tar > paint > taint ?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Feb 12 03:08:28 UTC 2006

As I recall, in St. Louis, the roofers appear to have used ordinary
mops. Their trucks always had a tarred-up mop on them. As chance would
have it, I've never actually seen what it is that the roofers do, how
it's done, or what the result  is. We were never allowed up on the
roof, when I was a kid. My dad was a real bastard about that. Since
the houses were generaly flat-roofed, it wasn't possible to see what
roofers did from the sidewalk.

FWIW, I've read the cites re tarring-and-feathering, but I still don't
see how a person could survive it. The tar that the roofers used - old
roofing tar could be found in the alleys - was rock-hard at ambient
temperatures and, in its smoking-hot molten form, it sees to me that
putting that tar on someone would have the same effect as pouring
boiling water on him, at least.

In one of the cites, the tar is specifically referred to  as
"'coal-tar" and not simply as "tar." Could it perhaps be the case that
roofing tar and tar-and-feathering tar are two different substances?
Or two different forms of the same substance?


On 2/10/06, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at csli.stanford.edu> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: tar > paint > taint ?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Feb 9, 2006, at 11:21 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> > FWIW, a minor annotation. There are still places where literal tarring
> > is an everyday occurrence. In, for example, St. Louis, tar is commonly
> > used to weather-proof the roofs of houses and other buildings. The
> > roofers have small wheeled furnaces resembling a miniature locomotive
> > firebox that they use to keep the tar liquid while they work.
> > Unfortunately, the odor of molten tar is not a pleasant one.
> i never commented on the frequency of tarring in modern life, only on
> people's familiarity with brushes in connection with tarring.
> tarring roofs for weather-proofing is common in, as far as i know,
> all american cities.  one section of the roof of my condo complex
> needs this treatment periodically, and so does the entire roof of the
> office building next door.  most unpleasant smell, as you say.
> but we rarely get to observe the process in action.  of course,
> something has to be used to apply the tar to the roof, but i doubt
> that many people could explain the details or say whether there was a
> machine for this purpose or whether it was done with rollers, push-
> broom-like tools, brushes, or what.
> in addition, roof-tarring is very rarely depicted in our culture,
> while painting (of several different kinds) with brushes is very
> commonly depicted.  the result is a very high degree of association
> between painting and brushes (and a low degree between tarring and
> brushes).
> i'll bet that in word association tasks, the highest associate for
> "paint" is "brush"; that "paint" is a high associate for
> "brush" (perhaps the highest) ; and that "tar" and "brush" have much
> lower association strengths (but not near zero, thanks to the idiom
> "tar with the same brush"!).
> arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)
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