Whether it’s feminism, volunteering, or even the use of council vs. counsel, Merriam-Webster is on the job, clarifying the meaning of words, or even phrases, each time they’re misused in the public sphere.
On Thursday, the dictionary publisher was called upon to outline the true origins of the phrase “priming the pump” after President Donald Trump said he came up with the phrase during a recent interview with The Economist regarding his plans for economic growth.
“Have you heard it?” said the current President of the United States. “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.”
But as Merriam-Webster noted on its Twitter feed, the phrase has been in use since the early 19th century and refers to the government investment in the economy in order to encourage growth or expansion.
“A dictionary is a living record of a living language,” noted Merriam-Webster editor Kory Stamper in her interview with EW. “They’re important because language is important to us.