tar baby

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Referring to a doll made of tar and turpentine to entrap Br'er Rabbit in one of Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus stories, published 1881.


tar baby (plural tar babies)

  1. (chiefly US) A difficult, abstract problem that worsens as one attempts to handle it.
    • 2009, Mitt Romney (speech in Ames, Iowa)
      "The best thing politically would be to stay as far away from that tar baby as I can."
  2. (derogatory, ethnic slur) A black person.


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