This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
What is the origin of this phrase?
Submitted by tom beardsley (catharpin - Choose a Country)
Signature: Topic imported and archived
I'm not sure I know the phrase, although the comparison of an activity with the smooth running of an oiled machine is a reasonably self-evident.
Signature: Jonathon Green