The Grammarphobia Blog

“Down the tubes”

Q: What are the “tubes” in “down the tubes”?

A: I searched the American Dialect Society‘s discussion groups and found a suggestion that the “tubes” are sewer pipes. Thus, “down the tubes” is another way of saying “down the drain.” The expression, which means “into a state of failure or ruin,” is an Americanism dating to the early 1960’s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED entry also cites a relationship between “tubes” and “drain.”