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

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Fri May 12 15:58:46 EDT 2017


"not everyone would have been familiar with fuel pumps (which is what I assume a
“petrol pump” is ..."

The default UK understanding of the term "petrol pump" would be a thing found in
(American) a gas station, with a nozzle to stick into the car to fill the tank
with petrol.  Thus, yes, equivalent to US "fuel pump" (I presume).

Except both "fuel pump" and "petrol pump" could (am I right?) *also* be used to
refer to the mechanism inside a car which delivers fuel ("petrol" or "gas") from
the petrol/gas tank to the actual engine of the car.  

[UK "gas" is, by default, a vapour rather than a liquid.]

Which was what I had (as is now obvious, anachronistically) in mind as lying
behind the term, "prime the pump".

Robin

> 
>     On 12 May 2017 at 20:42 "Baker, John" <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM> wrote:
> 
> 
>     In the period that these cartoons were drawn (1920s and 1930s), which was
> fairly early in the history of the phrase as a metaphor (the OED takes it back
> to 1916), all Americans would have been familiar with water pumps, while not
> everyone would have been familiar with fuel pumps (which is what I assume a
> "petrol pump" is - I've never actually heard the term before).
> 
>     Note that the metaphor also works better for a water pump. Once water is
> used to prime a water pump, the pump can be used to produce a much larger
> amount of water, typically limited only by the pumper's energy. A primed fuel
> pump makes it possible to operate the engine, but it does not produce any more
> fuel.
> 
> 
>     John Baker
> 
> 
>     -----Original Message-----
>     From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
> Of Ben Zimmer
>     Sent: Friday, May 12, 2017 3:29 PM
>     To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>     Subject: Re: Attention Garson: new postdating of (metaphorical) "prime the
> pump"
> 
>     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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> 
> 
>     ------------------------------------------------------------
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