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Brewer's: Temper

To make trim. The Italians say, temperare la lira, to tune the lyre: temperare una penna, to mend a pen; temperre l'oriulo, to wind up the clock. In Latin, temperare calamum is ?to mend a pen.? Metal well tempered is metal made trim or meet for its use, and if not so it is called ill-tempered. When Otway says, ?Woman, nature made thee to temper man,? he means to make him trim, to soften his nature, to mend him.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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