Stories We Like: Novels For Language Lovers
a viscous liquid, Old English teoru, teru, literally "the pitch of (certain kinds of) trees," from Proto-Germanic *terwo- (cf. Old Norse tjara, Old Frisian tera, Middle Dutch tar, Dutch teer, German Teer), probably a derivation of *trewo-, from PIE *drew- "tree" (cf. Sanskrit daru "wood;" Lithuanian darva "pine wood;" Greek dory "beam, shaft of a spear," drys "tree, oak;" Gothic triu, Old English treow "tree;" see tree).
Tar baby is from an 1881 "Uncle Remus" story by Joel Chandler Harris. Tarheel for "North Carolina resident" first recorded 1864, probably from the gummy resin of pine woods. Tar water, an infusion of tar in cold water, was popular as a remedy from c.1740 through late 18c.
"sailor," 1670s, probably a special use of tar (n.1), which was a staple for waterproofing aboard old ships (sailors also being jocularly called knights of the tarbrush); or possibly a shortened form of tarpaulin, which was recorded as a nickname for a sailor in 1640s, from the tarpaulin garments they wore.
in tar and feather, 1769. A mob action in U.S. in Revolutionary times and several decades thereafter. Originally it had been imposed by an ordinance of Richard I (1189) as punishment in the navy for theft. Among other applications over the years was its use in 1623 by a bishop on "a party of incontinent friars and nuns" [OED], but not until 1769 was the verbal phrase attested. Related: Tarred; tarring.
[1676+; fr the tarpaulin garments they made and wore]
(Iranian: "string"), long-necked lute descended from the tanbur of Sasanian Iran and known in a variety of forms throughout the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Its name traditionally signified the number of strings employed-e.g., dutar ("two-strings"), setar ("three-strings"), and cartar ("four-strings")-but this is no longer true, as the sitar of India has up to seven strings. The body of the tar is hollowed out of a single piece of wood and is rounded out in two bulges so that the membrane-covered belly is like a figure 8 or hourglass. The instrument, which is played with a small metal pick, has movable frets and lateral pegs for the metal strings that are rib-fastened. The word tar is also a generic term for Middle Eastern tambourines.