[Ads-l] Attention Garson: new postdating of (metaphorical) "prime the pump"

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Fri May 12 15:47:38 EDT 2017


So clearly the original sense drew on water pumps, before petrol driven vehicles
were common, and was, in origin, specifically American.

I'm now wondering whether my association of the phrase with petrol pumps is a
misunderstanding peculiar to me, or whether it might just possibly represent a
Brit variant understanding of the term.  If (big "if") it entered Brit use
after, say, the 1950s, then at that point, in the UK, petrol pumps would be much
more familiar than water pumps.

Robin

> 
>     On 12 May 2017 at 20:29 Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> 
>     In the editorial cartoons from the '20s and '30s that I surveyed, it's
>     always water getting pumped (or money in the place of water).
> 
>     http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=32649
> 
> 
>     On Fri, May 12, 2017 at 3:09 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
>     wrote:
> 
>     > I always assumed it was a water pump that needs (literal or
>     > metaphorical)
>     > priming. The ones I’ve encountered are in state parks, and you do need
>     > to
>     > prime them a couple of times the way John describes before the water
>     > comes
>     > out.
>     >
>     > > On May 12, 2017, at 3:06 PM, Robin Hamilton <
>     > robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM> wrote:
>     > >
>     > > Thanks, John. I stand duly corrected.
>     > >
>     > > Would it be fair then to say that the term, "prime the pump", is
>     > > *more*
>     > related
>     > > to water pumps than to petrol pumps? As you describe it below, the
>     > dynamics of
>     > > priming a water pump would differ from those of priming a petrol pump.
>     > Turning
>     > > on a continuous feed in both cases, but not necessarily gravity when
>     > > it
>     > comes to
>     > > petrol.
>     > >
>     > > Or similar fluids -- somewhere in my head, I have memories of an old
>     > Massie
>     > > Fergusson tractor having to have its pump primed, and an even older
>     > tractor that
>     > > ran on paraffin.
>     > >
>     > > But that was long ago, and in another country, and besides the machine
>     > has long
>     > > gone to the Great Junkyard in the Sky.
>     > >
>     > > Robin
>     > >
>     > >>
>     > >> On 12 May 2017 at 19:50 "Baker, John" <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM> wrote:
>     > >>
>     > >>
>     > >> One does prime water pumps. The hand pump, which was once familiar
>     > to all
>     > >> Americans, operates by suction: The rod, which is operated by hand,
>     > lifts a
>     > >> piston that is at the top of a column of water, and each time the rod
>     > >> is
>     > >> pumped more water is brought to the outlet. If there is air below the
>     > piston,
>     > >> it will not lift the column of water and the pump will not work. When
>     > the pump
>     > >> is first used, and thereafter whenever there for any reason is not a
>     > >> continuous column of water below the piston, the user must put enough
>     > water in
>     > >> the pump for that water column to be created, a process referred to
>     > >> as
>     > >> "priming."
>     > >>
>     > >>
>     > >> John Baker
>     > >>
>     > >>
>     > >> -----Original Message-----
>     > >> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
>     > Behalf
>     > >> Of Robin Hamilton
>     > >> Sent: Friday, May 12, 2017 1:42 PM
>     > >> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>     > >> Subject: Re: Attention Garson: new postdating of (metaphorical)
>     > "prime the
>     > >> pump"
>     > >>
>     > >> Does one actually prime water [sic] pumps? I'd always assumed this
>     > >> referred to
>     > >> priming the pump in a petrol engine, or summat.
>     > >>
>     > >> Mind you, I may be wrong, as when I was a youngun, pumps of any kind
>     > were
>     > >> still
>     > >> a twinkle in the eye of the future, and we drew water from the well
>     > in a
>     > >> bucket.
>     > >>
>     > >> R.
>     > >>
>     > >>>
>     > >>> On 12 May 2017 at 15:58 George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
>     > wrote:
>     > >>>
>     > >>>
>     > >>> You have to keep in mind that back on the old Trump homestead in
>     > >>> Brooklyn,
>     > >>> his family had a pump -- that was how Brooklyn people got their
>     > >>> water,
>     > >>> in
>     > >>> olden times, the 1940s & 50s. So he's very familiar with having to
>     > prime
>     > >>> a
>     > >>> water pump, and naturally the metaphor would come to his mind.
>     > >>>
>     > >>> GAT
>     > >>>
>     > >>> On Fri, May 12, 2017 at 10:39 AM, Laurence Horn <
>     > laurence.horn at yale.edu>
>     > >>> wrote:
>     > >>>
>     > >>>> From an interview with President Trump (as in Pump) in The
>     > >>>> Economist [
>     > >>>> http://www.economist.com/Trumptranscript]:
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Reporter: But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the
>     > >>>> deficit?
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Trump: It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may
>     > >>>> have
>     > >>>> two
>     > >>>> years where you’ll…you understand the expression “prime the pump”?
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Reporter: Yes.
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Trump: We have to prime the pump.
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Reporter:It’s very Keynesian.
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Trump: We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard
>     > >>>> that
>     > >>>> expression before, for this particular type of an event?
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Reporter: Priming the pump?
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Trump: Yeah, have you heard it?
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Reporter: Yes.
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Trump: Have you heard that expression used before? Because I
>     > >>>> haven’t
>     > >>>> heard
>     > >>>> it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I
>     > >>>> thought
>     > >>>> it
>     > >>>> was good. It’s what you have to do.
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Reporter: It’s...
>     > >>>>
>     > >>>> Trump: Yeah, what you have to do is you have to put something in
>     > >>>> before
>     > >>>> you can get something out.
>     >
> 
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