Results 1 to 3 of 3

    • Join Date: Jun 2006
    • Posts: 1
    #1

    confused about an expression

    Ever since Tony Snow used the expression "hugging the tar baby" - considered by many to be racially offensive - I have been wondering what it was supposed to mean in the first place, but have been unable to find it anywhere on the Internet. Can you please explain it?
    Thank you!

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Feb 2005
    • Posts: 2,585
    #2

    Re: confused about an expression

    Hello Rietz, welcome to Using English!

    I'm not sure what the context is, but I presume it's a reference to the Tar Baby in the "Uncle Remus" stories by Joel Harris.

    Here's the text in question. There's some accompanying analysis, at the bottom of the page, which in some ways is as mystifying as the story itself:

    Tar Baby Story

    MrP
    Last edited by MrPedantic; 27-Jun-2006 at 23:52.

  1. Ouisch's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Mar 2006
    • Posts: 4,142
    #3

    Re: confused about an expression

    The origin of the tar baby is indeed from the Uncle Remus story as Mr. P described. In the context used by Mr. Snow, "tar baby" means an impossible situation; something from which it's impossible to disentangle oneself. However, although it's not used much today, there was a time when "tar baby" was commonly used (particularly in the Deep South) as a derogatory term for an African-American.

    It appears that the outrage over his remark is ill-founded; many people are unaware of the original story of the tar baby, and only see what they want to see: a racial slur. It reminds me of a similar case in 1995. The Economist printed an article that contained the following statement: "During the 1980s, when service industries consumed about 85% of the $1 trillion invested in I.T. in the United States, productivity growth averaged a niggardly 0.8% a year." The magazine received a flurry of protest letters from American readers who mistook the word "niggardly" as a racial slur.

Similar Threads

  1. need an expression
    By utsav in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 18-Jan-2006, 07:47
  2. the expression of gratitude
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 28-Sep-2004, 08:51
  3. What is the expression?
    By Tokyolily in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 04-Sep-2004, 20:44
  4. Meaning of idiomatic expression?
    By pilgrim in forum English Idioms and Sayings
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 22-Aug-2004, 18:53
  5. english expression
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 17-Jul-2004, 10:51

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •