Merriam-Webster quickly replied to Trump, saying the phrase dates back decades.
President Donald Trump took credit in a new interview for inventing the phrase “prime the pump” — though, as Merriam-Webster quickly pointed out, the saying has been in circulation for more than eight decades.
In an interview with the The Economist published Thursday, the President was asked about his tax plan’s potential to increase the deficit. In response, Trump used the phrase “prime the pump,” and asked if his interviewer knew what it meant.
“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,” Trump said in the interview.
The term is commonly used in economic discussions — including by Trump himself, in an interview with TIME for Trump’s Person of the Year story last fall.
Pump priming refers to money spent by the government to create “a self-sustaining expansion of economic activity,” according to Merriam-Webster. In response to Trump’s comments on the phrase, the dictionary’s Twitter account noted Thursday morning that it dates back to the 19th century and has been used to refer to government investment spending “since at least 1933.”
The dictionary’s Twitter account has been keeping a close eye on Trump’s statements and has frequently responded to his misuse of words.