Tarred with the same brush

Posted by ESC on March 02, 2003

In Reply to: Phrases posted by michelle on March 02, 2003

: does anyone know the where the phrase `tarred with the same brush comes from?

TARRED WITH THE SAME BRUSH - "Someone who shares the sins or faults of another, though possibly to a lesser degree, is tarred with the same brush. The saying may have something to do with the tarred-and-feathered criminals (see below), but the reference is probably to the tarring of sheep. Owners of a flock of sheep, which can't be branded, used to mark their wool all in the same place with a brush dipped in tar to distinguish them from sheep of another flock. It is said that the red ochre was used to make the mark and that brushing sheep with tar served to protect them against ticks."
TARRED AND FEATHERED - "At Salem, on September 7, 1768, an informer named Robert Wood 'was stripped, tarred and feathered and placed on a hogshead under the Tree of Liberty on the Common.' This is the first record of the term 'tarred and feathered' in America. Tarring and feathering was a cruel punishment where hot pine tar was applied from head to toe on a person and goose feathers were stuck into the tar. The person was then ignited and ridden out of town on a rail (tied to a splintery rail), beaten with sticks and stoned all the while. A man's skin often came off when he removed the tar. It was a common practice to tar and feather Tories who refused to join the revolutionary cause, one much associated with the Liberty Boys, but the practice was known here long before the Revolution. In fact, it dates back even before the first English record of tarring and feathering, an 1189 statute made under Richard the Lionhearted directing that any thief voyaging with the Crusaders 'shal have his head shorne and boyling pitch powred upon his head, and feathers or downe strewn upon the same, whereby he may be known, and so at the first landing place they shal come to, there to be cast up.' Though few have been tarred and feathered or ridden out of town on a rail in recent years, the expression remains to describe anyone subjected to indignity and infamy." Both entries from Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).