tar > paint > taint ?

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Fri Feb 10 18:06:37 UTC 2006

On Feb 10, 2006, at 8:18 AM, Dennis R. Preston wrote:

> arnold misses also the old expression "has (got) just a touch of the
> tar brush" for a person whose African American ancestry was minimal
> (or suspected), e.g., "Do you reckon old Herb's got just a touch of
> the tar brush in him?" This was common in the Louisville area in the
> 40s and 50s, but I suspect it was much more widespread. I heard it
> only from European-Americans, and I do not know if has (or had) any
> currency in African American communities...

i'm familiar with it, also only from european-americans, but don't
think i've heard it spoken in many years.

"tar brush" gets 20,200 raw google webhits, for a variety of senses
-- including brushes for applying roof tar!  add "touch to the
search, and you're down to ca. 795, no more than half of them having
to do with racial ancestry.  that suggests that references to being
touched by the tar brush, having a touch of the tar brush, etc. are
not at all frequent these days.


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