Also found in: Thesaurus.
let sleeping dogs lie To avoid any word or action that could disturb a person or situation which is, for the moment at least, peaceful and calm; to refrain from resurrecting an issue, discussion, argument, or other matter which had previously aroused heated emotional debate or controversy. The implication here is that if a sleeping dog is awakened, it may respond by snapping or biting.
It is good therefore if you have a wife that is … unquiet and contentious, to let her alone, not to wake an angry Dog. (Edward Topsell, The History of Serpents, 1607)
mend one’s fences See POLITICKING.
pour oil on troubled waters To calm or pacify with soothing words or acts.
His presence and advice, like oil upon troubled waters, have composed the contending waves of faction. (Benjamin Rush, Letters, 1786)
Pouring oil on rough waters does indeed serve to quiet the waves, though perhaps not to the extent recounted by the Venerable Bede in his Ecclesiastical History (731). He relates the story of a priest sent to fetch the bride-to-be of King Oswy. Before the priest’s departure, Saint Aidan warned him of a violent storm and gave him a bottle of oil that he was to pour on the sea when the water grew rough. As predicted, a great tempest came up during the voyage; when the priest poured his vessel of oil on the turbulent waters, they became calm.
smooth ruffled feathers To calm or soothe an upset or angry person; to assuage, pacify, placate; to help someone regain his composure; to reconcile. Alluding to the erect feathers of an angry bird, this expression describes the action of one who mediates a dispute or otherwise calms an agitated or angry person. See also ruffle feathers, VEXATION.
a sop to Cerberus See BRIBERY.