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wheels within wheels

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Complex interacting processes, agents, or motives, as in It's difficult to find out just which government agency is responsible; there are wheels within wheels. This term, which now evokes the complex interaction of gears, may derive from a scene in the Bible (Ezekiel 1:16): “Their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.” [c. 1600]

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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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