tar and feather

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tar and feather

1. Literally, to coat someone with tar and bird feathers as a form of public punishment and shaming (a practice that fell out of use in the early 20th century). The mob tarred and feathered the thief in the public square before parading him through the town strapped to a wooden cart.
2. By extension, to severely criticize, reprimand, or excoriate someone, especially in a public and humiliating manner. Everyone is demanding that the government tar and feather the bank executives behind the scandal, but I'd be willing to bet that all they'll receive is a slap on the wrist.
See also: and, feather, tar

tar and feather someone

to punish or humiliate someone by coating them with tar and feathers. The people of the village tarred and feathered the bank robber and chased him out of town. They threatened to tar and feather me if I ever came back into their town.
See also: and, feather, tar

tar and feather

Criticize severely, punish, as in The traditionalists often want to tar and feather those who don't conform. This expression alludes to a former brutal punishment in which a person was smeared with tar and covered with feathers, which then stuck. It was first used as a punishment for theft in the English navy, recorded in the Ordinance of Richard I in 1189, and by the mid-1700s had become mob practice. The figurative usage dates from the mid-1800s.
See also: and, feather, tar

tar and feather someone

If you tar and feather someone, you criticize and embarrass them very badly. These newspapers are ready to tar and feather innocent celebrities.
See also: and, feather, someone, tar

tar and feather

smear with tar and then cover with feathers as a punishment.
This practice was introduced in Britain in 1189 , when Richard I decreed that it should be the punishment for members of the navy found guilty of theft. It seems to have been intermittently imposed on other wrongdoers in Britain and has sometimes been inflicted on an unpopular or scandalous individual by a mob.
1981 Anthony Price Soldier No More The Russians…wouldn't have cared less if we'd tarred and feathered Nasser and run him out of Suez on a rail.
See also: and, feather, tar

tar and feather

1. To punish (a person) by covering with tar and feathers.
2. To criticize severely and devastatingly; excoriate.
See also: and, feather, tar
References in periodicals archive ?
I first heard the term from fellow conservatives around the time of Dan Rather's tarring and feathering.
The truth is that we humans have a propensity to make titans of ordinary men and women and then comes the equal and opposite reaction of tarring and feathering great man or woman.
Tarring and feathering was a common form of paramilitary justice during the early 1970s.
The practice of tarring and feathering became emblematic of a more boisterous populace and also indicated that Americans had found their own style of rioting and ceased to adopt rioting "styles" from the mother country.
Tarring and feathering is a punishment which has been used since medieval times.
Here, instruments of torture and execution--old European dunking stools and brands, and good old American lethal-injection beds--are precisely rendered in acrylic paint and set against backgrounds of pink and blue Regency stripes, burlap, or orange feathers pasted into thick black gesso to suggest tarring and feathering.