Sad: Trump Thinks He Invented An 84-Year-Old-Phrase

Master wordsmith President Donald Trump boasted to reporters during an interview that he "came up with" the economic metaphor "prime the pump." Except he didn't.

A 1914 political cartoon showing Woodrow Wilson "priming the pump." Wikimedia Commons: Clifford Berryman

President Donald Trump is not known for this masterful use of the English language. His sentences ramble on with no discernable point, he conjures up words that you won't find in any dictionary, and his lack of political correctness is laughable. Of course, he thinks he's an oratory genius, so much so that he believes he coined the phrase "prime the pump."

Fact (not an alternative one): "Prime the pump" has actually been around for decades. 

In an interview with the Economist last week, Trump explained why he wants to cut taxes even if it ends up increasing the deficit.

"It is OK, because [the deficit] won't increase it for long," he told the interviewer. "You may have two years where you'll... you understand the expression 'prime the pump?'"

He then went off on a tangent that anyone who recalls high school history or at least the heated economic debates during the last recession would be utterly flabbergasted by.

"Have you heard that expression used before?" Trump asked. "Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just… I came up with it a couple of days ago and thought it was good.”

"Priming the pump," in literal terms, is the act of pouring water into a well pump so that it can pump more water out. In economics, the phrase means stimulating growth by investing in the system. As reported by CNN Money, the concept came from a time before most people had indoor plumbing — a time before our current president was born — and is thought to have evolved into an economic metaphor during the 20th century.

Merriam-Webster dates the phrase back to Sir Walter Scott in the early 19th century, but it seems "prime the pump" did not take on economic implications until much later. The New York Times reported that, in 1933, the phrase was frequently used to describe Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan to end the Great Depression, and it became popular again in 2009 with President Barack Obama's stimulus package.

Now, whether or not Trump literally meant he "came up with" the phrase is up for some discussion, but his track record doesn't help his case.

In a world of alternative facts, yes, maybe Trump is brilliant with words and, yes, maybe he did invent the term "prime the pump." However, we're going to hold onto the real world for as long as we can.


Thumbnail/Banner Credit: Reuters

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