Trump Claims He Invented A Phrase That’s Been Around For Almost 100 Years

Donald Trump Shrug

In an interview with the Economist, Donald Trump responded to questions about his tax plan by making the claim that he invented the phrase “priming the pump”:

[W]e have a transcript from an interview Trump gave to the Economist magazine.

ECONOMIST: Beyond that, it’s okay if the tax plan increases the deficit?

TRUMP: It is okay, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll … you understand the expression “prime the pump”?


TRUMP: We have to prime the pump.

ECONOMIST: 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?

ECONOMIST: Priming the pump?

TRUMP: Yeah, have you heard it?


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.

Asking an Economist writer if he or she has heard the expression “prime the pump” is like asking Sports Illustrated writers if they’ve heard of “RBIs” or asking someone at Playboy if they’re aware that you can have your body surgically enhanced. Of course they have heard the term, because Trump, contrary to what he suggests, didn’t invent the phrase, much less come up with it “a couple of days ago.”

No less an authority than Merriam-Webster — as in the dictionary people — pointed this out on Twitter:

Back to WaPo’s Philip Bump:

Trump also has a habit of exaggerating his own achievements to make himself seem more impressive. It’s so common by now that one might assume it’s ingrained in his personality, taking a standard observation and puffing it up with a few “great, great” modifiers or tacking on a “nobody’s ever seen this before!” Everything is the easiest and the best and the biggest and the greatest, and many things got that way because of Trump. So maybe that’s the deal: Trump simply slipped into his long-standing pattern of taking credit where it wasn’t due.

That’s the big picture of this small comment. Nearly anyone else would be given the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t seriously asking the Economist if they’d ever heard the expression “prime the pump.” Perhaps another politician saying it would have been excoriated by his political opponents, sure. But in nearly no other circumstance would people read that, stop and think, “Wait. Does he really think he made that up?”

So there you have it. The President of the United States is either deluded or a liar. Take your pick.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Surreal American says:

    Trump also claimed that he coined the phrase “invisible hand”, but his version of the term has nothing to do with economics.

    Hint: You really don’t want to know what “invisible hand” means to Trump.

  2. James Pearce says:

    Very Idi Amin of him…

  3. Argon says:

    There are a series of articles and opinion pieces in The Economist that skewer Trump. I can imagine the editors of that magazine being appalled by what they saw from that interview. Equally scary in the article was how the people in the administration like Munchin cover Trump’s ignorance with lies of their own. It really appeared that they treated Trump as a useful, if belligerent baby.

  4. J-Dub says:

    “He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy.” – Dr. Evil

  5. J-Dub says:


    There are a series of articles and opinion pieces in The Economist that skewer Trump

    Is Trump aware of The Economist? They have been relentless in their criticism of him. I’m surprised he granted them a one-on-one interview.

  6. J-Dub says:

    @Surreal American: He invented the phrase “tiny invisible hand”

  7. Hal_10000 says:

    One of my favorite things in 2017 is an online dictionary flat trolling the President of the United States.

  8. Dan Hill says:

    The President of the United States is either deluded or a liar. Take your pick.

    Do I really have to choose?

  9. ..ig'nint... says:

    @Dan Hill: Yeah. I was wondering why I can’t choose both, myself.

  10. CSK says:


    I’m sure Trump had never heard of The Economist until some undercover merry prankster told him that it’s a really, really famous English magazine that the Queen reads a lot and that he really, really should talk to one of their reporters, because it would be like a cover story in People magazine.

  11. DrDaveT says:

    From the OED, for the record:

    1916 Everybody’s Mag. 35 131 When the waters of business are stagnant, gentlemen, it becomes necessary, if I may say so, to prime the pump.

    pump-priming (n.) The stimulation of economic activity by investment, esp. by government investment or spending; an instance of this. Cf. to prime the pump at prime v.1 5a.

    1933 Wall St. Jrnl. 16 May 1/2 To carry the pump-priming analogy a step further, it is suggested that a small portion of the expected flow of restored industrial income be directed to the reservoir from which the original ‘prime’ was borrowed.
    1934 Washington Post 15 Jan. 2/2 (headline) Public spending viewed as ‘pump-priming’.
    1938 Sun (Baltimore) 18 Feb. 15/1 Farm products seemed most likely to benefit from the next ‘pump-priming’.

  12. Gustopher says:

    To be fair to Donald Trump, when the phrase was originally coined, it didn’t sound dirty, so he did create a new overtone to it.

    “You’ve got to prime your pump, and then grab them by the pussy…”

  13. J-Dub says:

    @Gustopher: Viagra, Prime Your Pump

  14. CSK says:


    Prime ’em in the pussy.