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Oils the wheels

Posted by Gary Martin on October 07, 2008 at 10:10

In Reply to: Oils the wheels posted by Geraldine on October 07, 2008 at 10:02:

: Can anyone suggest when the phrase 'oils the wheels' was first used. I want to use it in a radio drama set in London in 1802. It would have referred to carraiges then if had started to be used - any ideas?

My first thought was that it may have started with the Industrial Revolution, when metal wheels came into wide use, and that before then wooden wheels used on carriages would have been more likely to have been greased than oiled.

As so often, guesswork failed me as the OED has a citaion of the phrase referring to carriages (chariots actually) from 1643. It seems that the phrase was in figurative as well as literal use around that time so literal uses of it could well have been much earlier. You are clearly on safe ground to include it in a drama set in the 19th century.