Could you explain "drain her to the sump"? What does it mean?

The phrase is from Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson:

I imagined her, angry, confident, ready to match me and beat me at my own game. This was the big fight and Jove the prize. . . I had dressed as a warrior: black from cleavage to insoles, hair down, fat hoops of gold in my ears, war-paint make-up. I had a twenty-year advantage over my opponent and I intended to use every month of it. She would be greying, she would be lined, she would be overweight, she would be clothes-careless. . . I could see her, hair and flesh escaping, hope trapped inside. I would drain her to the sump.

I can see it's a threat, a metaphor probably, but I can't catch the exact meaning. "Empty"?

  • 1
    Presumably this refers to car maintenance. Look up 'drain' and 'sump' in a dictionary. Meanwhile, please give us some context for this sentence and, if possible provide a link to the original text. Note that a sump is usually the lowest part of a liquid-pumping system so you are draining all the liquid. – chasly from UK Oct 8 '15 at 11:20
  • 3
    If you can't tell what it means given all the context that you have, you can't expect others to do better without any context whatsoever. Not cool. Not cool at all. – RegDwigнt Oct 8 '15 at 11:21
  • @RegDwigнt V.V. could give many contextless phrases that fluent speakers could explain. But V.V. doesn't know the difference between those and the one given. That's no reason for the dismissive contempt. Not cool. Not cool at all. – deadrat Oct 8 '15 at 16:37
  • Something that is drained is then empty, yes. Have you looked up what sump means in a dictionary? – tchrist Oct 9 '15 at 11:22
  • Never heard phrase before, but a "sump" is a low area that collects water, sometimes just a feature of the terrain, but sometimes, eg, a depression in a basement floor where a pump is placed to keep the basement dry. See, eg, "sump pump". – Hot Licks Oct 9 '15 at 11:23

Winterson is a British author (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanette_Winterson) who would be familiar with the term 'sump' being the lowest part of a liquid pumping system (as EL&U member chasly points out).

One might surmise that Winterson intends the metaphor, 'I would drain her to the sump' to mean that the person would be drained of all of their contents - blood and spirit (expressed an 'hope' in the text). There is a further demeaning of the subject in how the metaphor equates the person with a machine, and in the sense that the content drained away is - as often the case in sumps - foul, stagnant or unwanted.

Similar phrases, such as 'Bleed her dry', or 'Suck her dry' do not quite match, in that these suggest some transfer of benefit between the victim and the perpetrator. In this case Winterson is suggesting that the victim is simply to be crushed or destroyed. A closer match might be the expression 'waste her', in the American vernacular.

  • After Chasly's comment I thought the meaning was "her last hope would be smashed, crushed ". I thought it might be an idiom. Nothing of the kind.Can't do without 'thanks'. – V.V. Nov 6 '15 at 2:45

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