pay the piper,” meaning to finally face consequences, is related to this same legend. When the townspeople of Hamelin reneged on their promise to pay the piper who lured the rats out of their town, he took an awful revenge by luring their children away.
Water pipes made of lead, as they had been for decades, are now known to be a serious health hazard. In the US, lead pipes are restricted by federal law and hundreds of millions of dollars have been set aside to replace old lead pipes.