President Trump coined the phrase, “prime the pump,” according to himself.
In speaking about his intentions to overhaul the tax code with the Economist, the President used the well-known idiom and then asked his interviewer whether they were familiar with the phrase — the reporter had heard of it, but that didn’t stop Trump from claiming the credit.
“Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it,” Trump said. “I mean, I just… came up with it a couple days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.”
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which has been using its Twitter account to troll Trump and his administration on a fairly recurring basis, the phrase “priming the pump” dates back to the early 19th century.
It initially alluded to the literal process of preparing a pump — it described the steps of pouring liquid in a pipe in order to force the air out and make it work. It eventually transformed into a saying that refers to the taking of “steps to encourage the growth or functioning of something,” according to Merriam-Webster.
Or as Trump put it during his Economist interview: “… what you have to do is you have to put something in before you can get something out.”
“Priming the pump” first took on its political meaning in 1933 and has since been used to describe “government investment expenditures designed to induce a self-sustaining expansion of economic activity.”
What’s more, Trump himself has used the phrase long before he claimed to have invented it.
“Well sometimes you have to prime the pump,” he told TIME magazine in December during his Person of the Year interview. “So sometimes in order to get jobs going and the country going, because look we’re at 1% growth.”
During his Economist interview, Trump cited the phrase in answering a question about his tax plan increasing the deficit. The president clashed with his interviewer, who said Reagan’s tax plan didn’t increase the deficit.
“Well, it actually did,” the President said. “But it’s called priming the pump. You know, if you don’t do that, you’re never going to bring your taxes down.”
The internet was quick to correct Trump on his etymyology: