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I read a news about the jump of gas prices and the president Obama said:

we’re not going to be able to drill our way out of the problem of high gas prices

My first understand was "escape", but I'm not sure about it. What is the real meaning of it?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

He was making a (not very funny) pun.

At face value, drilling our way out means that we are stuck somewhere difficult, and are using a drill to make a hole for us to escape out of. He is using this as a metaphor for the problem America is in (high gas prices).

Drilling our way out also makes reference to drilling for oil in America. There are two meanings to what he said, which makes it a pun.

He's saying that America is stuck somewhere difficult, and that drilling for our own oil won't help us.

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I'm not entirely convinced that this is a pun. I think we can agree that his overt meaning was definitely that drilling will not lead us out of our high gas price problem. However, "drilling our way out" is not a common English idiom. "Digging our way out" is. Certainly his comment is a wordplay on this, but I do not consider that a pun. – heathenJesus Mar 14 '12 at 20:34
A pun doesn't need to make use of an idiom. In fact, most don't. – Daniel Mar 14 '12 at 20:39
@heathenJesus: I think the explanation that it's a wordplay on 'digging out' would make a good alternate answer. – Lynn Mar 14 '12 at 22:50
@Danielδ — You're right, it doesn't need to make use of idiom. But it does need to make use of words that sound the same or nearly the same, or that share a component that does so. Replacing one word with a near-synonym is a different type of wordplay. I have to imagine there is some overlap, but in this particular case, it is not a pun. //EDIT — The Wikipedia article on puns is pretty comprehensive: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pun – heathenJesus Mar 15 '12 at 15:24

Actually, the pun is a reference to the mantra spouted by Sarah Palin in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Referring to her belief in the need to expand U.S. oil production, especially in the high arctic and Gulf of Mexico, she repeated the phrase "Drill, baby, drill!"

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