- Commonly used in sports commentary, but also more widely.
Unclear. As an idiom, identified only in Australian English.Possibly a reference to a punishment, sometimes meted out by angry mobs, of restraining a person beneath a pump and pumping water over them. By extension, a person under the pump would be acting under threat of dire punishment.
- Also suggested has been an origin in the construction industry:Workers can be quite literally under the pump if a concrete pour is occurring and the steel reinforcing and form-work is still being finished. The concrete pump would be reaching out above the workers, who would be completing their duties at a frantic pace. Once the concrete has been delivered, the ‘pour′ must occur ASAP or it may begin to set. Hence being under the pump describes the situation of working at feverish pace to meet a specific deadline.