English Corner

Prime the pump

A: What can the government do to reverse the economic downturn?
B: The obvious choice is to prime the pump and create more jobs.
Note: This idiom means “to do something in order to make something succeed, especially to spend money; to encourage the growth or action of something.” In the late 1800s this American expression originally was used when referring to pouring liquid into a pump to expel the air and make it work. In the 1930s it was applied to government efforts to stimulate the economy and thereafter was applied to other undertakings. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used it in a 1937 speech. President Donald Trump claimed to The Economist in an interview that he coined the phrase, whose mistake was soon pointed out.