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pour oil on troubled waters

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To calm a disturbance: “His ideas caused real dissension within the party at first, but he poured oil on troubled waters in last night's speech.”

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notes for pour oil on troubled waters

In ancient times, oil was often poured on ocean waves to calm turbulence, a practice that would be denounced today.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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pour oil on troubled waters

Soothe or calm down something or someone, as in The twins are quarreling so I'd best go pour oil on troubled waters. This term alludes to an ancient practice of pouring oil on ocean waves to calm their turbulence, which was mentioned in the eighth century. [Mid-1800s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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