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Beat the tar out of

Posted by Baceseras on January 07, 2008

In Reply to: Beat the tar out of posted by Phil Pegues on January 07, 2008

: I looked up "beat the tar out of" and found the explanation to be one rooted in religion. Somehow, my thoughts were of the revolutionary war when we were fighting the English and their navy - including their marines. I thought the phrase was about whipping the English navy (I believe the seamen were called Tars) into joining the Colonies in the revolution. Am I wrong about TARS as well as the original meaning of the phrase?

To be precise, English sailors were called tars; English marines were not. Marines were soldiers carried by ship --- an 'expeditionary force' --- but they did not sail the ship, and they didn't get stained and smelling of tar from ship's work.

As for 'beating the tar out of' --- consider the tar in 'tarpaulin', a canvas cloth that has been stiffened and tightened by soaking in and absorbing tar. Next consider a beating so bad that it takes the 'stiffening' out of a fellow. There you have a sufficient explanation of the phrase. What's more, sticky substances --- blod, snot, sweat, salt, and grime --- may fly from the pitiable recipient of such a beating. So the analogy, though now just a dull cliche, was in the first place a vivid, true, and brutal picture.