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clear the atmosphere

To alleviate tension, often in a group setting. Similar to the phrase "clear the air." I know my parents are still mad at me for missing curfew, so I'm going to try to clear the atmosphere this morning by apologizing profusely.
See also: atmosphere, clear

you could cut the atmosphere with a knife

The situation was very tense and perhaps on the verge of conflict. Today was the first meeting since Hal got promoted to be his old supervisor's boss, and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
See also: atmosphere, could, cut, knife

you could cut the atmosphere with a knife

If you say you could cut the atmosphere with a knife, you mean that the atmosphere in a place is extremely tense or unfriendly. There have been some embarrassing silences at meal times. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Note: You can use air, or a word such as tension that refers to an unpleasant feeling, instead of atmosphere. As soon as we entered the church, you could cut the air with a knife. At secondary school, the tension on parents' nights can be cut with a knife.
See also: atmosphere, could, cut, knife

an atmosphere that you could cut with a knife

a general feeling of great tension or malevolence.
See also: atmosphere, could, cut, knife, that

you could ˌcut the atmosphere with a ˈknife

(informal) used to say that the emotional tension, embarrassment, etc. shared by a group of people is very great: When John came in with his new girlfriend, you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.
See also: atmosphere, could, cut, knife

a heavy ˈsilence/ˈatmosphere

a situation when people do not say anything, but feel embarrassed or uncomfortable: There was a heavy silence for a few minutes before anybody spoke.
References in classic literature ?
He waited in order to allow pure air to displace the foul atmosphere, and then went on.
For some days past, Captain Bonneville had been made sensible of the great elevation of country into which he was gradually ascending by the effect of the dryness and rarefaction of the atmosphere upon his wagons.
The light and warmth of the sun probably exist in its atmosphere, and the spots which are so often seen on this bright orb, are supposed to be glimpses of the solid mass of the sun itself, that are occasionally obtained through openings in this atmosphere.
The very atmosphere that Elizabeth inhaled was hot and dry, and by the time she reached the point where the course led her from the highway she experienced a sensation like suffocation.
This purity and elasticity of atmosphere increases as the traveller approaches the mountains and gradually rises into more elevated prairies.
He wore in addition to his leathern trappings and jewelled ornaments a great circlet of gold about his brow in the exact centre of which was set an immense stone, the exact counterpart of that which I had seen upon the breast of the little old man at the atmosphere plant nearly twenty years before.
By giving the balloon these cubic dimensions, and filling it with hydrogen gas, instead of common air--the former being fourteen and a half times lighter and weighing therefore only two hundred and seventy-six pounds--a difference of three thousand seven hundred and twenty-four pounds in equilibrium is produced; and it is this difference between the weight of the gas contained in the balloon and the weight of the surrounding atmosphere that constitutes the ascensional force of the former.
He was alone, as was often the case when he visited the cabin, for the apes had no love for it; the story of the thunder-stick having lost nothing in the telling during these ten years had quite surrounded the white man's deserted abode with an atmosphere of weirdness and terror for the simians.
it is all that saved him from exploding--and my dreams of an Honorary Fellowship, gold medals, and a niche in the Hall of Fame faded into the thin, cold air of his arctic atmosphere.
They belonged to the period when Japanese art was perhaps in its crudest state, and yet in this uncertain atmosphere they seemed to possess an extraordinary vitality, as though indeed they were prepared at a moment's notice to leap from their frames and annihilate this mysterious product of modern days, who in black clothes and silk hat, unarmed and without physical strength, yet wielded the powers of life and death as surely as they in their time had done.
It is in the same atmosphere as ourselves, so naturally the poison does not act upon it.
He awoke next morning from rosy scenes of dream to a steamy atmosphere that smelled of soapsuds and dirty clothes, and that was vibrant with the jar and jangle of tormented life.
The atmosphere for drinking was not present, and in my system there was no organic need for alcohol.
To a people of this nature the Homeric epos would be inacceptable, and the post-Homeric epic, with its conventional atmosphere, its trite and hackneyed diction, and its insincere sentiment, would be anathema.
Sir," replied Ardan's antagonist, "there are many and incontrovertible reasons which prove the absence of an atmosphere in the moon.