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sugar the pill
To make something bad, unpleasant, or dissatisfactory easier to cope with, endure, or accept. The bosses are giving everyone an extra bonus this year, but I suspect it's a way of sugaring the pill with the massive layoffs that are scheduled. I have to tell my mom about wrecking her car, but I need to find a way to sugar the pill first.
To create maple sugar or especially syrup by boiling the sap extracted from maple trees. Primarily heard in US, Canada. Sugaring off has actually become the focal point of annual festivals all across this part of the country. The kids and grandkids still come over every season and help me tap the trees and sugar off.
sugar the pill
Make something unpleasant more palatable, as in There would be no Christmas bonus this year but management sugared the pill by giving workers extra vacation time over the holidays . [Late 1700s]
sugar the pillBRITISH or
sugar-coat the pillAMERICAN
COMMON If you sugar the pill, you try to make bad news or an unpleasant situation seem less unpleasant. Stirling tried to sugar the pill for his employee. `There'll be a ten thousand pound bonus if you agree to go quietly.' His bitter pill was sugar-coated with a promise of `free and fair' elections. Note: In British English, you can also say that you sweeten the pill. A few words of praise help to sweeten the pill of criticism.
sugar (or sweeten) the pillmake an unpleasant or painful necessity more acceptable.
The image here is of making bitter-tasting medicine more palatable by adding sugar.
To make maple syrup or maple sugar by boiling maple sap: The farmer had gathered all the sap, and it was now time to sugar off.