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Pour oil on troubled waters proverbial expression, mid 19th century; try to settle a disagreement or dispute with words intended to placate or pacify those involved. In 1774 the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society included a paper headed ‘of the stilling of waves by means of oil’; the paper referred to an account given by Pliny of how seamen in his time poured oil into the water in the belief that this would calm the waves in a storm.

See also it never rains but it pours.

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