tar baby



  • A difficult, abstract problem that worsens as one attempts to handle it; a "sticky" situation, especially one where attempts to make it better only make it worse.
  • A black person.


  • Referring to a doll made of tar and turpentine to entrap Br'er Rabbit in one of Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus stories, published in 1881, from earlier African American folklore, from earlier African (e.g. Kongo) folklore, influenced in America by similar stories from various unrelated Native American tribes, such as the Cherokee, Alabama, Koasati, and Apache. (Similar stories are found throughout the world, e.g. among the Mixtec and Zapotec.)

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